Rising Leader Series: Week 4 - Pluralism
Updated: Jan 24
Listen => Every Shining Star (on God in you, me and all, with love)
It’s great to be back with you. I’ve thought about you often this past week. I’ve prayed for you, too– because you are our hope. You are the one who will lead us with goodness in your heart.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about pluralism. We live in a diverse world: 2.4 billion Christians, 1.9 billion Muslims, 1.2 billion Hindus, 1.1 billion secular / nonreligious / atheists, 500 million Buddhists, and 800 million devoted to other religions. We all share one planet; we are all companions, arms linked, on humanity’s march of destiny.
I’m a Christian. Does my path to God enable me to claim superior goodness? Of course not. Goodness is in every human heart. Each of us is shaped by our circumstance; each of us is free to choose our own path of belief; each of us is free to return to the good that is within us. We who are Christian have our own path, but that path calls upon us to reach out to all people. There can be no other way, in this pluralistic world of ours, if we are to take up the critical leadership work our age demands.
But how can we engage in constructive dialogue with people whose views are so different from our own? How can we find common ground? How can we seek first to understand, then to be understood? This seems an important building block towards a better future.
Perhaps our whole approach to the human diversity around us has been all wrong. We tend to fly to the extremes. We either preach our truth in a tone that brooks no quarter for opposing views, or we bury our truth entirely-- sharing what we really believe only in the company of the convicted. But neither of these approaches works well. The first is tribal, judgmental, alienating. The second is inauthentic, untrusting of the capacity of others for tolerance, and noncontributory to the building of shared values.
There is a third way. Remember the disciplines of goodness I shared with you last week? They are:
Sustainability, so as to bring the planet back into balance
Diplomacy, so as to help nation states stay in geopolitical balance
Democracy, so as to retain national social balance
Charity, so that from hurting neighbor to failing nation state we can help the distressed regain their balance
Civility, so that in our diverse communities, debate will lead towards balance
Decency, so that in each of our encounters, by bestowing upon our neighbors the dignity we expect others to bestow upon ourselves, we keep human connectedness in balance
Piety, so that in our relationship with God, we may return our souls to balance
If we work upward from the bottom, our love of God (and God’s love of us) teaches us the dignity of all. This leads us to decency and civility. If we interact with others with decency and civility, why not, then, speak our truth? With respect, we can offer our worldview as one lens through which our world’s needs and challenges might be viewed. We can share why we believe this lens offers something important to the world. In this way, the teachings of our faith might be offered as pathways towards healing and renewal.
But to be life-giving, it must be two-way. We must also be willing to hear others share their truths. This interchange is not to be feared-- it’s healthy. In the dialogue, our unconsidered beliefs are put to the test. We are challenged to ponder more deeply-- to self-reflect. Too often, we all can float in a haze of lazy thinking and unquestioned habits. In back-and-forth dialogue, thinking sharpens. Habits are put under the light. Together, as we debate, we carve out a delicate three-dimensional sculpture called “shared values.”
But of course we rarely do this. In our modern pluralistic society, we tend to avoid authentic dialogue. In private we cultivate our beliefs, but as we venture into the common square, most of us engage in a sterilized, controversy-free, anxiously homogeneous happy-talk. Sure, a few come armed with a flamethrower-- especially in online forums. Vanilla or vitriolic-- nothing in between. Until elections come along, when all of our pathologically-suppressed convictions explode into volcanic conflict-- civility be damned.
I choose a different path. In my passion to support you in your mission for the ages, rising leader, I write as a Christian. I care about the state of our world, I care about you as you rise to lead, and I care about God. I share my truth, because I believe it can offer you a path to lead in a way that can heal and renew the world. But I also try to respect other voices. I don’t do this perfectly. But for those of good will who wish to contribute different voices, different perspectives, I say “welcome.” Let’s seek out harmony in joyful choir.
Authenticity-- that’s the key. Let’s talk politics, but with good will. Let’s talk religion or nonbelief, but with good will. Let’s celebrate Christmas, Easter, Diwali, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Hanukkah, Passover and Kwanzaa. Let’s watch an indigenous dance, praising Mother Earth. Goodness calls to goodness, good leader. I encourage you: go out and connect with others of good will. Speak your truth, hear the truth of others, find shared values, and encourage leaders of all pathways to come together in service of the common good.
Next week’s letter will be timely. Can’t wait to share it with you.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” --John 13:34
That Christian friend of yours,
P.S.: Here’s the poem I wrote for you this week. It's an ode to authentic pluralism.
ROPE BRIDGE DANCING
Come join me on this bridge all snaggletooth--
ropes worn to thread, foot panels not all there.
Let’s each come speak our deep authentic truth,
yet touch divergent ears with humble care.
As older, Christian, Minnesotan me;
younger, in--many-ways-different you;
not just to tribe will we speak honesty,
nor claim to be sole keepers of the true.
Out here upon this ragged common span,
shall we reach brave to offer up our hearts?
Authority, humility link hands,
while seek to crack blind certitude apart.
Can in my words to my own self be true,
whilst giving ear to your true self’s truth too?
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