Here’s a principle: Religious extremism is best undermined from within, rather than smashed from without.
There is now ample evidence that the latter strategy does not work and often makes things worse. For example, both right-wing Christians and zealous political neo-conservatives have a preference for military solutions to the real threats created by Islamic extremism. This issue of Sojourners highlights another, better way by offering a look at the new face of Islam.
Another principle: The best antidote to the religious fundamentalism in our faith traditions can be found—in every case—within the prophetic tradition of the religions themselves. The answer to bad religion is not secularism, as the new atheists like to claim; rather, it is better religion.
And a third principle: The best thing that moderate and progressive Christians can do in the struggle with fundamentalism in other faiths is to make a powerful alliance with the moderate and progressive leaders and communities in those very faith communities. The answer to fundamentalist religion is prophetic religion, and a new alliance between prophetic religious leaders, across faith lines, is the best way to defeat the threats of modern fundamentalism.
Two of my favorite voices on prophetic Islam are Eboo Patel and Daisy Khan, whom we feature in this issue of Sojourners.
Eboo Patel is one of the most dynamic and charismatic young leaders I know, and he gives me a great deal of hope. He has created the Interfaith Youth Core, which gets young people talking and working together across faith lines. Eboo is an author, activist, and stump preacher in the best of the revival tradition. Here’s some of what Eboo says:
“If religious extremism is a movement of young people acting, and interfaith cooperation is a movement of senior theologians talking—then we lose.”