Nice sentiment, but...

The Miami Herald's editorial on the need to battle hate based on religious differences is filled with the sorts of platitudes that one expects when a place of worship suffers some vandalism. If there's a problem with the editorial, it's the banality that suffuses the entire piece, like this part near the end.

This is why public and private schools, employment centers and houses of worship of every creed must not become complacent about battling hate crimes through diversity training that seeks to build understanding among people with different points of view.
Bolding is mine, and good luck with that. With only a few exceptions--and those exceptions by no means contain the majority of churchgoers in this country--you're not going to find much more than lip-service for acceptance toward the beliefs of other religions, especially once you start crossing cultural boundaries toward religions like Islam and Hinduism, etc. Maybe it's just me, but when I hear a right-wing evangelical use the term "Judeo-Christian," I get the feeling that they're only using the first half to avoid being tagged as openly anti-Semitic.

I have to say that ecumenism doesn't make an awful lot of sense to me--it seems to fly in the face of the purpose of most western religious traditions. The more radical Christian groups certainly feel that ecumenical dialogue is a waste of time, largely because they feel they have the one true faith and that everyone who doesn't get in line with their version of scripture is going to suffer some divine retribution. There's no point in making friends with the infidel if he's wrong. (Side note: this sort of fanaticism is why so many observers call members of these churches "American Taliban" or theocons.) They may not openly advocate for hostility toward members of other churches or faiths, but there's not likely to be any tsk-ing from the pulpit over vandalism at a mosque or synagogue or even at a church that follows a different dogma.

I can understand the mindset that comes from these churches, probably because I was a member of one for much of my life. That belief that you have the "truth" is a powerful motivator and can drive your conduct to extremes. I don't get the people for whom belief is more wishy-washy, who believe in something but won't or can't define it, whose faith is more malleable--the kind who engage in ecumenical dialogue and say things like "all religions are roads to the same place." Don't get me wrong--I'd rather have a cup of coffee with the latter than the former, but I don't get them. It seems to me that if you're going to buy into a belief system that asks you to accept some vague promises about an afterlife, you ought to go whole hog and have it mean something to you, and defend that belief against others who would challenge it. Otherwise, what's the point? If all roads lead to heaven, then why believe at all? Seems to me that an ecumenical God would accept a flawed-but-moral life led by a non-believer the same as one led by a fervent believer.

Ecumenism is a good idea for us in the here-and-now, especially if you can get more people to buy into it and if, like me, you're a non-believer. I'm a big believer in the power of manners (seriously--at least in real life)--they're the lubricant that smooths the running of a machine that runs roughly at the best of times--and it seems to me that ecumenical dialogue is the religious equivalent of Southerners smiling and nodding at one another to their faces and then rolling their eyes and mumbling bad things about them five seconds later. It may not result in any real friendship, but it probably stops a few fistfights, at least until there's beer involved.

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