October 21, 2002
-- Martin E. Marty
Given the many and lively reactions to recent "Sightings" that report on the absence and then the presence of, and sometimes the conflict among, religious voices in respect to the impending Iraq War, let's talk this week about the nature and intentions of this e-mail column.
Jose Ortega y Gasset, as professor and journalist, modeled for me what he termed "civic pedagogy." (He also described himself therefore as only a "partly faithful professor," which I hope I was and am not!) Some days of some weeks we forward to you brief strongly-viewpointed position papers by University of Chicago faculty members, graduate students, Martin Marty Center fellows and, happily, some of you.
The Monday columns, which I write, tend to be less "positioned," more reportorial, not necessarily expressive of my own views of the subjects in question. Some of you detect sneaky insertions of ideology and presuppositions, and that's fine with me. But to get heavy-handed would destroy the pedagogical function. By "pedagogy" I do not mean anything condescending or patriarchal; who appointed me to be a "teacher" to the public? Instead, I conceive of teaching as an unending conversation in which we are all partners.
So, several weeks ago we brought up the issue of impending war and commented on the eerie silence about it among religious leaders. By now, those leaders have "played catch up" and the majority is vigorous in their dissent against unilateral action against Iraq. Others that we report on (and I hope fairly), like the Southern Baptist Convention and National Association of Evangelicals, are equally vigorous in their support of the war. Now I pick up many headlines, all across the page, e.g., in the Chicago Tribune (October 13), "Religious Leaders at Front of War Protest: Growing Numbers Decry Pre-emptive Strike against Iraq" (Julia Lieblich and Lynette Kalsnes did the round-up). The church press, which I cover for the newsletter CONTEXT, is now also full of comment, most of it in dissent against administration policy.
You readers have sent in comments on every side of the issue, most of it chiding us for not having called more attention to the religiously-based dissent. We lack resources to respond personally to each of these comments, though, be assured, we learn from them. We have also pondered with many why dissent is ignored by governmental policy makers. And we face the question: since religious leaders disagree with each other, why should anyone pay any attention to any of them. "Civic pedagogy" calls us to deal with such and we will, while also taking up other topics. The war is the most urgent topic, but by no means the only one we are noticing.