Can you be an evangelical and be a pluralist? (Sung Yeon)

14 Apr

So I took this class during J-term and came to appreciate who I am.  The course focused on the need for our world to focus on SOCIOLOGICAL pluralism rather than THEOLOGICAL pluralism which makes so much sense. The reason why I’ve always struggled with theological pluralism is that at the end of the day, theological pluralism is also a set of beliefs that are exclusive. People who believe in theological pluralism tend to believe that all the worlds “great” religions lead to the same mountain top, but as someone famous and smart (whose name I cannot remember to save my life) said, “The fact that they claim that all roads lead to the same mountain top is an exclusive belief in itself”.  To insist that we also share this religious view in the name of world peace is no more likely to bring world peace than if everyone became Christian.  It’s true, I’m not the one to stand at the street corner and yell “Turn or Burn!” or even evangelize in a more mild mannered way. However, I do have a problem with this all-knowing attitude of the theological pluralist.

Moving beyond that though, sociological pluralism makes all the sense in a the world and in fact, is something people with exclusive beliefs can participate in. Sociological pluralism basically means that I don’t have to believe in Hinduism or Islam but I can respect the Hindu or the Muslim. The one question that got raised in our class that I still remember is, “Can you help a group of muslims rebuild their burnt down mosque AND want to convert them too?” And I watched my classmate struggle with this question at first but then come to the conclusion that the two are not mutually exclusive. I think this is such an important point for those of us who claim exclusive truths and want to share that with the rest of the world.

I have read so many blog post conversations, other articles and such on gay rights and evangelicals, on muslims in the United States etc etc.  The one thing that sticks out to me in these conversations and arguments is that we tend to think that our religious beliefs and values must isolate us from others. But the truth is, sometimes our religious beliefs and values should draw us to engage with the world in which we live in. How can we truly love our neighbor if we don’t know who our neighbors are? I don’t think Jesus was envisioning a bunch of Christians holding their nose and making a face while “loving” their neighbor.

In Eboo Patel’s book, “Acts of Faith” he points out that Eric Rudolph ,who bombed the Centennial Park during the 1998 Atlanta Olympics, has more in common with the terrorists who attacked on September 11, 2001 than ordinary Muslims have with those same terrorists. Any form of fundamentalism that teaches intolerance and hate whether it claims to be Christian, Muslim or Hindu, have more in common with each other than it does with people who peacefully practice those faiths.

We cannot confuse our religious convictions with intolerance. We must embrace this diverse world we live in without feeling like we have to be intolerant and isolated from people different than us or feeling like we have to give up our believes and embrace every religion as the same. I’ll end this post with what Eboo ended our class with:

If I teach my son that Muslims are better people than Christians, when my son encounters a Christian who is “nice”, he will be confused. He will not understand how a Christian can be good, like Muslims are.

And if I teach my son that all religions are the same, one day, he will ask me “Dad, then why are we Muslim?”

We must each embrace our convictions boldly. And we find that in our traditions, whatever it be, there is some teaching on living in peace with others. I will speak specifically for my own tradition- as Christians, we are called to love our neighbors and Jesus was pretty clear about who our neighbors were in the story of the Good Samaritan. To truly love our neighbors we must respect them in their humanity.

-Sung Yeon

One Response to “Can you be an evangelical and be a pluralist? (Sung Yeon)”

  1. maverick5332 April 22, 2009 at 2:19 am #

    thanks for the enlightened words ^^

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