I like to think of my friendship with Markandey Katju as a good example of how to have an ongoing civil dialogue between a person of faith (me) and an atheist (him). (The photo here today shows us together in California a few years ago.)
Our friendship goes back to the mid-1950s, when I spent two years of my boyhood in India because my father was part of a University of Illinois agriculture team there. We lived in Allahabad, and Markandey and I met there as 12-year-olds at Boys High School, which had been started years before by the Anglican Church.
Despite occasional gaps in our connection, we have stayed in conversation until today as I went on to be a columnist for The Kansas City Star (and later other outlets) and Markandey became a judge on India's Supreme Court and later chairman of the Press Council of India. At the moment he's on an extended visit to see his daughter and her family in California.
Our latest friendly banter has been over President Donald Trump, whom I regard as a moral disaster. Markandey, by contrast, believes that even though Trump has his faults, the fact that he is confronting China on trade and trying to point out and limit Chinese imperialism makes up for all his other faults:
"Yes, Trump deserved to be criticized for his negative points," Markandey tells me, "but why did you Americans overlook the great thing he has done? In this respect he is like Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt taking on that tyrant Hitler."
Which I think is a way-over-the-top comparison.
(By the way, as you may have heard, Trump announced $200 billion more in tariffs on Chinese goods this week and China retaliated.)
Markandey has made his views about all that known in this column, published recently online both in India and in a U.S. publication that caters to an audience from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. I encourage you to read it. I concede that Trump is taking essentially the right path on China, though I've told Markandey that I'm baffled about how he got this matter close to right when he's gotten almost everything else terribly wrong.
An old American saying suggests that even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn, and I consider Trump's China policy such an acorn.
Markandey, who jokingly calls me "Reverend," just as I often address him with false honor as "Your Grace," has been asking me to publicize his China views, including giving you blog readers a link to them. He even said that I can "reproduce them with your own critical comments, for which, like Jesus Christ, I will forgive you." So I do that today.
But I do it not to convince you of his (or anyone's) views on Trump (though his words may sway you) but, rather, to suggest that it is quite possible for people with markedly different views about religion to be civil to one another and to respect each other.
Markandey urged me to do my duty like John the Baptist and spread the word about his views of Trump's China policy. I am doing that, but not without reminding Markandey that, in the end, it cost John the Baptist his head.
Civil dialogue among and between people of different (and no) faith commitments can make the world a safer and better place. I'm delighted to have stayed friends with Markandey all these years, despite what I consider to be his misguided views on God and what he considers to be mine. Perhaps some day, somewhere, we'll have an eternity to discuss who was right. I'd enjoy that.
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CHRISTIAN ROCK: DEVILISH OR EVANGELICAL
If you are a Christian, what do you make, by now, of the staying power of the genre of music called Christian Rock? This New Yorker piece takes a look at its history and how it has managed to survive despite expressions of grave doubts about it. It's worth a read, if nothing else to learn about how Martin Luther King Jr. disparaged it so harshly.