Curtis W. FreemanJanuary 12, 2009 - 11:36am0 comments
A few years ago I stood in front of a class of divinity students and announced that a prominent religious pundit had recently made the following statement: “I’ve got more in common with Pope John Paul II than I do with Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.” Then I asked, “Was it (a) Stanley Hauerwas, (b) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, (c) Richard John Neuhaus, or (d) Richard Land?”
The class rightly suspected this was a setup, yet most of the students failed to identify Richard Land as the source of the quote. And who could blame them? What’s the world coming to when a prominent Southern Baptist suggests, even playfully, that he is more comfortable with the pope than with two of the country’s most visible Baptists?
The line about religious boundaries in the United States used to be that Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, Protestants don’t recognize the pope as head of the church, and Baptists don’t recognize one another at the liquor store. It expressed the more nuanced typology put forth in Will Herberg’s classic book, Protestant, Catholic, Jew. But with the changing of the religious landscape in the United States, the old map is less useful than it once was. Many Jews now regard Jesus as a great teacher, which is more than some “Christian” theologians seem to be saying these days. Catholics and most mainline Protestants now regard one another as “separated brethren.” And some...