Introducing Eboo Patel

Over the last few months I got to meet and follow up with a great guy by the name of Eboo Patel. As you’ll hear from an upcoming podcast, Eboo is one of the people who genuinely have something to contribute to the banter of online voices vying for the attention of us all.
As the director and founder of the Interfaith Youth Core and contributor to the Newsweek.Washington Post On Faith Blog, Eboo is working hard to give a new shape to the kind of interfaith that is necessary in the formation of new American identity. Believe me, there is much more to come on this!
For now, check out this post by Eboo concerning the choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation:
Rick Warren and Our Either/Or Culture
For Rick Warren, the dream of being chosen to give the invocation at a presidential inauguration quickly turned into a nightmare of being fired at by the left and the right. Many on the left are furious because of Warren’s opposition to gay rights, some on the right are angry because Warren accepted the invitation of a man who supports gay rights.
The heat on such issues has been turned up since a majority of Californians voted No on gay marriage on Nov 4.
On one level, this is an either/or issue – that’s certainly what it looks like at the ballot box. Either you vote for gay marriage or you vote against it. But there is another way to look at this – which is how the two sides are choosing to frame the issue, and what that means for a diverse society.
The pro gay marriage group’s dominant framing is “equality” – gay marriage is to the 21st century what civil rights was to the mid-twentieth, the equality issue of an era. The anti-gay marriage group’s dominant framing is “civilization” – the fundamental institution of all civilizations is the family unit, which has been defined in all times and places as being based on the marriage of a man and a woman.
So people who are against gay marriage are against equality. Cretins!
And people who are for gay marriage are against civilization. Ogres!
That’s what I call writing the storyline of a culture war.
I suppose that’s a good strategy for trying to win an up or down vote, but it’s a dangerous way to think about living in a pluralist society – a society which includes significant numbers of people on either side of the issue. Win or lose, you have to go to work with people who believe (perhaps passionately) differently than you. Hard to work with a cretin opposed to equality or an ogre opposed to civilization.
It makes me think of something I recently read from Martin Marty. He calls it Marty’s Law, and it’s simple: No one ever wins culture wars.
Marty expounds:
“Those who think they have “won” religiously-based culture wars never really vanquish the opposition, and those who have “lost” come back to fight another day. When the dust of battle settles, nothing but that dust has been settled, and national life continues on bloodied ground.”
Marty’s images of culture war are chilling – dust and defeat, blood and battle, and a never-ending cycle of all of it.
Let’s do our best to avoid this.
So here’s what I want for the holidays: Someone to reframe an either/or into a win-win. Someone to hold up equality and civilization, not as weapons to bludgeon the opposition, but as common ground for a diverse nation to gather on.

for now…
joshua c