Ecumenism is a tricky business. Some religions, from their highest authorities to the lowest levels of ordinary people in the pews, do not hesitate to attack believers who do not share their own beliefs, verbally, viciously and sometimes violently. Others make the effort to ignore, to mask or to minimize their differences and pretend that in spite of some major differences in their definition of divinity, in the dogmas they preach, in the rules they impose and in the rituals they practise, all these religions make up one happy family of believers.
Recently, Wheaton College, Illinois, famous as the Alma Mater of Billy Graham, an ecumenical school founded by Christian abolitionists at the eve of the Civil War, hit the news because its only black woman professor with tenure said on Facebook that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God” (TIME, February 1, 2016). She has been both defended and denounced in-house and by alumni, some of whom have threatened to withdraw future donations. There is debate about what is “theologically essential” and “theologically peripheral”. In spite of her tenure, Larycia Hawkins is in danger of losing her job and being expelled from the campus. Ecumenism has its limits.
The question here is, of course, for us atheists, somewhat byzantine, or, more accurately, meaningless. We know that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all invented the Gods they call Yahweh, the Blessed Trinity or Allah. The “sacred” books of each of these religions and the Gods they worship have little in common with each other, and one could be excused for thinking that apart from their shared monotheism (although Christianity’s Trinity makes its claim to monotheism the subject of doubt if not denial for Jews and Muslims), the differences in their portraits of the Deity are screamingly apparent. But it is ecumenically correct to suggest that they all “worship the same God”.
It is pathetic to witness such a storm in a theological teacup : one more reason for this Blog’s mantra(s). (Do I have an “Alleluia !” ? No ? Sorry, Sarah.)
RIDENDA – DELENDA – RELIGIO