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Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America (The Documents of 20th-century art) Hardcover – July 31, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Niebuhr, the former religion reporter for the New York Times, is now a professor at Syracuse University. This makes his book immensely valuable: he has the careful scholarship of an academic, but the communication expertise of a journalist skilled at getting to the personal heart of a story. Not long after 9/11, Niebuhr set out to find and tell the largely untold stories of those who are involved in interreligious dialogue: why do they do it? what do they gain from it? what do they risk? True dialogue, as the title claims, means moving beyond tolerance, approaching other religious traditions with a desire to learn and, perhaps more important, to make friends. Niebuhr tells memorable stories of people reaching across religious lines, from a group of Cape Cod Congregationalists who gave a Jewish community a historic building, some land and some money to create a synagogue to the energetic individuals who founded Louisville's famous Festival of Faiths. Niebuhr beautifully honors the commitment and care shown by those working on the front lines of interreligious understanding. (Aug. 4)
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Review

" Anyone . . . interested in dialogue among individuals, communities, and nations will benefit from Beyond Tolerance's wisdom and humanity."
-Elie Wiesel

" He has the careful scholarship of an academic, but the communication expertise of a journalist skilled at getting to the personal heart of a story."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Product Details

  • Series: The Documents of 20th-century art
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (July 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019564
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every once in awhile a book transcends paper, ink, and binding to paint a picture. Niebuhr's book does just that -- casting a vision for interfaith understanding and issuing a challenge to engage in a transformative dialogue -- to move beyond the boundaries that limit and constrain us. Our future health, vitality, and sustainability as a global culture lies in collaboration and connection that is greater than any one religious faith or belief system. Too often modern religion is framed in divisive, destructive, and dysfunctional terms, with little regard to the essence of the good, the beautiful, and the true that undergird every major faith. When differences can be set aside in deference to the common good and the shared values of diverse faiths, amazing things can happen. Niebuhr offers an invitation into a new way of being 'religious' in a complex, chaotic, and often contentious world. This is a recommended read for every person of faith who desires to see our world become a place of peace, justice, mercy, and love.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gustav Niebuhr is an engaging writer. He has a wealth of experience on the subject of religion in America drawn from his personal life and then his professional life (as a journalist first and then from the Academy). "Beyond Tolerance: Search for Interfaith Understanding in America" is a solid resource for those engaged in interfaith dialogue.

What Makes this a good book?

Niebuhr draws from his personal experiences as a religion writer for the New York Times in order to analyze interfaith dialogue in America. "Beyond Tolerance" is a combination of a personal account and a researched/surveyed academic analysis. This unique perspective makes the book engaging and readable while providing very useful facts, resources and insights as well. Niebuhr's personal opinions are included in "Beyond Tolerance" but he distinguishes them from facts.

It is a short book (only 213 pages) and it is a very easy read. While it has six (6) chapters and a conclusion, the preface, introduction, notes and bibliography are integral to the book. The preface and introduction help set the right expectations for the reader by disclosing Niebuhr's personal and professional background, his personal religious affiliation and his own attitude towards interfaith dialogue. Niebuhr notes that he was raised in an observant Christian home where prayer was a part of his family's dail life. Interestingly but not surprisingly he notes that as part of his religious Christian upbringing he was taught that he

"shared the world with a great variety of religious (and nonreligious) identities, all of which belonged to people who deserved as much respect as we ourselves would want."

The notes and bibliography are wonderful resources for additional reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Gustav Niebuhr created a valuable gift when he wrote BEYOND TOLERANCE. Even the active participants in the interfaith community in Rochester, NY, which has been building community since 1991 through many organizations, are benefitting from Professor Niebuhur's stories of how individual priests and rabbis reached out in neighborly concern to imams and their Muslim members after 9/11. Tolerance is not enough between persons of different faiths. Understanding and mutual respect are far more powerful in transforming a neighborhood's fear into stances of solidarity and helpfulness. If we are going to move forward together as Americans, Muslims and Jews, Christians and Buddhists, Unitarians and Sikhs, nonreligious and religious, we will find both vision and valuable insights in BEYOND TOLERANCE. The fear that the 9/11 fanatics wished to instill in us by their acts of inhumanity on 9/11 is giving way to the love of neighbor that all of our religious traditions teach, and that the individuals in Dr. Niebuhr's stories demonstrate. We plan to use his book in the work of the Interfaith Forum of Greater Rochester, as we mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, remember loved ones lost, thank first responders for those they saved, and pursue communities of understanding and mutual respect.
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Format: Hardcover
Although I never met him, I consider H. Richard Niebuhr to be one of my primary teachers. A theologian and sociologist, he taught an ethics of responsiveness in an era of increasingly divisive politics and religious tensions. I bought "Beyond Tolerance" partly to find out how his grandson is following in that legacy. I was not disappointed: Gustav Niebuhr has written about the possibility and importance of dialogue and respect among people who may be starkly different.

Many times we wait for seismic changes in the social landscape before we are ready to embrace those who are "other", and we often remain skeptical about whether there is anything to discuss with people who see the world very differently. Niebuhr has written from personal experience--following his own direct experience of the attacks of 9/11--about people who have been quietly working at the local level across the country and world to build bridges across cultural and religious divides. In other words, the dialogue, the responsiveness not only can happen but has been happening around us for decades. Niebuhr speaks with the quiet confidence of one who has traveled around talking with those who work actively to surmount prejudice and fanaticism, to build peaceful community. Speaking religiously, to do this one must be willing to give up the disrespect implied in evangelism--that one's own religious stance is necessarily so superior that it is not worth listening to and conversing seriously with the other. Niebuhr argues convincingly that the dialogue need not lead to any sort of syncretism--one need not surrender one's convictions or dilute one's faith in order to listen seriously and even to witness from one's own stance. Numerous examples illustrate the listening and sharing as they have been and are happening.
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