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Are evangelicals embracing pluralism?

24 Aug, 2020

Several publications and reports over the past week indicate that there is a growing call from within evangelical circles to embrace principled pluralism and the need for greater religious literacy (“RQ”) in American life and racial justice. As summarized below, Andrew D. Graham makes a powerful argument for principled pluralism and more understanding of different faiths.

Other signals are the Christian Broadcasting Network’s interview about PayPal’s Believe that includes positive imagery of Muslims praying, and this op-ed from a Liberty University graduate student on friendship.

Andrew D. Graham: Why Religious Pluralism and Religious Literacy Matter for the Future of Religious Freedom in America

Andrew Graham, in his Aug. 18 piece in the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse, argues that “to have any chance of seriously mitigating common misperceptions of religious freedom, Evangelicals must publicly demonstrate a sincere commitment to religious pluralism and its necessary counterpart, religious literacy.”

Graham defines “religious pluralism”  as:

“The condition where individuals, associations, and institutions in a diverse society may peacefully and publicly think, speak, and act according to their deepest beliefs and core values—whether stemming from traditional religion or secular conscience—without fear of social, political, or legal reprisal.”

He sees this as a benefit for both religiously affiliated and religiously nonaffiliated Americans to live freely and authentically according to the dictates of religion or conscience in all areas of life.

This increases the importance of RQ for both religiously affiliated and religiously nonaffiliated citizens. Why? Graham argues that:

“Given the reality of increased religious diversity in American life, the health of our society necessarily depends on how members of one faith tradition view and treat members of other faith traditions. For Christians, moreover, seeking to understand other faith traditions and the people who practice them is an act of Christ-like compassion, a way we can love our neighbors better. As Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person, until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” RQ is one way to help us do so.”

Graham sums up his argument arguing that “it’s time for evangelical Protestants to make room in American society for people of other faith traditions and to learn more about their beliefs and practices. Our pastors and lay leaders need to embrace and prioritize that message. Doing so would show both our commitment to loving our neighbors as ourselves and our confidence that our tradition can survive and even thrive in the free market of ideas and religion.”


Andrew D. Graham serves as the Executive Director for Policy and Education & Senior Fellow at First Liberty Institute, a national nonprofit law firm and think tank dedicated to defending religious freedom for people of all faith traditions. He is a Reformed Protestant and an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a decidedly conservative branch of Presbyterianism that remains faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith.