I couldn’t resist calling everyone’s attention to this op-ed. As he often is, Charles Krauthammer is spot-on. Here’s my favorite paragraph:
I’m struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.
I could take this observation in a number of different directions, but I’ll restrict myself to a couple. Let’s begin with the e pluribus unum. A genuinely pluralistic community isn’t afraid to accommodate the pride and commitments of its constituent groups and to demand that they respect one another. This is a tough balancing act and one that does not materialize overnight. And it does not materialize, I might add, without some conflict. But the conflict, once resolved, becomes part of the shared cultural and historical glue--Lincoln’s "mystic cords of memory"--that holds the larger community together.
For me, the issue is how deeply the common culture must reach in order to be sufficiently robust to deserve the devotion of the constituent groups. Should we be content with John Rawls’s "overlapping consensus," principles of public accommodation to which each adheres for his or her own reasons? Or a mere modus vivendi, not much more than a truce? My touchstone for these matters is Aristotle’s definition of a genuine political community, which requires that we care about one another’s character. Can such caring coexist with deeply different fundamental faiths?