The breakfast tables were lined with row after row of everything that I would want (and more). It was ready and available for the choosing. I love when someone else cooks and does the dishes. This morning when I went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel I am staying at, I was a little overwhelmed. I walked from table to table, area to area scoping out what delicious morsels were prepared for me. Knowing that I am here for a week, gave me comfort to know that I did not need to experience everything at one time. I could try out a little here and there and know that tomorrow was a new day with new choices. Religious plurality and a breakfast buffet have a lot in common; you can take a little from each area and not fully commit to any one thing.
Author William Cavanaugh, in Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, says, “There is pluralism in the body: some are eyes, some are hands, some are feet. And yet precisely because of that differentiation, all are needed.” Differences were created within us and ultimately when we express ourselves even in worship, those differences come out. Plurality, whether ethnically, religiously, nationally or sociologically, tend to divide rather than unite. How we react to the differences colors our responses and the relationships that come out of those interactions. “The key question in every transaction is whether or not the transaction contributes to the flourishing of each person involved, and this question can only be judged, from a theological point of view, according to the end of human life, which is participation in the life of God.” If how we interact with the world is a theological interaction, then what we buy reflects our understanding of the god we serve.
As one that lives in a world of commodities we are forced to make choices in purchasing items our families need. These choices then reflect our convictions (or lack of) concerning how a product gets from the manufacturer to our home. I have a daughter in college that goes out of her way to buy “fair-trade” items; whether it is coffee or sweatshirts. She recently told me she bought an article of clothing and how much she spent and I responded, “wow, that is a lot”. She responded, “it’s fair trade and we are giving back.” I too get caught up in the “cheaper is better” hype and realize the marketing I unintentionally consume affects my way of thinking. We want (and demand) a smorgasbord of choices that we are entitled to. Miller says that we do not want to know where our products come from because it would bring more accountability. In an age where our clothing represents a world traveling experience, it is easier to be detached from the factories, sellers and even a physical store now that amazon is around. In first world countries, our wants influence our decisions and the pursuits we focus on.
Religious plurality, according to Cavanaugh (and Surin) are linked to globalization. We have become so used to choices that it influences our faith. When we lived in Beijing, there were two other foreign families that lived in our apartment complex. The said they were Baha’i. I originally thought that was a particular people group but learned quickly that it was a fast growing religion. The founder of the Bahá’í Faith, says: “The foundation of the religion of God is one” because “[t]he divine religion is reality, and reality is not multiple; it is one.” For the Baha’i, literally all paths lead to the divine. A girl said, after spending time in Korea, that she had found her faith. She said that she was Baha’i and felt the most comfortable there because there was not all the restrictions that her methodist upbringing had. She did express that it wasn’t perfect because she was having sex with her boyfriend and Baha’i was opposed to that.
Religious pluralism seems to be about finding what works for each individual and leaving the rest behind. William L. Rowe, professor of philosophy at Purdue University, observes: “Perhaps the most natural position for a believer in a particular religion to take is that the truth lies with his or her own religion and that any religion holding opposing views is, therefore, false.” The insatiable desire for the pursuit of things matches our faith and lifestyle. Baha’i’s are pluralists—in fact, they go beyond religious pluralism. “The divine religions must be the cause of oneness among men, and the means of unity and love; they must promulgate universal peace, free man from every prejudice, bestow joy and gladness, exercise kindness to all men and do away with every difference and distinction. –” Baha’ist believe that all religions are equally authentic, true, and vital to the well-being of humanity.
The villain in The Incredibles movie says, “If everyone is super, then no one is super”. It makes me think that if everything is the truth then nothing is the truth. The feeding trough of the religious buffet does not provide the long lasting fulfillment and true peace that comes from knowing a God that we did not create ourselves. “If God is God, then God must be always beyond our comprehension. We are, nevertheless, less, invited to participate in the Trinitarian life through Christ and the work of the Spirit. But in order to do so, we cannot grasp, we can only submit.” I saw a T-shirt in China that said, “I am the Way, the Turth and the Life”. After taking a photo with the young man, I thought how often do we misspell truth (purposefully or not) to fit our daily desired consumption of God? Truth is found in the pursuit of the one true- sometimes divisive -unifying God.
 Cavanaugh , William T. Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire. (Kindle Edition).586
 Ibid, 25-26
 Miller, Vincent J.Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. (New York, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2003)
 Cavanaugh, 783
 http://bahai-library.com/pdf/s/savi_religious_pluralism.pdf accessed February 15, 2018
 Rowe,William L. Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993) 175.
 http://bahaiteachings.org/many-paths-god -Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha accessed February 15, 2018
 The Incredibles. Movie. Directed by Brad Bird. Los Angeles. Walt Disney Pictures. 2004
 Cavanaugh, 858