Encountering Pluralism through the Lens of Scripture

by Bruce McDowell June 15, 2017

Watch or listen to his related sermon.

By Dr. Bruce A. McDowell

(Partially excerpted from his new book Faith in the Mosaic.)

The past trend towards secularism in the West led by the culture makers in positions of influence usually meant getting rid of vestiges of Christianity expressed in public spaces. So crosses, the Ten Commandments and Christmas crèches were removed. However, with the newer trend towards pluralism, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and First Nation symbols are displayed, such as on the popular “coexist” bumper sticker. Now U.S. postages stamps are published honoring Seasons Greetings, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, ‘Eid, and Chinese New Year. If an area is designated for religious use on public property or a school, it usually is meant to be used by those of all faiths. The way in which secularists deal with religion has moved towards having a pluralist’s approach. This includes having Muslim, Wiccan, Universalist, Roman Catholic and Protestant prison and military chaplains.

However, this often introduces new challenges in our pluralistic society. Already we here in the United States see trends, such as secular university chapels that are meant for people of all faiths being taken over by Muslim students, with all trappings of Christianity removed, including the pews. At public forums, such as school graduations, mention of Jesus in one’s opening prayer is disallowed. A moment of silence is given for public venues over a tragedy, rather than prayer. While Christmas is no longer celebrated as the birth of Christ, but simply a holiday of the season along with Hanukah, now the mayor of Philadelphia has made the two major Muslim ‘Eid holidays official city holidays. Also, Muslim public school students are given permission to leave school on Fridays at noon-time to attend prayer at their local mosque. Yet, in many schools it is difficult or not allowed to form a Christian club or to sing Christmas carols with Christ-centered words. On some university campuses Christian ministries are not permitted or they are required to allow non-believers to be officers in its leadership.[1] Additionally, they are given more restrictive guidelines than other campus clubs such as in advertising and in “giving out free materials, such as Christian books.”[2]

New expressions of religion are appearing on our landscape. Now numerous neighborhoods in North America and Europe hear the call to prayer from their local mosque before dawn, as new mosques are being built with large infusions of Middle Eastern oil money. The student body at the public high school in Upper Darby, a community next to Philadelphia, represents at least ninety languages, many of the students being immigrants from all over the world. In the same area is the largest concentration of Sikhs in the United States, with a couple of Sikh temples. Additionally, Hindu and Buddhist temples and meditation centers are popping up in our communities.

My book Faith in the Mosaic: Finding a Biblical Focus in a Pluralistic World wades through these questions and offers thoughts to help those of us who are believers relate to those from others faiths or those without any apparent faith.

Find your copy through your favorite bookseller.

[1] Stephen V. Monsma, “Keeping the Faith on Campus,” World (4/09/2016), https://world.wng.org/2016/04/keeping_the_faith_on_campus  (Accessed 7/4/2016).
[2] Catherine Elvy, “Lack of Recognition: Christian Leadership Ministry at Dartmouth Faces Discrimination,” The Ivy League Christian Observer, Vol. XI, Issue III, Summer 2012, 14‒16.


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