A question we all face as Christians is, how do we negotiate our firm convictions (our beliefs in Christianity) in a world of diversity, and still maintain the solidarity with others?
Whether you realize it or not, you face it every day. You go to work or school or public places or on social media with people who have a whole slew of different opinions, beliefs, and even religions. So how do you stand firm in what you believe in, while still truly ‘loving your neighbor’ by standing up for them as people made in the image of God?
We also see ourselves and others performing what Professor Miroslav Volf called ‘public religious assertiveness.’ This takes forms in two ways which can be seen in the US:
1. Secular Exclusion, where we leave out all things religious from all sectors deemed non-religious.
2. Religious Saturation, where one dominant religion has a close tie on the morality and social norms of the state/country.
But both of these options are not useful as both options oppress people.
The first, forces people to have no expression of religion within their jobs, or lives outside the home. The second, oppresses anyone who does not agree with the dominant religion (here in the US, it oppresses anyone who does not agree with Christianity).
We must admit it is hard to work with, converse with, or partner with someone who has a totally different ideology with you.
What’s the alternative?
Professor Miroslav Volf proposes that irrespective of our own religion we ought to confirm two moral qualities:
1. Equality of people (meaning all people are equal, which is a basic Christian value)
2. Freedom of religion (since all people are equal, all must be able to choose the ideology that infects every part of their life. This quality is why people came to America, for religious freedom)
But, have religions been able to let others have the freedom of religion? History would show us that most have been particularly bad at letting others choose what they want to believe (i.e. Crusades, terrorism in the name of religion, etc.)
Here’s the philosophy behind it:
Any world religion that does not embrace equality, is a ‘self-religion.’
Any world religion that does not embrace freedom of religion, lives in tension with itself.
Is it possible for people who have an exclusive religion (believe there is only one way to God) to also believe in political pluralism (letting others believe what they want, not imposing your beliefs on them, and even partnering with people of other beliefs)?
We would say, yes. In fact in order to change the world we must believe that.
We need to train ourselves to find what unites us, rather than what divides us. When we do that, we can find common visions and desires. When we do that, we give people the right to religious freedom, and show them that we are all made in God’s image.