Sociologists are reputed to be masters of suspicion, and many keep their distance from religious belief and practice. Robert Bellah’s field was the sociology of religion, and the longtime University of California, Berkeley professor—who died last week—certainly knew the value of “distance” in this and all human sciences. But as he studied people of faith and their practice—whether in “Tokugawa Religion” in Japan (his doctoral dissertation subject) or in America—he discerned integrity and value in the faith(s) of many.
When ISIS threatened last year to overthrow Baghdad, Andrew White, Anglican vicar of Baghdad, invited the leaders of ISIS to his place for dinner. ISIS responded by saying they’d accept White’s dinner invitation, but they’d chop off his head. He didn’t invite them again. White—who was raised Pentecostal, was trained as a doctor, and has multiple sclerosis—has engaged in mediation efforts in some of the riskiest places in the world. “If you want to make peace, you can’t just do it with the nice people. Nice people don’t cause the wars,” says White, who now lives in Jordan (Independent, November 2).