VIEWSnPLURALISM IN MINIATURE by Harold O.J. BrownnScience was a sacred cow in the United States in then1950’s. The words “Science says …” came with allnthe force of an imperial command. Pluralism has taken onnthe same status in the late 1980’s. As soon as the wordsn”Our pluralistic society will not permit …” are uttered,nNativity scenes are dismantled, Christmas vacation becomesnWinter Holiday, and a moment of silence in public schoolsnis no longer merely a vain illusion but a prohibited sinnagainst pluralism. But say “Our pluralistic society requiresn…” and homosexual activists receive affirmative actionnsupport for job demands, parents need not be notified of anminor daughter’s intention to abort their grandchild, andnRotary Clubs and saunas are gleichgeschaltet into unisex.nWhether or not one endorses pluralism seems to be a litmusntest for whether one is persona grata in the modern world.nBut what is pluralism? One of evangelist Dwight L.nMoody’s most articulate successors, Pastor Erwin Lutzer ofnChicago’s Moody Church, calls it “one of the myths thatncould destroy America.” But English scholar Os Guinness,na Fellow of The Brookings Institute, an associate of the latenFrancis SchaefFer, and no less evangelical than Lutzer, laudsnthe United States in contrast to Britain because of ournpluralism (as he understands it). We have no establishednchurch in the United States, in contrast to Britain, yetnChristianity is more vital and has a greater influence on lifenin America than in formally Anglican Britain. Whosenevaluation of pluralism is correct? It all depends on what wenmean by pluralism. In a chapter entitled “Value Pluralismnand Its Consequences,” Austrian economists Christof Gasparinand Hans Millendorfer write: “As has been shown,nsocio-hierarchical systems require . . . the definition of angoal that more or less directly serves to realize a model ofnfulfilled human life. This implies, however, that the individualsnwho sustain such a social unit are committed to annaccepted common model and that in such a unit there mustnbe a basic consensus about the way to structure a fulfillednlife.”nGaspari and Millendorfer distinguish between pluralismnof method and value pluralism. Where a consensus ofnvalues prevails, freedom and variety can reign in thenmethods by which those values are furthered. But where nonconsensus concerning fundamental values exists, the systemnbecomes disoriented. If pluralism simply means that differ-nHarold O.J. Brown is professor of biblical and systematicntheology and the Franklin Forman Chair of ChristiannEthics and Theology at Trinity Evangelical DivinitynSchool.n^^M>nent cultures, ethnic groups, religious and political affiliationsncan productively exist side by side, then the oldest functioningndemocracy, Switzerland, offers a fine example thereof.nBut if pluralism means fundamental disagreement aboutnbasic ideals and values—what Gaspari and Millendorfernmean by value pluralism—then Switzerland is not pluralisticnat all. If any country in Europe could have a reason to benpluralistic, Switzerland would seem to be it. Switzerland hasna population of six and one-half million, spread over anterritory of 16,000 square miles — most of them steeplyninclined. Those 16,000 square miles are divided inton25 —more recently, 26 — “sovereign” cantons — which arena great deal more sovereign than the individual states in ournfederal system. (Canton Jura split off from Bern a few yearsnago, over linguistic and religious differences that hadnproduced at least a little violence.) Switzerland calls itself anconfederation, and it really is much more federal than thenUnited States. Income taxes, for example, are paid somethingnlike 45 percent to one’s township, 45 percent to one’sncanton, and 10 percent to the Bund, the Swiss federalngovernment (like everything else in Switzerland, this variesnfrom canton to canton, but the pattern is relatively constantnall over Switzerland).nSix and one-half million people speak four languages,nthree of which they share with much larger neighbors:nGerman (70+ percent), French (20+ percent), Italian (5npercent), and a derivative of Latin called Romanch (aboutn50,000 people). The “German” element reads and writesnstandard German but speaks something called SwissnnnMAY 1988 j 13n