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In our second year of existence, The Village Square threw caution to the wind and waded neck deep into issues of faith and culture in our Dinner at the Square season: Faith, Politics & Neighbors ("ground well-trodden by angels and fools"). Despite the daunting challenge this presented to civility, we survived and think we learned some things. For your consideration, here are premises we'd like to advance to seed the discussion (continue the discussion on the pages we've added in the Faith & Culture section, or add your own page):
Liberty of conscience is the plumb line of the American idea in religion as in other spheres; this means those who disagree with you or are of a different faith also have the liberty of their conscience too. Religious scholar Leo Sandon: "Pluralism has been a generative ideology for Americans since before 1776."
Non-establishment of a state religion is uniquely and fundamentally American and should be protected as such.
In the founding of our country, the framers assumed a whole set of ideas that grew out of Protestant Christianity.
In not establishing a state religion, the founders probably did not imagine a public square where faith was exiled. The Founders concept was that factionalism would keep one group from abolishing the rights of others. So the logical manifestation of this today is a public square rich with people of different faith and no faith at all, cross-fertilizing ideas and disagreeing as different factions are apt to do.
James Madison expressed concern for the danger of "tyranny of the majority" and looked to faith diversity to restrain it; however, the role of the court system in ensuring minority rights is a new one, as of the middle of the 20th century.
Our biggest mistakes navigating faith in the public square arise when we try to make mythos into logos and logos into mythos rather than maintaining a distinction between (and appreciation for) truths, wisdom (or "Truth" for those of faith) and empirical fact. Find an extended discussion of this phenomena here .
Journalist and novelist John Marks: "We are the most tediously offended people." We might want to relax a bit, rather than look for the next offense.
An accurate read on scale and intensity when assessing opposition in the "culture wars" is important.
Corollary: Disproportionate response yields an equal and opposite disproportionate response; this creates an escalating cycle that interferes with constructive engagement and creates the very attitudes one side imagined and feared in the other.
Don't wish "for black to be a little blacker"; fixing your perception of reality around a vilification of another group, set in stone irrespective of mitigating facts, is the path toward being "fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred." (C.S. Lewis) Learn more about this very human characteristic in Village Square 101 here .
Take a good long look at who wins from maintaining the culture war and consider their motivation before you buy their arguments.