Friday, January 2, 2009

Religion and globalization

A couple weeks ago, Phillip Jenkins wrote a good op-ed column in the Boston Globe, and it created a little bit of chatter around the intertubes. In the column, Jenkins argues that our ever shrinking world, via technological interconnectivity and economic globalization, is creating problems for those religions that hold exclusive truth claims:
Being intolerant of other religions - consigning them to hell, in fact - may be bad enough in its own right, but it increasingly has real-world consequences. As trade and technology shrink the globe, so different religions come into ever-closer contact with one another, and the results can be bloody: witness the apocalyptic assaults in Mumbai [and Gaza]. In such a world, teaching different faiths to acknowledge one another's claims, to live peaceably together side by side, stops being a matter of good manners and becomes a prerequisite for human survival.
Jenkins believes that Christians would do well to re-learn parts of our history. In early Christian movements into Asia, missionaries worked side-by-side and collaborated with other religions, especially Buddhism. Modeling these types of behaviors, the argument goes, could lessen the growing pains of globalization.

Jenkins' path to civil religious engagement seems a little too kumbaya to me. Yes, we should be agitated and angered by tragic acts of religious violence, and yes, we should desire peaceable interaction. But, while Mumbai and Gaza bombard our newscasts, I do think that globalization and hyper-connectivity - in and of themselves - are having unrealized positive effects on religious interaction: exposure to different people and different ideas is always a good thing in the long run.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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