“Pluralism Sunday”?

Modern Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, has a tendancy to add new “themes” and “festivals” to the Church’s calendar for this or that cause, eg. “Creation Sunday” or “Respect Life Sunday”. Apart from the liturgical question, these will generally be judged by most readers of this ‘ere blog according to the doctrines which drive them.

However today, while listening to a rather “challenging” and (at times) amusing account of “Progressive Christianity” on an old ABC Spirit of Things, I heard “Pluralism Sunday” referred to. According to this website:

On the first Sunday in May- this year, May 2, 2010 – (or other times during the year) churches around the world dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world. Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others. We recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us. We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion—and we can understand our own traditions better—through a more intimate awareness of the world’s religions. On PLURALISM SUNDAY, churches celebrate elements of other world faiths in their sermons, litanies, and music; many feature speakers and singers from other faith traditions. Some congregations have exchanges with other faith communities, going to each other’s houses of worship.

I remember that in my Lutheran days, when I was on the LCA’s Commission on Worship, the comment was made that the Sunday Liturgy has only one “theme”, namely “Our Lord Jesus Christ”. I guess “Pluralism Sunday” is the point at which a “Christ-less” liturgy finally ends up in a style of religion that describes itself as “Christianity without Christ”.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to ““Pluralism Sunday”?

  1. Paul

    It has amused me greatly over the years when I have had to explain to various teachers, often more than once, that there is no “theme” for the Eucharist. It is always the commemoration and celebration of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – nothing more and nothing less. Everything else is secondary. And, the really funny thing is, that so many of these good (and I am not being sarcastic) people looked surprised when I let them in on a secret: the Church has always done it this way, liturgical planning has already been done (read the Ordo or the Missal or the Lectionary …) and you are free to let the liturgy do what it is meant to do – bring you, warts and all, closer to God in Christ through the Spirit. So in a way, Catholic Christianity has always celebrated plurality because Eucharist is the making one out of many.

  2. jules

    Paul with all due respect , St. Paul tells us that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup” (1 Cor 11:27-28). Anyone who is conscious of having committed a mortal sin should be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, unless a grave reason exists for doing so and there is no opportunity for confession. So just to clarify- one cannot approach the Eucharist ‘warts and all’, although all may participate in the liturgy. And your statement ,”Catholic Christianity has always celebrated plurality because Eucharist is the making one out of many” , is a bit off the mark.
    The Eucharist is already ONE and the church is call to be united to Christ through the Eucharist.
    The Church is the Body of Christ, in which many members are united with Christ their head (1 Cor 10:16-17, 12:12-31; Rom 12:4-8).

    • I think you are being a little hard on Paul, Jules. I don’t think he meant “warts and all” in the sense of “mortal sin”. Nor did he say that “I present myself warts and all” to receive Holy Communion but rather that “the liturgy brings us warts and all closer to God.”

      And the St Paul himself says that we “who are many are all made one body” 1 Cor 10:17, so I think we can go a bit easy with him on that score too.

      Don’t be too ready to find fault in your brother!

      • jules

        Fair enough David. I suppose I’m still reeling from mention of Joan Chittister in the St Patrick’s news letter…. 😦

  3. Marcel

    I think the reference to Flannery O’Connor’s rather grotesque deonomination in Wise Blood is an apt one. Many mainline Protestant denominations are on a trajectory towards being the Church Without Christ of Hazel Motes fame. Pluralism is, in its purest form, practical atheism.

    • Marcel, I don’t know the reference to which you refer. When you say “Pluralism is, in its purest form, practical atheism”, I believe you are correct. I believe it is one thing to acknowledge the practical “plurality” that exists in our society and find ways of living with it that respects persons, but it is another thing to adopt “pluralism” as an ideology – or even as a philosophy – which, as you say, can only be done if one basically denies the existence of objective reality/Truth, which must, inevitably, mean a rejection of any kind of Theism, ie. a-Theism.

  4. Matthias

    This is what william booth ,founder of the Salvation army said over a 100 years ago”In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
    now how many has he got right yep nearly all.

  5. David,

    I would have laughed at this silly nonsense of Pluralism Sunday, were it not so serious…

    You really couldn’t make this up!

    You’ve just come back from Warburton, home of New Age nonsense; I recall being on retreat there years ago, and saying to my fellow retreatant (who was close to ordination), “Imagine the scene in a few years’ time once you’re P.P. here and at some ecumenical/interfaith do: ‘Father will say a prayer to God, and then Clotilda the witch will invoke Satan…'” We laughed ourselves silly, but perhaps the joke was on us…

    • Now, now, Josh, what we were doing at Warburton was nothing like this “pluralism” Sunday (well, what we were doing, anyway!). There we were proudly and conspicously what we were. Respect for the other, listening to the other, yes. But we knew we were NOT the other. We knew what we were. And we knew that we were about Christ and Christianity. All readers of this blog know that I am for Interfaith engagement – because it is an authentic part of the Church’s evangelising mission. But I am dead against forgetting what that mission actually is!

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to impugn your conference at all – I was referring to the New Age plague that inhabits the area around Warburton: if you’d strolled the main street you’d have seen umpteen crystals and clairvoyants on display; I recall one joint offering to download your very own “pre-incarnation contract” or somesuch imbecility. That’s what I was laughing at.

  6. Matthias

    I agree Joshua ‘silly nonsense”. People are allowed their own opinions but when Jesus and all aspects of God are removed-a demythologised faith- then why are these people claled Christians. What they really are are religious humanists

  7. I’ve never got the idea of why people like that Spong creature propose a Christianity eviscerated of all substance – why not just be atheists and proud of it?

  8. Christine

    Pluralism Sunday. Oh boy.

    Of course, we have our own agendas to attend to. I’ve never been comfortable with the change to January 1 as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It should have retained its Christocentric character as the Circumcision/Holy Name of Jesus (which is not to say that Marian festivals are not Christocentric, of course they are — but it seems to me there are quite enough of them on the calendar already). But now even that has been morphed into something else — in some places January 1 is also referred to as “World Peace Sunday”.

    Gives it an awfully secular patina, in my book, pointing more to the U.N. than to the Christ who alone can give the peace the world cannot give.

    Christine

    • The tradition that celebrates the 1st of January as a feast of the Mother of God is actually just as old as the tradition of celebrating it as the Name and Circumcision of Jesus. I think it is a specifically Roman tradition that goes back to the early centuries. Others may be more knowledgable about this than I.

  9. Matthias

    talking about pluralism in our society. I have just received an email from the Barnabas fund stating that this Sunday July11th there will be a prayer service in washington for the Christians of Iraq who have been decimated by the surrounding Moslem population and are fleeing to safety ,either in Jordan or syria.
    Could we please remember our Iraqi sisters and brothers this weekend.

  10. Christine

    David, here’s what I found:

    The origins of a feast celebrating Mary’s divine maternity are obscure, but there is some evidence of ancient feasts commemorating Mary’s role as theotokos. Around 500 AD the Eastern Church celebrated a “Day of the Theotokos” either before or after Christmas. This celebration eventually evolved into a Marian feast on December 26th in the Byzantine calendar and January 16th in the Coptic calendar. In the West, Christmas has generally been celebrated with an octave, an eight day extension of the feast. The Gregorian and Roman calendars of the 7th century mark the Christmas octave day with a strong Marian emphasis. However, eventually in the West, the eighth day of the octave of Christmas was celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus. The push for an official feast day celebrating Mary’s divine maternity started in Portugal, and in 1751 Pope Benedict XIV allowed Portugal’s churches to celebrate Mary’s divine maternity on the first Sunday in May. The feast was eventually extended to other countries, and by 1914 was being celebrated on October 11. The feast of Mary’s divine maternity became a universal feast in 1931.

    However, following Vatican II, Pope Paul VI decided to change the feast of Jesus’ Circumcision to the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God to reclaim the ancient Western Marian emphasis at the end of the Octave of Christmas. Celebrating Mary’s divine maternity during the Christmas octave makes complete sense in that the celebration is connected closely to Christ’s birth. Pope Paul VI gave his reasoning for the change:
    In the revised arrangement of the Christmas season, we should all turn with one mind to the restored solemnity of the Mother of God. This feast was entered into the calendar in the liturgy of the city of Rome for the first day of January. The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to “the Holy Mother…through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life.” This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace. Because of these considerations and the fact that the octave of Christmas coincides with a day of hope, New Year’s Day, we have assigned to it the observance of the World Day of Peace (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Feb. 2, 1974, no.5).

    Thus Pope Paul VI highlighted the feast’s celebration of both Mary and Jesus. He also noted the connection to New Year’s Day and Mary’s role as Queen of Peace. January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God is also the observed “World Day of Peace.”

    My problem with the feast in its current form is how the “World Day of Peace” as a social justice meme has sometimes overshadowed the theological foundations of Mary as Theotokos and how that leads back to her divine Son. I’m guessing that hasn’t happened in Eastern Christianity. I also miss the connection between the Feast of the Circumcision and Simeon’s beautiful canticle.

    Of course, my opinion only and I haven’t encountered a “pluralism Sunday” here yet 🙂

    Matthias, thanks for highlighting the need for prayers for the Christians of Iraq.

    Christine