Publication urging readers to value difference as a means toward global peace wins 2004 Grawemeyer Award
“For too long, the pages of history have been stained by blood shed in the name of God. Allied to weapons of mass destruction, extremist religious attitudes threaten the very security of life on earth. In our interconnected world, we must learn to feel enlarged, not threatened, by difference,” states London’s Chief Rabbi, Professor Jonathan Sacks in his book, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations,
which has won the 2004 Louisville Grawemeyer Award
in Religion. “The Dignity of Difference
is a plea – the most forceful I could make – for tolerance in an age of extremism,” says Chief Rabbi Sacks. “I see in the rising crescendo of ethnic tensions, civilizational clashes and the use of religious justification for acts of terror, a clear and present danger to humanity.”
In this powerful work, first published in hardback by Continuum (London, New York) in 2002 and reissued by Continuum in a revised paperback edition in 2003, Sacks demonstrates how religion may function constructively to promote global peace, and it is precisely this practical aspect that attracted the attention of this year’s final-selection committee.
The Dignity of Difference
is about globalization. It argues that the economics and politics of globalization have an inescapable moral dimension, which places great responsibility on the world’s religious communities. According to Sacks, such communities have emerged in the 21st century as key forces in a global age. But in order to be forces for peace, such communities must move beyond mere appreciation and respect for difference, beyond the temptation toward uniformity. Religious communities must recognize that difference is part of God’s design. Sacks’ book “provides a theology of difference.”
“Sacks argues that as long as we see ‘the other’ (those who are not like us) as a threat to our beliefs and way of life, we are headed for doom,” says Dr. Susan R. Garrett, Professor of New Testament at Louisville Seminary and Coordinator of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. “Sacks makes a biblical and theological case for valuing difference, petitioning us to look upon ‘the other’ as enriching the collective heritage of humankind,” Garrett says.
Professor Sacks, who lives in London, has been Chief Rabbi
of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991 and has become widely recognized as one of the world’s leading contemporary exponents of Judaism. He has a distinguished career also outside the Jewish community as a writer and broadcaster and is often a contributor to radio, television, and the national press. In 2001, the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred upon him the Doctorate of Divinity in recognition of his first ten years as Chief Rabbi.
Prior to becoming Chief Rabbi, Professor Sacks was Principal of Jews’ College, the oldest rabbinical seminary, and rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch Synagogues, all in London. He has taught in numerous graduate programs in London and Jerusalem and is currently Visiting Professor of Theology at Kings’ College. In twelve years, Rabbi Sacks has written thirteen books, five of which have been serialized in the national British Press. The London Times called his The Politics of Hope (1997, 2000) “a remarkable book…which deserves to become a key text,” and The Daily Telegraph wrote of The Dignity of Difference that it “stands far above other books about globalization and the so-called clash of civilizations, both for what it has to say and for the grace with which it says it.”
The annual Religion Award, which includes a cash prize of $200,000, is given jointly by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville
to the originators of creative works that contribute significantly to an understanding of “the relationship between human beings and the divine and ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community.”
During this week Grawemeyer awards
will also be given by the University of Louisville in the fields of musical composition, psychology, and world order. An award in education will not be made for 2004.
Additional coverage of this announcement included:
The Courier Journal The Chronicle of Higher Education SomethingJewish
, the inclusive Jewish web site in the U.K. The London Times
December 1, 2003, Church leaders to condemn attacks on Jews.
Dr Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, says Europe in particular must recognise the warning signs and address the problem robustly, by Ruth Gledhill.