Tensions and Ethical Positions
Religious affiliation carries with it certain expectations that arise from the interpretation of beliefs, sacred texts and sacred stories and the significance of rituals. The combination of these aspects create the authentic character of the tradition. This is often of little consequence to those outside the religious tradition. However, when leaders from within the social structure of the religious tradition adopt certain ethical positions in the public sphere, those external to the faith can at times take exception. These ethical positions can also be called ethical stances.
When ancient ideas are confronted with modern crises, religious traditions may chose to take a stance. Even the decision to do nothing is a stance. More often though, the leaders of a religious tradition will assist their faithful adherents to form ethical viewpoints about significant issues based on the interpretation of beliefs, sacred texts and sacred stories. Many aspects of the religious tradition might be drawn on in the discernment and in the expression of the ethical positions that are ultimately adopted.
Tension, division and conflict both within the tradition and between its variants and different denominations can result from these processes. It can also create divisions between the religious tradition and other mainstream movements within society, both religious and secular. Alternatively, this process of ethical discernment can lead to breakthroughs in religious thought and practice and in a sense bring about social cohesion and harmony. This is mostly the result of dialogue but not always.