When Religion Becomes Lethal
Speaking metaphorically, Martin Marty, one of the most prominent interpreters of religion and culture today, uses the hurricane to explain lethal forms of fundamentalism and other hard-line religious movements. Marty shared his expertise on the topic during his WorldView presentation “LETHAL RELIGION— Around the World, in the Nation, and Down the Block” on October 19.
With the calmness and gentle wit he employs when speaking to and about people of diverse faiths, Marty enlightened the audience on the elements of the development of “hard-line” religious movements and why they may turn aggressive.
“With this theological background [a divine force authorizing the movement], movements may remain apparently passive for some time but will turn aggressive with strategies that relate to available politics and programs,” said Marty. “Thus they may use rhetoric, social distancing, politics, constitutionalism, lethal conflict, and even terrorism to work out the theological claims and promises.”
Marty emphasized the necessity for people of different faiths to learn about each other without the intent of asking another to give up his or her faith. “One instrument that doesn’t work is argument,” he said. “You have one book and they have another.”
But despite differences or even deadly conflicts, Marty sees hope even among young people in places like Palestine and Israel.
“As my colleagues and I say, we don’t know enough about the future to be pessimistic,” finished Marty with humor, then conviction. “Things can be done.”
Marty is an ordained minister, author of more than 50 books, and a Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.
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