Restructuring Interfaith for the New Millenium

Over the past few decades, America has clearly undergone a religious and cultural redefinition. This is evident everywhere we look; there are cultural centers for many countries in nearly every major city, as well as, diverse religious communities adjacent to each other all across this nation. Although America is the most ideologically diverse country in the world, it is far from the most pluralistic. Pluralism is a term Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, describes in four parts:

“First, pluralism is not    diversity alone, but the   energetic engagement with diversity…

Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active  seeking of understanding across lines of difference…

Third, pluralism is not     relativism, but the encounter of commitments…

Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue.” (www.pluralism.org)

Notice the key words she uses in her definition of pluralism: energetic engagement, active seeking, understanding and dialogue. Effective pluralism involves energy and persistence in engaging one another in respective dialogue about their respective commitments, beliefs and values, to create a deeper understanding of human diversity. But, achieving pluralism in America will not come easily or quickly. Pluralism will only be achieved through effective methodology.

There are hundreds of successful interfaith councils and centers in the United States that engage both church leaders and lay people, from diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. Unfortunately, this methodology cannot account for the changing atmosphere of communication in the 21st Century. The end of last century was spent rethinking what it means to live in a global community. The creation of the Internet was the catalyst in connecting the World in one Wide Web of diversity. Therefore, the Internet is a major key to      effectively engage the world’s citizens in a serious and honest debate about life’s most difficult questions. What better a place than the Internet to create another form of dialogue between people from distinct cultures and ideologies? If the interfaith movement utilizes the tools before them, the goal of true pluralism will be closer and more possible than ever before.

There are already hundreds of websites on the Internet dedicated to pluralism. One example related to religious and philosophical pluralism is a    website called SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com). The founders of the site understand the power and purpose of the Internet, in its ability to connect the world around a common theme, unity through diversity. This particular website’s mission is to “de-lamify talk’n about god and religion.” Their goal is to create a safe atmosphere where people from all over the world, committed to their distinct beliefs and ideologies, can have debates about the mysteries of the universe. Users can do this by posting comments on discussion topics already posted, or by adding their own questions they wish to be discussed. People also have the ability to upload a photo of themselves, create a short bio of their beliefs, and network to try and find friends of similar or complimentary ideologies.

Community shared websites like www.soulpancake.com are revolutionizing the way in which humans interact with one another across this world. The interfaith movement must fully embrace this new form of communication so that pluralism can stay relevant in this century. Interfaith and pluralism is possible in this country; truly, America’s stability and sustainability depends on creating harmony between those voices that seem dissonant. Sometimes, dissonance, if listened to closely, is the most beautiful and natural sound in life.

– Nic Cable

Interfaith Scholar 2009-2011

Editor of the Interfaith Review 2009-2010

Founder of DePaulInterfaith.org

Published in the Summer 2009 Issue of the Interfaith Review

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