My blogging will be light for the next couple of days. Tomorrow I’m participating in a BBC radio program(me)-- "Have Your Say"--broadcast from Ebenezer Baptist Church and focusing on two issues, religion in American life and immigration. I’m not a panelist, but rather a member of a small audience intended to interact with the panelists.
On Thursday, I’m participating as a kibbitzer in a conference on religion and liberalism, organized by Judd Owen. The principal presenters include Allan Arkush, J. Budziszewski, Craig M. Gay, Michael Perry, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Michael Zuckert. The formal respondents include Peter Lawler, Patrick Deneen, and Bob Bartlett. And then there’s a few of us comprising a small peanut gallery. It should be fun, and I’ll file a report when it’s all over.
Update: You can listen to the first hour of the BBC program by clicking on a link on this page. It was devoted to immigration and featured (among others) Phil Kent, a long-time prominent conservative leader who has taken up the cause of immigration reform. The leftists in the Ebenezer sanctuary kept insisting that immigration was an issue only because its an election year and certain people (we know who they are) wanted a wedge issue. I asked Kent during a break how long hed been carrying Karl Roves water; he just laughed.
The second hour (which doesnt seem to be on-line) was highlighted by the mellifluous and reasonable telephonic presence of Richard John Neuhaus. The BBC folks kept asking us if intolerance had increased in America since 9-11. In my two brief stints with the mike, I made the points that the experience of genuine religious pluralism may provide a few unpleasant moments, but that groups learn to live with one another; and that "separation of church and state" doesnt capture the constitutional language, which I dont have to explain to you, dear readers. I pointed out that the Abdul Rahman case exemplifies real intolerance and got the Muslim woman on the panel to say, point blank, that the Quran forbids compulsion in religious matters. Now if she could only persuade her brethren in the Middle East.... Another Muslim in the audience spoke eloquently about how religious leaders in his community reached out after 9-11 and about how his daughter, asked when she was young whether she was an Egyptian, replied that she was an American. Its a grand country, aint it, full of the beautiful as well as the bilious.
One last point: our BBC hostess kept marveling at the size of the Ebenezer sanctuary (it holds 2,500) and remarking, on air, that it was full every Sunday morning (not often the experience in the U.K.). I told her off air that, by Atlanta standards, this was only a medium-sized church and there were plenty of bigger sanctuaries in Atlanta, equally full every Sunday, as well as lots of Catholic churches that cant hold enough masses to accommodate their parishioners.