Toward Wholeness Blog

The Dilemma of Pluralism


BBC report discloses that the French government has refused to grant citizenship to man because he is forcing his wife to wear the ‘full veil’.  Because she is not free to ‘come and go with her face uncovered’, this man’s values place him a category of person to whom the French government denies citizenship.  It is recommended by the French government that anyone showing signs of “radical religious practice” be refused citizenship.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this subject so I’ll just toss some questions out:

1. The phrase ‘radical religious practice’ seems ambiguous.  Isn’t ‘eating the flesh and drinking the blood’ (see John 6, or your weekly communion table) also radical?  Or living in community?  What are the risks that this ruling becomes precedent setting for all manner of religious persecution?  On the other hand, isn’t the state obligated to protect the powerless (Romans 13), and isn’t this woman being rendered powerless?  But what if she wants the full covering?

2. This man’s patriarchy no doubt offends the sensibilities of most of us reading this.  But would France also refuse to grant citizenship to a person who believed that a woman shouldn’t work outside the home while raising children?  The bigger question than the particular ruling is, in this case, how wide this ruling opens the door.

3. We live in a pluralist world, where different belief systems bump up against each other.  France is trying to understand how to be pluralist without sacrificing it’s own cultural distinctives, and this is where the rub comes.  How can we be embracing of other cultures, while maintaining our own cultural identity?  This issue is a raging river in Europe, even more so than the United States, but it’s an issue everywhere, and an important one.

Pluralism and tolerance are terribly politically correct, but we all have our limits.  You can’t be a pedophile, you can’t steal other people’s stuff; on these we all agree.  Keep talking about ethics though, and you soon come to multiple forks in the road.  If we aren’t careful, we’re going to end up using these forks to stab each other.

What are your thoughts?

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