Posted by: smstrouse | April 27, 2013

Pluralism Sunday 2013: in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon

Prayswellwithothers_4eda17d2d34083c6f2dd09c6fdb8c709In many churches, next week will be the annual observance of Pluralism Sunday. The first one, sponsored by the Center for Progressive Christianity (now ProgressiveChristianity.org), was Pentecost 2007. Since then, it’s observed on the first Sunday in May.

Pluralism Sunday addresses one of the “8 Points of Progressive Christianity” –
By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who affirm that the teachings of Jesus
provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey. 

Ho, hum. Just another day in the San Francisco Bay bubble? I don’t think so.
Consider the reactions of many Muslim Americans after the Boston Marathon bombings: “Please don’t let it be a Muslim!” They knew very well what was coming: the ignorant stereotyping, ranting and fear mongering; the calls for barring immigration from Muslim countries, outlawing women’s headscarves and other curtailing of religious freedom.

On a link from the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, the title says it all: “This Is What It’s Like to Be A Muslim in Boston Right Now.” As a 22-year-old office worker said, “My heart was beating fast, just praying that this person didn’t turn out to be Muslim. I knew that if they were, all was going to break loose.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald called the aftermath of the bombings a “political event” because “it was infused with all kinds of political messages about Muslims . . .

Because when the person is a white Christian or a white American, there’s an attempt instantly to assure everybody that it’s simply kind of a one-off. That it doesn’t have a political content, that the person is mentally ill, that they’re a lone actor, that they just snap, is usually the jargon, to assure everybody that there’s no political conclusions that ought to be drawn.

When the person though is Muslim, everything reverses. So there’s no consideration to the possibility that they were mentally ill, that they simply snapped, that they were being driven by political considerations of alienation or frustration about things in their lives. Instead, there’s an assumption that this bolsters the idea that we face this grave and potentially even existential threat from radical Muslims against whom we’ve been fighting this decade-long war. And it really bolsters the premises of that war by ratcheting up the fear levels and by reaffirming the political convictions in which it’s grounded.

This is why it’s even more important to observe Pluralism Sunday this year – even if you don’t agree with all the details of the ‘8 Points’ statement about other religions (it’s not meant to be a creed, but a starting point for discussion). So have a discussion.  If you don’t know any Muslims, contact your local ecumenical or interfaith council and ask to be introduced. Inquire about a visit to a neighboring mosque. Then extend an invitation to visit your place of worship. Eat together. Share some music and stories.

We’ve all got to take responsibility for combatting the misinformation and other irresponsible behaviors that pass for patriotism.  Pluralism Sunday is a good way to begin.

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