The third and final speaker at Talking Point was Dr. George Marsden on “A Christian Basis for American Pluralism.” Much of his focus was on reviewing the history of American Christian-politics interaction and development. A sort of underlying thought was that “American tradition has been strong on religious toleration but weak at cultivating genuine religious pluralism.” Genuine faith has always been a weak point for Americans, Christian and secular. We have been and are a melting pot, and we are proud of it. However, there has always been a thin cloud over our heads that we are a ‘Christian nation’ and thus we always have had a Christian President… regardless of everything else.
The cultural revolution of the 1960’s-1980’s forced fundamentalist (who once were proud not to be engaged in politics) who liked the ambiguous cloud of ‘Christian nation,’ to define themselves negatively as against almost everything, in order ‘to restore a Christian consensus.’ This began a culturally destructive and divisive cycle of political engagement on the part of the Christian fundamentalists. This is wrong minded and is doomed to fail from the get go.
An alternative approach offered by Dr. Marsden is based in Abraham Kuyper’s ‘Principled Pluralism.’ In this method the goal is to preserve/create religious-based sub-communities, using epistemology to shape social policy. Thus, the various different forms of Christian traditions look inward and develop themselves, and by doing so this will work itself out into the larger surrounding culture/nation. What this holds over the current fundamentalist approach is true and deep spirituality on the part of Christian communities.
These ‘sub-communities’ must have strong institutions and those institutions need strong schools. This is a very natural way for the Church to work/grow.
Some powerful quotes from Dr. Marsden:
“Every institution has spheres of power, government is to maintain and mediate these institutions. Also, each sphere should remain in its realm of competence.”
“The model society has strong religious sub-communities.”
“The term ‘In God We Trust’ is not a bad thing, but it is a tokenism and very superficial in American society.”
“Christians should be creating their own political values and not be getting those from secular society- not by the media and not by political party.”
“Rather than trying to ‘take back America’ we should be seeking how to guide and help America.”
“If the church thinks it is a nation it always gets coerced by power and all messed up.”