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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Interfaith dialogue in Jerusalem.

James Carroll provides the titles of some timely presentations at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a place I first learned about in Thomas L. Friedman's indispensable book, From Beirut to Jerusalem. It would be amazing to sit among Jewish, Muslim, and Christian scholars talking about "Blasphemy, Idolatry, and the Limits of Biblical Religion":

That title points to the difficult question that challenges every belief system today: What are the limits of absolute claims? Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are absolute religions, and as such they have generated much of the intolerance and violence — the ''holy wars'' — that have bloodied history. Yet the title of every session at this conference carries an equally undermining implication. Two Muslim considerations, for example, are entitled ''Searching for Criteria: The Debate Concerning 'Boundary Conditions' in Early Islam'' and ''Orthodox Islamic Responses to Contemporary Critics of Islamic Boundaries.'' Christian sessions take up ''Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity'' and ''Getting In, Staying In: Catholic Cultures of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy.'' A Second Jewish consideration is called ''Tolerable and Intolerable Deviance.''

Carroll hopes that "If religiously grounded hatred can yield here to shared humility in the presence of the holy one, however defined — then equally profound transformations can happen anywhere." How can one not share such a hope, however meekly? For a glimpse of how hard but real those transformations can be, pick up Yossi Klein Halevi's book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden. My review is here.

Deep ambivalence.

Also in today's Globe, a great report from Mark Jurkowitz on the growing American unease about Iraq. "Kathy Frankovic, director of surveys for CBS News, said that the roughly two-thirds of Americans who support the concept of removing Hussein by force is 'a number that hasn't changed in 10 years.''" But polls also show that rough two-thirds breaks down quickly without UN approval or real evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 January 2003 at 8:40 AM

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