Candidates Should Stress America’s Devotion and Diversity
America is the most religiously devout nation in the West and the most religiously diverse country in the world in an era of global religious conflict. The next President needs to help our country - and the world - understand how the combination of devotion and diversity makes us stronger.
Religious rhetoric has played a central role in American discourse since our beginnings. John Winthrop, one of the first European settlers in America, famously used a Biblical image to describe the society he hoped to build: A city upon a hill that would be a beacon for the world. No doubt he imagined a steeple in the center.
That steeple is now surrounded by the minarets of Muslim mosques, the Hebrew script of Jewish synagogues, the chanting of Buddhist sangas and the statues of Hindu temples. America (unlike Europe) has remained a remarkably religious country while also becoming an amazingly diverse one. According to some scholars, there are now more Buddhists in America than Episcopalians, and more Muslims than Presbyterians.
From Northern Ireland to South Asia, the Middle East to West Africa, people are fighting, killing and dying in the name of God. Segments of all the faith communities warring elsewhere – Protestants and Catholics, Shias and Sunnis, Hindus and Buddhists – live in America, often in close quarters. In my home city of Chicago, Indian Hindus and Pakistani Muslims (who have fought several wars in the past half-century) congregate on the same one-mile stretch called Devon Avenue. A stone’s throw north, in the suburb of Morton Grove, Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews own businesses a few blocks apart on Dempster Street. They join the same block clubs, shop at the same grocery stores, send their kids to the same schools. In addition to being Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus, they are neighbors and Americans.
Perhaps America’s greatest gift to the 21st century will be to show the world that religious communities can live together in peace--each connected to their own particular tradition, all cooperating to serve the common good.
Call this “A New City On a Hill”.
I would welcome religious rhetoric from candidates who hold out this hope for America, and the world.
January 31, 2007; 11:37 AM ET
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