Rabbi Sacks on the Dignity of Difference – Part 2

JInsider (March 2010)

It seems to me that in the 21st century, we are going to face again the problem that humanity last faced in the 17th century, when the face of Europe was scarred by something like a century of wars of religion. Again today, we are coming to a situation where, as Samuel Huntington put it, we're in a clash of civilisations. Once again, the Christian West and the world of Islam are clashing as they did in the Crusades, and as they say, as Christianity did within itself in the 17th century.

We are going to have to come up with a solution, and the solution cannot be the solution that was in the 17th century because there, they dealt with it by secularising power. Now, today you can't secularise power because conflict has gone global and many of the people wielding power are very religious, indeed. The world is de-secularising, and therefore, we are going to have to do it from within the religions themselves. To put it bluntly, either religion is part of the solution or it will be a very large part of the problem.

So how can Jews, Christians and Muslims do what they have failed to do for so many centuries, learn to live together? That is when I coined the phrase, the dignity of difference. Somehow or other, we worship the same God and yet we hate the fact that other people worship God in ways that are different from us. But what if we took God seriously and said maybe God is bigger than religion, maybe God is worshiped by me in my way and by you in your way, and maybe all our prayers converge in infinity, the infinity we call God.

One way or another, we are going to have to learn the dignity of difference if we are to live together in a century in which our powers of destruction have grown so great that either we live together or, God forbid, we will die together.