Pluralism as an Art

I will finish Ch. 1 by saying that the core of my argument is that the relationship between religion (Christianity in my case) and the state is defined by two hard edges. I used the imagery of a frame around a piece of art. They are two different notions of the separation of church and state. Depending on who you are talking to, these two notions can get confused quite easily. The first is that the state should not define a religion for its citizens. This is what the Puritans had in mind. The second is that a particular religion should not control the coercive power of government. This is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind in his famous “wall of separation.”  I think that those are good boundaries. But if I can extend the “art” analogy a bit further. The frame is important, but it is the space in between that is beautiful and can get a bit messy.

There is a lot of mention of scholars and a few definitions in chapter one. I had to lay some groundwork for the conversation. You can skip to the last two pages of the chapter to get a summary of the main ideas.

I want to say that apart from these two boundaries, there is a lot of room for art–that we need to “blur” the lines between the church and the state a bit more when we are inside the two boundaries; this might be a little controversial, but I don’t think so. There has been some talk about the idea of “principled pluralism.” At its best it is an appreciation of  the value of  diversity that makes up most democracies. And I am trying to say that when you have diversity you need art–its never as clean as you want it to be.  That’s why Ch. 1 is titled “Independence and the Art of Pluralism.” Because the church and state should be kept independent as the frame the edge of the boundaries around the public square–but the blur of pluralism on the canvas is the art.

 

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