Clark, “Abraham’s Children”

The s0-called Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all claim to be the People of God. In fact, each claims to be the  People of God, to the exclusion of the others. One possible implication is that rival claimants are imposters who must be punished, and at times each Abrahamic religion has behaved very intolerantly towards adherents of the other faiths. That is not the only possible implication, however. Rather than anticipate the Last Judgment, one might leave punishment to God and show charity to the members of the other covenants, and at times each Abrahamic religion has been tolerant of its rivals. A new book by Calvin College Professor Kelly James Clark, Abraham’s Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict (Yale 2012), emphasizes this second, more hopeful response. The publisher’s description follows:

Scarcely any country in today’s world can claim to be free of intolerance. Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sudan, the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caucasus are just some of the areas of intractable conflict apparently inspired or exacerbated by religious differences. Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths?

In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions. Former president Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Indonesia’s first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the other writers draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred writings that are central in their own religious lives. Rather than relying on “pure reason,” as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance. Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stand at the core of the Abrahamic traditions.

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