5 Guidelines for Living in a Pluralist Society


By John D. Inazu

Protestant Christianity is losing the mainstream status it once enjoyed. How to model a winsome faith anyway.

Two months ago, I wrote an article for CT that explored the issues and complications surrounding the growing tensions between religious liberty and LGBT rights. I also suggested that Christians ought to pay greater attention to pluralism, an idea that I explore in more detail in this academic article (and in an upcoming book).

I am grateful to CT’s editors for the invitation to share some additional thoughts about these and related issues, and I plan to do so in a series of essays in the coming months. In this essay, I want to explore the contours of our society’s pluralism, and how Christians might engage with our pluralistic world regardless of where they find themselves in it.

Out of Many, One?
Our nation has many aspirations toward unity and a common good. Our Constitution sets a course for “a more perfect union.” Our politicians speak of a great “melting pot” that flows out of a “nation of immigrants.” Our pledge of allegiance refers to “one nation.” Our nation’s seal, E pluribus unum, promises “Out of many, one.”

These aspirations are to some extent realized. Almost all Americans agree about the background practicalities we need to live as a society. Most of us agree that we need public roads, national defense, fire departments, and the like. We also agree today on many basic features of a democratic society: the right to vote, the right to due process of law, the right to free speech. We disagree—sometimes sharply—about the contours of these rights, but we usually have enough of a baseline to recognize the nature of our disagreement. And importantly, we agree about many basic laws, like those protecting life and property, …

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