Diversity vs. Pluralism: Reflections on the Current Situation in the United States
Sociology and Anthropology
The United States has considerable religious and ethnic diversity; it has not always embraced pluralism. Known as “a nation of immigrants”, religion has often been seen as a way to integrate newcomers into its national project. That may have worked for European immigrants, who could become ‘White’; it has not worked so well for other ethnic migrants, who could not. The result is a diverse intersectionality that as the present moment is a source of significant religious, ethnic, and political division. Are calls for a vaguely defined “pluralism” enough? No, because deeper social factors are at work. These include increasing economic inequality, a complex split between socio-economic elites and the rest of the population, and shifts in the nature of the religious field. The latter include increased religious individualism, individually oriented prosperity theology, and a sectarian turn among American Evangelicals. Such factors make any simple call for pluralist engagement at best naïve. It is an open question whether or how social unity might be sufficiently reforged.
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