Over the last few weeks the Center for Public Justice has been running a series on pluralism and American politics. You can find the series here . The articles are short and well written with each author presenting a somewhat different view on the topic. In fact, these articles are so well written that you might find yourself agreeing with each author in turn as you read their piece even though they present somewhat different points of view.
Each writer explores pluralism from a particular perspective. The series gives a pluralism of views on pluralism. ( Sorry, I know somewhere there is a better pun…)
But is there anything to unify the topic? Is the topic of pluralism doomed to an inherent messiness? Is there somewhere some solid bedrock from which pluralism emerges? I think there is.
Regular readers here know I don’t often venture into the world of politics, political science and public policy. Those are not my areas of expertise. I enter into conversation with these articles from the Center for Public Justice with some amount of trepidation. But as Christians and citizens, more of us should be engaged in this conversation, so I’ll begin and I invite your response.
There is one fundamental position on which the bedrock of pluralism rests, where our commonality in the midst of pluralism can be found.
We are all beloved of God. No matter who we are, no matter where we come from. There may be cultural, economic, social, religious, and political differences. But we are equally loved even in all our diversity. Our human tendency is to hierarchy, we think because there are differences, one must be better, more desirable and more favored by God and the other less. It is crucial to repeatedly remind ourselves, particularly as we struggle with the very real conflicts brought by pluralism, that God’s love is for all. We need to hold fast to our common status as beloved. God may prefer certain behaviors, certain beliefs, certain actions and we can talk about that. But God does not prefer certain persons over others.
Out of our common humanity comes an important set of common desires. There are the basic wants of food, shelter, security,and health. But also we have a desire for work that contributes to society and our sense of personal well-being. We have a desire for a fulfilling family life, true friends, true love.
The other set of common human longings has to do with our search for justice, truth, beauty and peace. What we think is necessary for these to be realized is complex and diverse and often our viewpoints are at odds. The Capital Commentators are right, we cannot wish away or paper over real, honest differences of opinion. Never the less, the longing for truth, justice, peace and beauty are common to us all and so are a starting point for conversation.
For me, it is helpful to remember these common desires and then to consider how differences in life experience, religious belief and world view shape will shape a person’s position. This doesn’t make differences go away, but it does help me respectfully consider the other person’s view and why they might hold it.
It seems to me in a pluralist society, that is committed to and even encourages a variety of view points and beliefs, that it is still important to find the solid common ground under our diverse feet. The belief that under all the diversity resides a common humanity is what binds a pluralistic society together. Without that belief we can think we are justified in demonizing, marginalizing or destroying the other.
Christianity has a particular set of values to offer a pluralist society based on our understanding of who God is and how God views humanity and the world. We have a particular view of the long arc of history which ends in redemption and salvation, not despair and inevitable conflict. I’ll confess to being an optomist ( mostly) about our ability to work together for the common good. Not because I have a particularly optimistic view of humans but because I have a faith in God and God’s ability to take our efforts, contradictory and flawed as they may be, to move history toward the future.
I’d like to know, what do you think?