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“Acts of Faith:” An Introduction

posted Mar 16, 2012, 10:13 AM by James Stoertz   [ updated Mar 29, 2012, 11:57 AM by Interfaith WS ]

For the next nine weeks, this space will share materials from “Acts of Faith” by Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core.  We invite you to share your thoughts on this innovative way of building community.  Create your own book club and join us in discussing it each week.  The book is available online at


“One hundred years ago, the great African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois famously said, 'The problem of the twentieth century will be shaped by the problem of the color line.'  I believe the
twenty-first century will be shaped by the question of the faith line.  On one side of the faith line are the religious totalitarians.  Their conviction is that only one interpretation of one religion is a legitimate way of being, believing and belonging on earth.  Everyone else needs to be cowed, or converted, or condemned, or killed. 


"On the other side of the faith line are the religious pluralists, who hold that people believing in different creeds and belonging to different communities need to learn to live together.  Religious pluralism is neither mere coexistence nor forced consensus.  It is a form of proactive cooperation that affirms the identity of the constituent communities while emphasizing that the well-being of each and all depends upon the health of the whole.  It is the belief that the common good is best served when each community has a chance to make its unique contribution.


“Religious totalitarians have the unique advantage of being able to oppose each other and work together at the same time.  Osama bin Laden says that Christians are out to destroy Muslims.  Pat Robertson says that Muslims want only to dominate Christians.  Bin Laden points to Pat Robertson as evidence of his case.  Robertson points to bin Laden as proof of his.  Bin Laden says he is moving Muslims to his side of the faith line.  Robertson claims he is moving Christians to his.  But if you look from a certain angle, you see that they are not on opposite sides at all.  They are right next to each others, standing shoulder to shoulder, a most unlikely pair, two totalitarians working collectively against the dream of a common life together….


“This is a book about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious totalitarianism.  Its thesis is simple:  influences matter, programs count, mentors make a difference, institutions leave their mark….


“Pluralism is an intentional commitment that is imprinted through action.  It requires deliberate engagement with difference, outspoken loyalty to others, and proactive protection in the breach.  You have to choose to step off the faith line onto the side of pluralism, and then you have to make your voice heard.”

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