If I were building up to any sort of climax with this series of posts, this is the one I have been building toward. The doctrine of pluralism gets center stage in the arts. I could search out and include dozens of examples from modern movies, music, books and visual arts, but to make my point more briefly, I’ll just use two examples from music–one from 30 Seconds to Mars and one from Disturbed.
If you don’t know what religious pluralism is, great. It is better this way. I also want to set pluralism apart from syncretism.
In an earlier post–the Ridiculous Doctrine of syncretism–we said that syncretism is an attempt to remain faithful to two conflicting worldviews simultaneously. No one approaches the abstract concepts of a triune God in a vacuum. One has experiences, influences, and therefore, ideas, beliefs and presuppositions already when he begins his inquiry about the biblical God, his revelation, his world, his Word, and his Son.
The problem of syncretism comes about when we blend something extra-biblical (or non-biblical) to that which is a true biblical doctrine. Syncretism, then, is when one adds non-revelation to true revelation and arrives at a blended worldview.
By way of distinction, religious pluralism is not holding faithfully to any particular worldview as true. Rather, someone adopts certain aspects of several worldviews with discretion. One’s self is the final arbiter of truth. Religious truth, then, is subjective and personal. It is unique to that individual. He or she designed it and can alter it at will. The religious pluralist may closely identify with an agnostic. A pluralist is, in many ways, an optimistic agnostic. He admits that there may be religious truth but many religions own different bits of it. No one single faith can lay hold of it.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that reads “Coexist?” Surrounding the word are the symbols of several world religions. They are promoting more than peace. They are promoting one religion–a new religion that embraces, tolerates, encourages and expects a blending of doctrines.
In Disturbed’s biography, (available at ozzfest.com), the emphasis is on an earlier album, Believe. “The arching theme? Belief.” About the album, vocalist David Draiman says,
” I encourage self-exploration and internal truth–defining one’s own belief. People need to seek out that which they are able to believe in. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe in the future of humanity? In God? In the death of god? In the things that you cannot see in the spiritual realm? Are you afraid of the dark? The light?”
Tellingly, perhaps, the album closes with a track called “Darkness,” whose intense mood is conveyed with a spidery acoustic guitar arpeggio, a pecked piano melody and a haunting cello line. As a final address to his audience, Draiman offers his most tender vocal performance, singing, “Dare to believe for one last time. Then I’ll let the darkness cover me, deny everything, slowly walk away to breathe again on my own.”
The clear thrust of the message is that no one else knows better than I do what is right. I will find it out for myself. Notice their album cover at the top of this post. You will see various religious symbols blended together–that of the Jewish star of David, the Christian Cross, the Islamic crescent and a satanic pentagram. The triangle pointing up is not there by accident, but I am afraid to read too much meaning into it. I will suggest, if I may, that this symbol is often used in Buddhism. Buddha, (depicted as the eye in the triangle), is referred to as “the Eye of the world.”
In This Is War, the newest release from 30 Seconds to Mars, actor/musician Jared Leto writes:
I believe in nothing, but the beating of our hearts . . .
I believe in nothing, not in sin and not in God . . .
I believe in nothing, but the truth in who we are (in “300 Suns”).
A warning to the prophet, To the liar, to the honest,
This is war
To the leader, to the prior, the victim, the Messiah
This Is War
It’s the moment of truth and the moment to lie
The moment to live and the moment to die
The moment to fight . . . we will fight to the death (in This Is War).
I don’t want to ruin it for those on the web who comment that he is not necessarily speaking personally but collectively–of society as a whole, but whatever. He is totally making his point. Mankind is his own master. We believe in ourselves, the moment, the here and now.
Essentially, the religion of Disturbed and 30 Seconds is humanity. It’s unity in diversity via tolerance and religious pluralism. Religious conviction divides, so leave your conviction. We have nothing to learn from the past. A progressive learns from the present and looks to the future.
Really, I’ve been making my commentary all along. In brief, however, we are by nature resistant to obligation. When someone tells us what to do we could either resist or submit. Our nature is to resist. Our nature is to be autonomous–free from accountability to anyone or anything that we don’t wish to submit to.
Religious pluralism is a substitution, then, of an improper object of worship for a proper one. Rather than approaching God as he is and on his terms, we have one of two options. 1) fashion either ourself as god (atheism, some forms of humanism & naturalism) or allow for a tame, man-made god to coexist with us on our terms (other forms of humanism & religious pluralism).
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.
13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?”