The Christian Challenge
Was it a Freudian slip, or just a coincidence?
It's hard to say. But a lot of Christians reading the current issue of
the URI Update, the official newsletter of the United Religions
Initiative, might be surprised to learn that "a lowerarchy, not a
hierarchy" was recommended as a structural model for the URI--the
controversial interfaith venture founded by California Episcopal Bishop
Attentive readers of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters may remember that
Screwtape, a senior demon, tells his nephew, Wormwood, that some
strategies for tempting people are "decided for us by spirits far
deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I."
The eye-catching reference appears in an article in the latest URI
Update about selecting the URI Global Council (the board of directors).
Its author, Sally Mahé, noted that: "At the 1999 URI
Summit, 100 participants offered their highest vision for the URI
Global Council. Some comments: 'Encourages a lowerarchy, not a
hierarchy.' 'Service of love, not power.' 'Inspires
spiritual citizenship.' Visions like these have inspired and
carried the URI into being."
Organizational activities apparently according with this "vision" in
the U.S. and overseas show what the URI means by its stated mission to
"create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the earth and all
living beings." In one of them, the URI "Cooperation Circle"
(local chapter) in Asheville, North Carolina "held the Council of All
Beings for people to experience being part of a ritual where the human
species is only one voice among many." It was not disclosed
whether the non-human participants in the ceremony were animals,
plants, rocks, spirits, or all of the above.
MEANWHILE, TCC has learned that President George W. Bush has lauded the
URI and Swing--who was recently in the news for blaming all religions
for fostering terror, albeit with a sterner eye toward Christianity
than Muslim extremism.
In a November 6 letter from the White House, Bush congratulated Swing
for receiving the 2001 Citizen Diplomacy Award from the International
Diplomacy Council, a private organization that works closely with
high-level State Department officials to assist overseas groups who
visit the US. At the end of the letter, Bush said, "Both the United
Religions Initiative and the International Diplomacy Council exist to
foster a greater understanding among peoples. I salute these
organizations for their roles in facilitating interaction among people
Gray Davis, the Democratic governor of California, joined Bush's
tribute. In a November 14 letter from his office in Sacramento, Davis
said, "By promoting peace and tolerance through the United Religions
Initiative, you have made a positive and lasting impact. Your
outstanding dedication to fostering international goodwill is an
inspiration to us all."
Frank Damann, manager of membership for the International Diplomacy
Council (IDC), said that the Secretary of State is familiar with the
work of IDC; in addition, George Shultz, Secretary of State in the
Reagan administration, is a member of the IDC Advisory Council.
It appears that Bush's commendation of the IDC and the URI was at the
suggestion of senior officials in the State Department. It was not
clear that the President was aware of Swing's post-September 11
statements claiming that the terrorists did not hold a corrupted view
of Islam, since all religions foster terror, a view Bush would be
unlikely to endorse.
URI staff did not return phone calls asking for comment on these
The letters from Bush and Davis praising the URI are - as of December
20, 2001 - on the Internet at http://www.diplomacy.org/PresLet.html and
Sources for this story also included ch. 20 of C. S. Lewis' Screwtape
Letters, and issue 10 of the URI Update, pp. 1,3, 7, and 8
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