Guest / Limited Access /

Apparently, one proven blessing of democracy (at least where religious freedom is practiced) is "low levels of religious extremism." It ranks up there with peace and prosperity.

This has been said in many ways since 9/11, and Thomas Farr, a former American diplomat, said so once again in a recent Washington Post "On Faith" column. He was trying to push the Obama administration to put more muscle into advocating religious liberty, but along the way he noted the symbiotic relationship between democracy and religious moderation. Farr said that numerous scholarly studies have shown that religious freedom makes it possible for democracy to "yield its benefits—including economic opportunity, security, low levels of religious extremism."

But democracy will only tolerate religious freedom as long as religious extremists are kept in check. This is one reason political leaders and policy wonks disparage religious extremism, and why they're anxious to unearth moderate Muslims and sensible Hindus and non-fundamentalist Christians. Such religionists make the wheels of society run smoothly, so that we can "yield the benefits" of our way of life: "security" and "economic opportunity." Let religious extremism get out of hand, and there goes the neighborhood.

It's not just Americans who think religious extremism a bad idea. A recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study of Africa discovered, not surprisingly, that 

Many Africans are concerned about religious extremism, including within their own faith. Indeed, many Muslims say they are more concerned about Muslim extremism than about Christian extremism, and Christians in four countries say they are more concerned about Christian extremism than about Muslim extremism.

Or take the Russians—more ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Previous SoulWork Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueThe Church’s Three-Part Harmony
Subscriber Access Only
The Church’s Three-Part Harmony
Why evangelical, sacramental, and Pentecostal Christians belong together in one body.
RecommendedCompassion: Why We’re Leaving India, But Still Have Hope
Compassion: Why We’re Leaving India, But Still Have Hope
‘Frustrated’ CEO explains how shutdown of 589 centers serving 145,000 children will affect staff, sponsors, and churches.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickThere’s No Crying on Social Media!
There’s No Crying on Social Media!
Young adults are desperate not to let peers see any signs of weakness or failure.
Christianity Today
Taming Religion
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.