In 1903, W.E.B DuBois’ famous work The Souls of Black Folk popularized the term “color line” to denote the metaphorical division that stood between whites and blacks at the start of the 20th century.
DuBois hoped for a world where no such line exists, and where people of all races garnered the same amount of mutual respect. Integral to his notion of racial acceptance lies an acknowledgement of the fundamental commonalities shared by all of humanity, regardless of skin color.
It is this same spirit that Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, seeks to capture in the introduction to his book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.
Instead of a society subdivided by race, however, Patel sees one segregated by religious difference. He calls this demarcation the “faith line,” and says:
“On one side of the faith line are the religious totalitarians. Their conviction is that only one interpretation of one religion is a legitimate way of being, believing, and belonging on earth. Everyone else needs to be cowed, or converted, or condemned, or killed. On the other side of the faith line are the religious pluralists, who hold that people believing in different creeds and belonging to different communities need to learn to live together.” (Introduction, pg. XV)
Patel hopes for a world where religious difference does not have to come packaged with discrimination, violence, or hate, but instead becomes a catalyst for service, goodness, and acceptance surrounding each religion’s shared values.
In Patel’s vision, difference is not reason for division, but something worth celebrating. And, like DuBois, Patel recognizes that even despite these differences, each and every religion bears at least one similarity to another—it is these similarities from which we can build better relationships, growing in understanding of those who at first seem so different from us.
We at FLP strive to acknowledge the faith line as a possible line of division while seeking to form a robust evangelical response to Patel’s call to “learn to live together.”