It is often said that we live in a “pluralistic society.” This is particularly true in the United States, as we have had mass immigration from all over the world. This has in turn led to religious pluralism.
The religious diversity of 17th and 18th century America consisted of mostly different forms of Protestant Christianity—Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. Many immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries were Christians of a different variety— Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox. There were of course others, including Jewish and Muslim immigrants.
The Rise of Secularism
However, the greatest change to the American religious scene has come from the abandonment of the Christian worldview—the “secularization” of America. Secularism is often associated with atheism/naturalism and has Darwinian evolution as its foundation. But secularism is often not so much a consistent worldview as it is simply “anti-religion.” It is political atheism.
Secularism has particularly had as its goal the eradication of religion—and specifically Christianity—from the public sphere. And it has been extremely successful. This has mostly been done through secularists highjacking the court system and leftist judges abusing their position and (purposely) misinterpreting the Constitution.
Secularists do not want freedom of religion but freedom from religion. They are not just seeking the separation of church and state, they want the separation of God and state.
Secularism has influenced our laws, our schools, and our media to a significant extent. So while many Americans are still religious, we clearly have competing worldviews in our society. This meets one of the definitions of pluralism—“a system in which two or more groups, principles, sources of authority coexist.”
Pluralism Has Led to Relativism
Thus there are competing systems in the West, with Christianity and secularism being the two most prominent (with variations of each). The outcomes of pluralism in society have been twofold. First, pluralism has led to the rejection of absolute truth, what is often called “relativism.” We all have coworkers, friends, and family that are of a different religion (Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, atheist), and no one wants to tell his friend that he will go to hell. Relativism is much easier.
So we now hear statements, such as, “Everyone has their own truth;” “All roads lead to God;” “All religions are true.” Of course, these statements are absurd and defy the laws of logic. Islam and Judaism deny the divinity of Jesus, in direct contradiction to Christianity. These religions cannot all be true.
Christianity is an exclusive religion. Yahweh claims throughout the Old Testament to be the only God (Isaiah 43:10) and He demands worship of Him alone—“You shall have no other gods before me” (the 1st commandment). The incarnate Son makes the same claim—“No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If Christianity is true, then all other religions are false. This then is the ultimate question—Is Christianity true? Is Jesus the Son of God who rose from the dead?
Pluralism has also led to moral relativism. This is particularly seen in the area of sexual immorality. While Americans of a variety of worldviews can agree that murder and theft are wrong, we cannot agree on sexual morals. This is exemplified in the contentious issue of abortion. The obvious killing of a child is justified and given legal protection because people want sexual autonomy and do not want to face the consequences of their actions.
The Christian ethic of lifelong monogamous marriage has been largely abandoned, traded for whatever feels right. We now live in a society with delayed marriage, rampant divorce, homosexuality, promiscuity, and a 40% out-of-wedlock birthrate to boot. The very idea of humans being either male or female is now under attack.
No one wants to condemn the behaviors of their friends and family. So we not only allow these behaviors, but we have given them legal sanction through things like no-fault divorce, legal abortion on-demand, and the subsidization of out-of-wedlock children (and you always get more of what you subsidize). And now we have state-sanctioned same-sex marriage, which defies the obvious fact that two people of the same sex cannot reproduce.
Christian morality is charged as “retrograde,” and this is probably the chief obstacle to Christianity today in the West. Christianity is considered backwards, and Christ’s demands of self-control, love, and patience are no longer valued by society at large.
Pluralism Has Led to Division
The second outcome is that pluralism has led to outright war in the public sector. People often speak of two Americas forming, which can be seen in America’s growing political division. The left is mostly associated with secularism and the right is mostly associated with Christianity and traditionalism.
But these two Americas are on a crash-course collision, particularly because some on the left want to force everyone to bow to the new sexual morality. We have already seen the state forcing everyone to recognize same-sex marriage in the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges. And there is a court case pending right now dealing with whether the state can force a company to partake in something that violates one’s religious beliefs, e.g. baking a cake for a same-sex wedding (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). So much for the concept of “tolerance” formerly lauded by secularists. This is instead absolutism.
We are seeing that pluralism does not work. We cannot all just get along. It was Christianity that gave us free societies. That is the irony in all this. Secularism arose out of a Christian society and is thus “post-Christian.” But secularism does not want freedom—it wants total obedience. Secularists see Christianity as the enemy, and they will not stop until we bow to their idols. Thus we see that this is a spiritual war. It is a war between good and evil, between Christ and those who hate Him.
So our pluralistic society has led to two contradictory outcomes—relativism and absolutism. Many now hold that truth is relative, while others want to force you to recognize their views and approve of their practices. And often these contradictory views are espoused by the same people, usually secularists on the left. So which is it—is truth relative, or must we all submit to the new dogmas of the left?
Christian Education in a Pluralistic Society
What does all this mean for Christian education? While our society is pluralistic in that there are competing systems and beliefs, it does not follow that these systems hold the same level of power. In particular to education, it should be obvious that America’s state school system has been overtaken by secularists. But this could not have been accomplished without America’s legal system first having been overtaken by secularists. And the lawyers and judges involved in these decisions were trained in America’s universities and law schools. It is a vicious cycle.
Secularists have taken over important power structures—schools, universities, and the courts. Christians are surely partly at fault for failing to properly engage these power structures. But what is more concerning is that Christians continue to educate their children in these secular institutions after losing power. It is one thing for Christians to lose a school or university to secularism (e.g. Harvard). But it is another thing to continue to send children there after losing the school.
There is a word for this practice—it is called “demoralization.” Christians have not only lost; they have given up. Their backs have been broken. Christian parents may take their kids to church on Sunday, but then they willingly hand them over to secular teachers Monday through Friday. Christians continue to subject their children to their captors.
This is sheer folly. No one should send their children to a school system run by persons seeking to eradicate religion from the public sphere and then expect those children to come out anything but secularists.
The Christian solution to pluralism is not indifference. And the Christian solution to secularism is not subjection to more secularism. No, the Christian solution is more Christianity. We need a robust Christianity, one that applies to all of life. We must make Christianity a part of family life, church life, and school life. Praying at family meals and church attendance will not suffice. We must abandon secular schools and turn to the Christian education available in private schools and homeschooling.