Religion, Politics, and Peace

Rouner, Leroy S., ed. Religion, Politics, and Peace. Vol. XX, Boston University Studies in Philosophy and Religion. Notre Dame: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1998.

While American politics have long honored the separation of church and state, religion has been a critical resource for the moral foundation of our country since its inception. The powerful force of religion is also considered problematic in its relationship with peace. While religion has incredible potential to maintain peace, it has also been one of the greatest causes of warfare. The essays in this book examine some of the positive influences of religion in both political and peacekeeping processes.
The authors in the first section, “Religious Faith and Political Reconciliation,” do not accept Reinhold Niebuhr’s view presented in Moral Man and Immoral Society. There Niebuhr suggests that only individuals and not institutions can be just and loving. Jurgen Moltmann directly challenges this claim in his essay by utilizing an ancient Christian ritual of penance to address issues of forgiveness in relation to his experiences as a German prisoner of War during World War II. Jean Elshtain’s philosophical essay addresses political restorative justice, a form of political forgiveness concerned with justice. Elie Wiesel’s reflections on hope conclude this section.
The major issue of the second section, “The Politics of Pluralism,” is that American religion can no longer be defined as the Judeo-Christian tradition. An essay by Bhikhu Parekh argues that the voice of religions is necessary in American political discourse if we are to avoid superficiality. Stephen Darwall re-examines why religious toleration was problematic for Americans in the first place. John Clayton challenges those who claim that religiously pluralistic cultures need to establish common ground in order to avoid intellectual relativism and political disintegration. Ronald Thiemann shares Clayton’s view that the quest for “common ground” is misdirected.
The concluding section deals with the question of peace in three different religious contexts. First, John Hick looks at Mahatma Ghandi’s curious combination of Jainism’s spiritual nonviolence, Advaita Vedanta’s metaphysical nondualism, and Christianity’s ethical love of one’s neighbor. Stephanie Kaza interprets a possible Buddhist ecology in the contemporary Western world, and Raimon Pannikar offers a global viewpoint of world religions as servants of peace.