Pluralism: It’s all about being human

In the current political climate, there seems to be a common theme of questions. Questions are asked by the voting public, and there is so much uncertainty on the answers that it can become overwhelming. This is a similar situation to the one happening in our dear paper, The Lorian, lately on the topic of pluralism. I’m not going to sit here and say I have all the answers – far from it, actually – nor will I say that the previous writers on this topic have said the same thing. But everyone can say that they have either agreed or disagreed with something that one of the writers has said. That, my friends, is the beauty of being unique human beings; we’re not all going to agree on everything. Certain people may agree on things to believe within a religion, and others won’t.

That being said, I believe it is possible to believe in one truth and still have a pluralistic outlook. The key is that people maintain their own beliefs, but still engage with others who come from different belief systems than they do. How, you may ask? Respectful conversations, with each side explaining his or her point of view, and approaching the other where they stand. I’m not saying you must agree on every point, but at least attempt to see where the other person is coming from. Know what you believe, and be willing to learn about what others believe.

Here’s an example: You – a Christian – are hanging out with your Muslim friend having coffee. The conversation moves to religion, and your friend talks about how their religion sees Jesus as a prophet, but not a Savior. Since this goes against the very foundation of your beliefs, you feel as if the friend is wrong. This, however, is a great opportunity for each of you to learn about different faith systems and come to try and understand each other. You have every right to believe what you believe is right, but so does your friend. I’m not saying you’re both right, but this is the textbook situation of where two people with different belief systems can learn from each other.

One should not approach these types of conversations determined to say “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” The concept I want to stress in this situation is dialogue, not debate. In debates, there is more division and a drive to win. In contrast, a dialogue brings people together – through similarities and differences – and there is a drive to learn. You don’t just sit in a circle, say we’re all the same, and sing kumbaya. There can be huge differences within a dialogue, but everyone brings their own views and story to the table. Everyone hears and learns from everyone else. This is a central concept in pluralism. Pluralism is different people living together in one society, but still remaining different. We don’t all have to have the same lifestyles and religion to live together in a society.

This is how much of our world looks today. People with different backgrounds, viewpoints, religions, lifestyles, and socioeconomic status all live together in our cities, towns and college campuses. No matter where we fit in these categories, we are all human. We all live on this planet, and we all have to take care of each other and work toward the common good of the human race. No matter your religion, there are people in our world that are hurting, hungry, without many of the luxuries you and I enjoy. We can unite under the premise of simply being human. We can work towards similar causes that our faith traditions advocate, and that is what I am calling all of us to do. Learn about each other’s differences and similarities. Celebrate the fact that we are all on this earth together, and we can make it better.

Want to talk about pluralism – and how to apply to your life – and how to approach a conversation with someone different from you? I want to invite you, lovely reader, to a Better Together conversation – aka ReligiousiTea – happening Monday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. in the Campus Ministry Room (460 ACC). Join us for tea, sweets, and sharing your perspective in a night full of conversation and learning. Hope to see you there!

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