Hospitality vs. Tolerance with Prof. Martin E. Marty, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The University of Chicago


Martin Marty: I Welcome Works of NF on Interfaith Level in Chicago and Beyond.
Time was approaching to noon when small yet passionate people had begun entering in to Niagara Foundation’s office for an annual forums with lunch so as to what we call as ‘luncheon forums’ – a new project that Niagara Foundation has recently initiated and successfully hosted many important figures so far. Looking so excited about the upcoming people and the guest speaker, people kept coming in and impatiently waiting for the speaker. Speaker had been introduced by the Executive Director of Niagara Foundation, Kemal Oksuz. Kemal Oksuz especially noted the richness of Professor Martin Marty’s academic background and invited him to the tribune when ‘words were not enough to describe him further’. Professor Martin Marty thanked Niagara Foundation for its excellent job and he admired by welcoming the works of Niagara Foundation on interfaith level in Chicago and beyond. He also noted that he was beneficiary of a number of Niagara Foundation’s event as he received Commitment Award in the Annual Peace and Dialogue Awards.

Professor Martin Marty began his speech by pointing out an interesting statistics about various religious and ethnic communities’ correlation with the term ‘hospitability’. Stressing the fact that ‘tolerance’ and ‘hospitability’ are not confronting and we can’t raise the issue of polemic between them at all, he brought facts or samples that a search engine turns up for hospitability. Results are ‘hospitability’ with Christian (1, 750, 000), Jewish (309,000), Muslim (1, 090, 000), Hindu (678, 000), Buddhist (552, 000), Middle Eastern (1, 340, 000), Bible (1, 250, 000), “Old Testament” or “Hebrew Scriptures” (470, 000). He also criticized his work by emphasizing the factors that might affect the result of the study like size of religious group, its location, arguments and other things related to that.

He also raised questions like whether or not one can face hard issues (risk) with tolerance like war, terrorism or conflict and how important it is to talk about this when big issues such as terrorism, war, global economy which frames everyone’s life or environment are urgent.

Seeking any kind of power in alternatives like non-violent actions were also among notes of Professor Martin Marty that he recalled in his speech. He reminded Martin Luther Kind and Mahatma Gandhi as such of non-violent leaders. But he also noted that yet we can assume conflict as it is undeniably nature of humanity.

He also talked about the fear or hatred and the term “the other”. People fear to what they are not familiar with. He also pointed to the threat of different values whether to be too ominous or too alluring.

He said that ‘On this front, all through history, there are a very few voices for alternatives”. He then talked about the modern struggle and emergence of the idea of tolerance. He said that sometimes it seems problematic if it seems as weakening one’s own hold on belief, system, context and faith. It is an idea that one begin to understand ‘the other’, accommodate ‘the other’ in his/her life and arrange life different from how s/he is used to live.

He talked about how leaders interpret the idea of ‘togetherness’ and making ordinary life positive by the role of leadership. They emphasize advance of guards and boundaries of the unity. At this point, things that seem to be remote to us are actually not remote like Serbo-Croatian confrontation, Sunni-Shiite issues in Dearborn, Michigan, and Catholic-Protestant problems in Northern Ireland.

But Professor Martin Marty offers solutions for these problems. One of them is kind of pessimistic and not-acceptable. It is Dawkins/Harris model which claims to kill and demolish all religions. Because religion claims revelation, distinctive stories that are often exclude one another, it is also group-empowering, eschatological verification and they can’t compromise. However, Professor Martin Marty continues as “Here comes a great invention: Tolerance! And he elaborates it as “‘I’ or ‘we’ set the terms against the other and if I can get you to believe as little as I do, we can get along”.

Nevertheless, he also voices over the threat of hospitality which might be gift relation like we ‘owe’ and become dependent, lure of the other in unguarded settings, difficulty of changing ‘back home’, sending the wrong signals and actually betraying your own at the end.

At the same time, tolerance and hospitality also lead people to things like awareness of otherness, self-examination, telling of stories, facing of issue and the importance of face-to-face actions.

He concludes his speech by a final note which should be a formula in all of our lives: “To be hospitable, to the merely tolerant”. Professor Martin Marty continued answering many and interesting questions from audience. The speech ended when Kemal Oksuz, the Executive Director of Niagara Foundation presented a very nice and invaluable gift to Professor Martin Marty. Professor Martin Marty thanked Kemal Oksuz for the sweet present and ‘hospitality’ and to the audience for being patient and ‘tolerant’ in his interview to Niagara Foundation’s Media Department.

The event followed by informal discussions, lunch and wonderful portrait of dialogue, friendship and acquaintances.

February 28, 2007

12:30 pm

205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

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