walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Published on: July 17, 2014
Pluralism and Globalization
Mormons in the Caucasus and Taoist Nuns in Midtown Manhattan

Pluralism, and not secularization, is the major contemporary challenge to religious faith.

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  • ljgude

    I understand that the Mormons are doing rather well in outer Mongolia too. Perhaps in the ‘near soon’ Mongol warriors will sweep across the Asian steppes to rescue their Armenian brethren. Great shot of the Watchtower with the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges in the background.

  • Andrew Allison

    “Thus our first story belongs to the general phenomenon of the global reach of Protestantism, most of it first emanating from America.” Henry VIII and Luther must be turning in their graves!

    • ShadrachSmith

      I would have put Luther’s name first, but otherwise…my thought exactly.

      Still, Berger’s point is valid, the engine for modern expansion of protestantism is America. It is an expression of the American version of individual salvation by grace, then the good works follow as a natural expression of that grace. I see this as a good thing, I want to be like that.

      • Andrew Allison

        I agree that American Protestant Evangelicalism has been the driving force since the early 19th Century, just not that it emanated here.

        • Makaden

          You mis-hear. It was the “global reach of Protestantism,” i.e. the missions movements, and not Protestantism itself that “emanated from America.” Of course, he’s correct.

  • FriendlyGoat

    1) If anyone can claim to be a super-hero (in a costume) in Times Square, anyone can claim to be a monk or a nun. NYC residents and visitors either want the presence of these enterprising folks or they don’t. SURELY they wouldn’t keep all the miscellaneous impostors but run out the most straightforward and least-disguised (topless) women, would they?

    2) Pluralism is cool as long as we don’t cook ourselves up some social obligation to ascribe equal validity to all religions just because they claim a God and a tradition. There are a lot of false ideas floating around and I want to be kind to human Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims BECAUSE THEY ARE PEOPLE, not because of any responsibility to actually consider their ideas.

    When the Jehovah’s Witnesses knock, I usually tell them something like that nicely WITHOUT running them off the porch. (Thanks for coming by, I wish you well, BUT,……..no, not me ever.) I wish it would be that easy for people to simply say no to Islam in the Islamic places.

    • Loader2000

      When I was a Mormon missionary, we actually appreciated the guys who were polite but unequivocal in their disinterest way more than the folks that told us to come back tomorrow at 3:00 when they knew they wouldn’t be home.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I had my experiences with Mormon missionaries, too, in a college town where I worked as a young person 40 years ago for a drive-in restaurant owned by a Mormon. We employees were to give the fellows a 50% discount on their food when they came by as help to their work. I met several of them that way repeatedly and never met a single one who wasn’t extremely polite and gentlemanly.

    • Breif2

      My reaction was: The solution is simple, anyone who wants to don Buddhist monastic garb and operate in Times Square will be required to obtain a license.

      More seriously (as per what I assume was the thrust of the previous post), just decide and enforce simple rules regarding solicitations. No special consideration for Latter Day Angels, no discrimination against The Mighty Bulk.

      Oh, and “false ideas”? How un-pluralistic of you! Report for re-education! :-)

      • FriendlyGoat

        Some conservatives, such as writers at the Independent Women’s Forum, lately have been having a fit at the idea of licenses required for enterprising characters in Times Square. They think that would be government infringing on entrepreneurs.

  • Anthony

    “It seems to me that believers and practitioners in all the major religious traditions should not bemoan this development: It impels them to reflect on what is the core of their faith and what is peripheral.” Aforementioned quote brings to mind that some people become wedded to their faith and belief because for many the validity of this faith and belief reflects on both their competence and authority. A point paralleling Peter Berger’s idea of connectedness in seemingly unrelated material – certainly worthy of consideration as one is impelled…

  • CaliforniaStark

    Believe the LDS Church currently has 15 million members, not the 12 million indicated in the article.
    Over 400,000 of these members are in Africa — a number that has been projected to rise to over 1 million within the next two decades. It has grown significantly beyond its regional base in Utah. Soon there may be more Spanish speaking Mormons than English speaking.
    6

  • gabrielsyme

    Over the long term, it will be interesting to see if such idiosyncratic groups can persist in the face of the information age. Simply put, while groups like the Mormons and the JWs have massive in-group solidarity, an explicit focus on missions and the advantage of a relatively wealthy western base, they hold extremely vulnerable theological beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses seem already to be shrinking in the West, and there are mutterings that the Mormon Church is seeing significantly increased apostasy in the United States. Ultimately, historic trinitarian Christianity has a more coherent theology, and will likely overhaul these pseudo-Christian anomalies.

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