These deep and often irresolvable differences call into question our
constitutional aspiration for "a more perfect union," our national metaphor of a
great "melting pot," and the promise of our nation's seal, E pluribus unum ("Out of
Our differences pervade our beliefs, preferences, and allegiances. They affect
not only what we think, but also how we think, and how we see the world. The
philosopher John Rawls called it the "fact of pluralism"-the recognition that we
live in a society of "a plurality of conflicting, and indeed incommensurable,
conceptions of the meaning, value and purpose of human life."7
Not all of our differences are problematic. Most of us think some difference is
good, that this variety of perspective makes life more interesting. I think the world
is a better place because I pull for the Duke Blue Devils and some of my friends
cheer for lesser basketball teams.
On the other hand, most of us do not think that all difference is good. We can
all name things that we think the world would be better off without. This is
especially true when it comes to our moral beliefs. We might prefer a society in
which everyone agreed about what counts as a justifiable homicide, a mean
temperament, or a good life. What are we to do in light of our deeply held disagreements?
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau offered one response: "it is impossible
to live at peace with those we regard as damned."
Confident Pluralism insists that Rousseau was wrong: our shared existence is
not only possible, but also necessary. Confident Pluralism offers a political
solution to the practical problem of our deep differences. Instead of the elusive
goal of E pluribus unum, it suggests a more modest possibility-that we can live
together in our "many-ness."
Confident Pluralism takes both confidence and pluralism seriously. Confidence
without pluralism misses the reality of politics. It suppresses difference,
sometimes violently. Pluralism without confidence misses the reality of people. It
ignores or trivializes our stark differences for the sake of feigned agreement and
false unity. Confident Pluralism allows genuine difference to coexist without
suppressing or minimizing our firmly held convictions.
We, as chaplains, are committed to providing religious ministry in a pluralistic environment. Practically every day some conflict comes our way challenging our ability to negotiate the demands of our call. Your endorsers are considering these same challenges seeking common understanding of how to continue forward together in the demanding times facing our nation. P
ray for them