Old Time Religion And One Other

Last month I stumbled on a new release from Ecumenical Press Service. Dutifully if dully I picked it up, for this Geneva publication owes its popularity neither to exciting prose nor to sensational tidings. On the contrary, it takes itself very seriously, its veracity is unquestionable, its contents unsullied by humor. Nevertheless, the issue I saw gave me the mental staggers: “WCC to Launch Dialogue with Men of Living Faiths.”

What was this? A WCC admission of fallibility, or at least inadequacy, would have been momentous. But this went further, suggesting that the WCC’s minus could be rectified through talking with those for whom faith was positively alive. My thoughts raced as I sketched a tentative itinerary so that the seeking souls sent out two by two from Route de Ferney should not waste time in realizing what they lacked in living faith.

The exhilaration didn’t last. Never was disillusion more utter. That headline was just a shabby device to trick the guileless into reading on and discovering that a get-together of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims was planned. As sponsor, the WCC is putting up a sizable sum for the meeting, scheduled for next March in Lebanon.

EPS says that participants will be mainly “scholars … who have sufficient competence in at least one other religion beside their own.” Those unversed in the esoteric will find the terminology mind-boggling. What, for example, is the mark of having already attained “sufficient competence” in one’s own religion, much less in that of others? Who are the examiners who shall issue proficiency diplomas? What are the ground rules? And how about the scholar who can profess all four religions?

I do not yet know the names of those ...

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