I've just started reading Jon Meacham's American Gospel, a book which I can already tell will be an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about the role of religion in the public square. I'll write more about the book itself in a later post.
What I wanted to share today is a quote that I think is an important descriptor of our age:
The Twentieth-Century was dominated by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Stalin, Tojo, people who brooked no dissent and tried to extend their power over every aspect of human life. You could say that this is the agenda of a Hussein or a Bin laden, but there is a difference.
"If totalitarianism was the great problem of the
twentieth century, then extremism is, so far, the great problem of the twenty-first."
There don't seem to be the same totalitarian impulses -- today its extremist ideologies, a polarization not seen in the previous century -- especially in the United States. Democrats and Republicans have always differed in their beliefs, but they could at least get along. That no longer seems to be true. The key to this extremism, I believe Meacham will demonstrate, is the role that religion plays in modern society. Instead of a glue to hold society together it is the centrifugal force that is forcing the basic elements of society apart. We need religion instead to be a force that builds bridges and cements elements of society together.