We believe Pluralism Sunday is an opportunity for progressive churches to reach some of the many people who are turned off by Christianity because of exclusivist claims some Christians make about it.What is pluralism? In an interview, Jim explains...
TCPC: So, what exactly is pluralism?I resonate with Jim. The biggest turnoff for me about Christianity has always beens its claim to exclusivity. The claim is made so loudly and forcefully that many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, think that being exclusive is "the only way" to be Christian. The inclusivist option is softer, but still in my view, paternalistic. It appears to be exclusivism-light.
JIM BURKLO: Professor Diana Eck, founder of the Pluralism Project and recognized expert on religious diversity in America, broke it down this way. When you think about relationships between religions, there are three general ways in which they relate. One is exclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is correct, and all other religions are wrong, at best, and evil, at the worst. So that would be what we have with the Taliban, al-Qaida, which are obviously scarier groups than Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, but they would qualify as exclusivist, as well. Fundamentalism is associated with exclusivism.
The next way in which religions relate is called inclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is the only true one, but yours is interesting. I can learn and grow from our relationship; however, the truth in your religion only points to the ultimate truth of mine. We should tolerate each other’s religions and find ways to cooperate and communicate. This is the point of view of the Catholic Church and some evangelical Christians.
Pluralism is the idea that my religion is good for me and your religion may turn out to be as good for you as mine is for me. So, pluralism is the concept that there are multiple loci of truth and salvation among the religions. Now, pluralism does not imply that all religions are the same or that all religions are equal; but it does recognize the possibility that my way is not the only way and that my religion is not necessarily superior to yours.
There is a lot of confusion about this. Pluralism often gets confused with other things, like “relativism.” A lot of people accuse religious pluralists, like myself and The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC), as being relativists, but the two ideas are quite different. (Read More)
What does Christianity look like when it is pluralistic? That is a question that has guided my personal quest for some time now. It is a question that has prompted me to attempt a Christian theology for the twenty-first century. I think it is exciting that more and more people are asking that question, and in turn are revisiting how they approach Jesus, the Bible, spirituality, prayer, worship, and ethics.
If you are interested in some faith statements of a pluralistic view of Christianity you might check out the one that led me to First Presbyterian of Elizabethton. The Center for Progressive Christianity has eight points describing a pluralistic faith.
Or, check out the faith statements of the congregations who will be celebrating Pluralism Sunday. You will find that you are not alone by any means!