Our Power for Good and Evil

“I believe that we can no longer, as religious leaders, assume that nothing has changed in the human situation. Something has changed: our power for good and evil, the sheer reach and consequences of our interventions. We have come face to face with the stranger, and it makes all the difference whether we find this threatening or enlarging. Every scriptural canon has within it texts which, read literally, can be taken to endorse narrow particularism, suspicion of strangers, and intolerance toward those who believe differently than we do. Each also has within it sources that emphasise kinship with the stranger, empathy with the outsider, the courage that leads people to extend a hand across boundaries of estrangement or hostility. The choice is ours. Will the generous texts of our tradition serve as interpretive keys to the rest, or will the abrasive passages determine our ideas of what we are and what we are called on to do? No tradition is free from the constant need to reinterpret, to apply eternal truths to an ever-changing world, to listen to what God’s word requires of me, here, now. That is what religious leaders have always done, in the past no less than now.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 178