Beyond Tolerance

Gustav Niebuhr, grandson of H. Richard Niebuhr, former religion writer for the New York Times and currently associate professor of religion at Syracuse University, has written a new book on the growth of the interfaith movement. Beyond Tolerance, (Viking, 2008) tells stories of individuals and communities who have reached across religious boundaries to meet their neighbors and move beyond tolerance. Says Niebuhr, “Tolerance is not enough because there’s no educational component to it. Tolerance doesn’t bust down stereotypes. Tolerance doesn’t put a face on faith.”

He writes in the first chapter about September 11, 2001:

[Reverend Frank Hubbard’s] prayer, brief though it was, encapsulated a vital and important truth: that in the United States, community can extend beyond religious boundaries, incorporating people whose fundamental views of the universe are sharply different from one another. If not the prayer itself, then that idea of community was on the minds of an untold number of Americans that same day and many of them acted decisively to preserve it. As they did so, they acted to keep the civil society that is necessary to our most basic freedoms. I had no idea so much work was going on that day.

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