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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Krister Stendahl's Three Rules of Religious Understanding

I recently wrote that we should practice more civility in our interactions with our ideological opponents ("Sequestration, Bipartisanship, and Every-Day Civility"). This wasn't too suggest that there isn't room for a good argument. I believe there is, especially when we respect the dignity of folks with whom we disagree. The political philosopher Michael Sandel models this as well as anyone in his "Justice" class that he teaches at Harvard. Although Sandel is an Aristotelian, he demonstrate and appreciation for other perspectives and a respect for those who hold them.

Another example is Krister Stendahl, who taught New Testament at Harvard, served as the Bishop of Stockholm, and was a theological and political liberal. In his defense of the right for Mormons to build a temple in Stockholm, he argued for three rules of religious understanding:
  1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
  2. Don't compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for "holy envy" (by which he meant we should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)
These would have been some nice rules to follow in the past presidential election.

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