Pluralism Sunday, May 2nd

Pluralism Sunday, May 2, 2010 – Celebrating Religious Diversity in Churches Around the World

by Jim Burklo

According to Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard’s Pluralism Project, there are at least three categories of relationships among religions.  One is exclusivism, associated with different forms of fundamentalism.  That’s the attitude that my religion is the only one that is real and right, and all others are wrong at best and evil at worst.  Another is inclusivism.  That’s the attitude of the Catholic Church and many evangelical churches: other religions may have much good in them, and express truths that are included in my religion, but, at best, all they do is point to the ultimate truth which is expressed fully in my religion alone.  The third category is pluralism.  That’s the attitude that other religions may be as good for others as my religion is good for me.  I am devoted fully to my faith, but that doesn’t mean that my religion is the only right or best one for everybody else.

Jesus was humble, and Christians are called to follow his example.  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself….”  (Philippians 2: 5-8)  How could the faith of an empty man get so full of itself that it would claim to be the one and only true religion?  Jesus touched lepers, talked with women in public, listened intently to children, and showed respect to non-Jewish people.  He humbled himself daily, for the sake of serving others.  So I try to practice a humble Christianity.  My religion is but one of many other imperfect attempts to describe and approach the Holy One.  Christianity is the language of my soul, but other souls have other languages.  And no one of them can claim truly to capture the essence of the divine.  Humility itself is what unites us across the boundaries of our creeds.  I pray that the followers of all religions can join together to serve God and humanity.

Pluralism Sunday is a time for Christians around the world to worship in this humility, emptying and opening ourselves so we can learn from people who practice other faiths.  Pluralism toward other religions is an expression of the very essence of Christian faith.  It’s a time to thank God that there are religions other than our own, each of which opens a new window from which we can see more of the divine.  It’s a time to bring the other faith traditions of the world into Sunday worship.  Churches invite speakers from local mosques and synagogues and temples to give the Sunday sermon.  Choirs of other faiths come to sing their sacred music.  Readings from sacred texts are recited alongside those from the Christian Bible.  Sunday Schools include elements of other faiths in their lessons with children.  Some congregations practice this humility with their feet, leaving their buildings and going to the houses of worship of other faiths on Pluralism Sunday weekend.  See what churches are doing to celebrate this event at the Pluralism Sunday website.

By Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California, and coordinator of Pluralism Sunday for The Center for Progressive Christianity

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