Pluralism Sunday


Next Sunday will be identified as Pluralism Sunday in several Christian churches. The Center for Progressive Christianity describes several goals of Pluralism Sunday, one of which is that it is a

time to let your wider community know that your church embraces religious pluralism: it’s an evangelism opportunity for reaching the many people who reject Christianity because they think it claims the only path to God.
There are so many common misconceptions about what all Christians must necessarily believe, and which the general public often believes to be true; and this idea that Christians believe that their faith is the only path to God is certainly one of them. Many Christians do believe this, of course; intolerance and judgmentalism about other people's relationship with God often play into this. But the point is that not all do. Because religious pluralism is very important to my own conception of faith, I am very interested in the idea of Pluralism Sunday.

Pluralism Sunday relates very closely to point #2 of the Center for Progressive Christianity's 8 points:
Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
I think there are many possible theological variants on religious pluralism, many approaches that Christians can take on the subject. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, an Episcopal church that is not affiliated with the Center for Progressive Christianity (but which seems to be generally progressive in its theology) puts it this particular way as the first sentence in its mission statement:
We believe in One God, known to us in Jesus Christ, also known by different names in different traditions.
Grace Cathedral's theology is one way of phrasing a pluralistic position. There are no doubt other ways of formulating a pluralistic theology as well. What I like about it is that they are completely up front about it. Their mission statement appears on their service programs and on their home web page.

It is possible to recognize the value of one's own faith without denigrating that of others. I think that Pluralism Sunday is a wonderful idea.


Heather said...

I think it's important to distinguish between recognizing someone's path to God, and holding the attitude of 'anything goes.' One of the critiques I've heard/read about pluraism is that the critiquers see it as saying there are no consequences. You can live however you want, and still get to heaven when you die.

Progressive Christianity doesn't teach this. For one thing, if it did believe that 'anything goes,' why would it bother teaching anything at all? People would be fine right where they are. Second, no progressive Christian or even a universalist I know believes that there are no consequences. No one would say that the 9/11 terrorists had no consequences for their actions. Unrepentent rapists or murderers will face consequences. I just see those consequences are corrective, rather than simple retribution.

I wonder if maybe Progressive Christianity should say that there is only one path to God, the path simply manifests itself in different ways.

JP Manzi said...

I like the way the Episcopal Church spoke of it. It is not easy to find a labeled Christian church, especially here in NJ, to be pluralistic. Your options of faith communities, Mystical, is outstanding. I lived in San Fran for 3 months (well, right outside SF) and was amazed by the opportunities a seeker has.

Mystical Seeker said...

Heather, I agree with you that not all religious paths are equally valid. To me, the validity of a path lies not in orthodoxy but in orthopraxy. If one's religion inspires them to love their neighbor inclusively, then it is a good thing. If it inspires them to commit acts of hatred or violence, then it is a bad thing.

To me, it isn't the doctrines that they adhere to about God or Jesus, but about the sincerity of the relationship with the Transcendent reality that I might call God (which is between that person and God, and which not I but only God can judge) and the way that relationship translates into behavior towards others. It doesn't matter to me if a person is Hindu or Muslim or Christian--or, for that matter, an atheist. If they are inclusively loving, then God probably approves.

JP--there are a lot of interesting possibilities here in SF and in the surrounding suburbs. I am still trying to sort out what works for me.