When pluralism becomes an “ism”

Note this report of friction in the schools in Europe as their population integrates significant surges of peoples of Islamic religion. The demands placed upon western cultures by pluralism will increase in complexity. In Europe the Catch 22 is that the same laws that have been used to protect pluralism are now used to resist Christian impulses even in their own schools.  Of course, the problem with the Catholic schools is their reception of state funding. The nose of the camel is in the tent, and you always pay a price to give government a place at the table. I am finding that many churches here in the US are running programs that depend on government funding in order to help pay for the upkeep on their buildings and pay the bills for aging congregations. It is a fool’s errand. The government might get their money for free but they don’t give it out for free.

At times I am surprised how clueless the emerging church is to such challenges. They are not interested in these discussions. They will be. But like so many in Europe, by the time they wake up, it will be too late. They will find the pluralism they so much desire has turned not into a true pluralism but an “ism” that must be fed. I visit a lot of blogs, many of them rather sophisticated and intellectually demanding. They are very busy about secondary issues, but the issues that call for courage and strength and the willingness to fight large intellectual battles are absent. The word “effete” comes to mind. On their blogs in the midst of their ruminations they recommend the best kinds of coffee and fountain pens and Moleskin notebooks, as if the intellectual challenges Christianity faces are a game that the truly snarky can win. It will not be so.

A 2008 New York Times article explains that France’s hijab ban in state-run classes has pushed Muslims to Catholic schools, which are not bound by this law and must accept students of all faiths to qualify for subsidies. Yet even the less critical Timespiece could not ignore the ensuing cultural friction. For example, it relates the story of one Catholic school’s headmaster who, after a series of accommodations, finally had to “put his foot down when students asked to remove the crucifix in a classroom they wanted for communal prayers during Ramadan.”

Christian schools elsewhere are caught in a similar cycle. NIS News reported in 2008 that “two Amsterdam secondary schools with a Christian basis are to close during [Eid al-Fitr] to accede to their Muslim pupils.” A year later, a Dutch Catholic elementary school with a handful of Muslims was planning to serve halal food at a Christmas meal, but officials reversed course following parental outrage. In the UK, bishops have recommended that Catholic schools include prayer rooms and washing facilities for Muslims. The Times of London has also noted that at least one Muslim-heavy Church of England school “no longer observes the requirement to have an act of daily collective worship that is ‘consistently and recognizably Christian.'”



2 thoughts on “When pluralism becomes an “ism”

  1. agreed – churches should not take gov. money and in that I include the money they get from the government through property tax exemptions.

  2. I am agreed on this one. You can make the case that a vital and energetic institution that teaches morality is essential for a successful democracy and therefore is in the people’s interest to have such. I believe it is in the people’s interest. This was the project of Socrates, facing the challenge of how to produce virtuous people necessary for a democracy. Democracy alone does not make us good. It becomes a good when virtuous people vote.

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