So the 9-11 commemoration at the National Cathedral was today. Apparently Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention was disappointed, since the Southern Baptist denomination didn’t get an invite. But then, no pesky evangelicals were invited at all.

Speaking as a Southern Baptist myself, let’s face it. The service would probably have let us down. The prayers were likely formal, nobody stood up to ask for donations for Vacation Bible School and I doubt if anyone gave a proper testimony.

Although not in attenance, I doubt there was an altar call and the music probably didn’t feature anything Southern Baptists would have liked. Neither old hymns (remarkably full of references to sin, etc) or contemporary Christian (also sporting lyrics that might offend or disturb). Finally, I’m just positive there wasn’t crock pock mac-and-cheese and fried chicken, afterwards in the fellowship hall.

Of course, the nation is full of churches and denominations. If every Christian denomination were invited, where would they have put the Buddhist nun, assorted Muslims, Hindu priest and incarnate lama who had already received their tickets? (Check the news…I’m not joking).

The Dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, would have experienced serious problems with the seating arrangement if forced to contend with all the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Evangelical Lutherans and Pentecostals who might have show up if given special invitations! And let’s face it, Pentecostals need some room, bless their hearts!

I found myself initially puzzled by such an eclectic mix of honored guests at the ‘National Cathedral,’ especially since it is an Episcopal house of worship.

But in reality, this isn’t surprising at all. The various faiths invited to attend, and participate, in the memorial of that horrible day in 2001 all represent the one, unifying religion that is widely and completely acceptable in Washington, DC. That is, the religion of multiculturalism.

If it doesn’t, the cathedral should have etched on its entry-way the words from bumper-sticker ‘Coexist.’ You know, the one that has a cross, a crescent, a peace sign and all the rest. The one that comes as standard equipment on the Toyota Prius and every Subaru ever sold.

Small wonder Americans love multiculturalism and tolerance. It’s very reassuring and, intellectually, all too easy. ‘Let’s just tolerate! Let’s all get together and worship together and hope for peace, while we pretend that at the end of the day, we all believe exactly the same thing!’ Well that doesn’t really matter, does it?

Of course it does. Belief matters. And what we accomplish with subverting all faiths to the same faith, what we accomplish with mixing them together in a Christian house of worship, is not an expansion of tolerance and belief, but ultimately the diminution of each one of the faiths in question.

Since I am a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly that there is absolute truth. As such, I believe that many faith traditions speak words of truth. Since truth is from God, they must have some dispensation of wisdom from Him.

I respect their beliefs, and have no interest in harming, oppressing or limiting them in any way, as long as their actions are lawful and peaceful. I may disagree with them, and I may believe my own faith has the final revelation of God’s will for us; nevertheless, I think that many Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others have beautiful and relevant things to tell us, even if they are theologically incomplete.

But I also believe that secular American multiculturalism only appears to worship tolerance, and only seems to embrace all faiths equally, by (for instance) inviting everyone to pray at the National Cathedral. In fact, what ultimately occurs in ‘tolerance,’ as we practice it, is that each of those faiths is rendered little more than a curiosity, none better or wiser than the other.

What that philosophy does is suggest, to each faith represented, ‘none of you are especially right, and none of you are especially relevant, so we might as well include everyone.’ In other words, nothing is true, so everything is true, yes? Oddly, in such a setting, tolerance becomes synonymous with intellectual and spiritual apathy; American sacraments if ever there were any.

Ultimately, that sort of attitude, that sort of dismissive view of truth is exactly the last thing that should echo in the National Cathedral as we remember 9-11, and try desperately to understand how to prevent such horrors in the future. Because theologies matter, ideas matter and all of them ultimately find their expression, not in solemn church services with everyone singing camp-fire songs and holding hands. But in the real world, where their adherents live, work and interact with civilization.

Back on 9-11-01, ideology was suddenly incarnate in steel, fire and death. And if we continue to substitute tolerance for the genuine effort to discern the implications of belief, if we continue to pretend that every genuinely held belief, philosophy or theology is as good as any other, then we will never be able to either understand the tragedy of 9-11, or prevent it from happening again.

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