Saturday, July 25, 2015

Unitarians and the imperialism of pluralism

Unitarians have a problem with pluralism. We think of ourselves as cool pluralists, and constantly tell ourselves we are all about pluralism - that our congregations are full of religious diversity. "We are very diverse people!" we shout ad nauseam. But I want to argue that we're not actually true pluralists.

We're not true pluralists but imperial pluralists. An often unexamined theology we espouse is that we are building a "religion of religions" - that us (and us alone) offers the possibilities for all religions to come together "under one roof." What we fail to see is how imperialist this is. We expect all religions to come together on our terms and under our auspices. It looks something like this:


Unitarianism is the holder of religious diversity in this model. But can you not see that this gives Unitarianism a privileged place? We are the ones in charge. We are the ones who create the context into which all of the world's religious diversity must fit within. This is patronising to all other religions, and gives us all the power. This is imperialist pluralism.

A true pluralism sees Unitarianism as one of many religious traditions. It looks more like this:


Here Unitarianism is just one branch of one tree of religious diversity, and a tiny branch at that. We are one tiny branch in the complex bush of Christianity, and if we were being objective we wouldn't even be big enough to be mentioned. Our place is not to include all the world's religious diversity within our tiny tradition, but rather appreciate that we are one out of many. Our pluralism is not to include all religious diversity within our tradition, but rather to see and appreciated that we are connected to all others. Some traditions deny this (exclusivism); we affirm it.

We are not THE ONE that encompasses the many. But we are one amongst the many, and we know and celebrate that.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Cody said...

Thank you for this Stephen; I have been interested in the number of stories I have seen shared on "Cultural Misappropriation" by people who in another breath will use prayers from First Nation and other traditions. I even heard one person laugh when told by a Native American that his using their prayer was offensive. N.B. I am guilty of this myself (not the laughing bit), and am seeking to appreciate how to share what inspires me without pillaging or degrading other faiths.

11:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the unitarian god's reason for what he does? Is his reason... himself? Or is it something else? What do you think of this philosophy website's claims about reason, rational thought, and unitarianism?

Thanks for your thoughts!

11:54 pm  

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