WILL HE USE A CONVERSION TABLE?
New Catholic Tony Blair, until recently Britain's prime minister, plans to teach religion at Yale. Do you get extra credit if you can name all the monarchs of England and the religions they followed?
* * *
PREACHING ABOUT POVERTY
The Jim Wallis-type group of progressive evangelicals, so called, is finding its voice in this presidential election, this report says. Wallis, for years, has been preaching the need for people of faith to work on issues of poverty, and now he's got a growing number of allies. Do you think this branch of evangelical Christianity will really make a difference in this election?
* * *
AN INTERFAITH GATHERING WITH THE POPE
It's reassuring that Pope Benedict XVI's April visit to the United States will include a recognition of the religious diversity that increasingly characterizes the United States. (See my recent blog posting on the new study of the American religious landscape by the Pew Forum.)
The pope will meet with representatives of several other religions when he's in Washington, D.C., in mid-April, and the focus of the talks will be what can be done to promote peace around the world.
The business of interfaith dialogue is tricky. On the one hand, this pope and the church he represents have made it clear that they believe anyone outside the Catholic faith is theologically off base and may be eternally doomed, though they might word it more gently than I just did.
On the other hand, this pope and the church he represents have made it clear that they want to do what they can to promote harmony among people of many faiths so as to avoid the kind of faith-based violence that has set parts of the globe aflame.
The question becomes how to accomplish the latter without the former being a barrier to fruitful discussions. It's not easy, and anyone who knows anything about interfaith dialogue knows it can't go anywhere without first a commitment to honesty and authenticity in representing one's own faith tradition.
I don't hold out any hope that this Washington gathering in April will result in some kind of astonishing reign of religious peace in the world. And yet I'm always hopeful when religious leaders are willing to talk instead of shutting their theological doors.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend takes note of the remarkable reality that religions depend on ancient printed words.)