Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialogue

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialogue

Article excerpt

Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialogue. By Robert J. Nash. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. 224 pp. $29.95 (paper).

Public university campuses ought to be arenas for "unbounded dialogue" and moral conversation on issues of spirituality and religion: so argues Robert J. Nash in his book Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialogue. Bringing to this topic more than three decades of teaching and encounters with thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, Nash distills several narratives from their stories that he says represent the principal stories of college students in their "religio-spiritual" (p. 14) quest for meaning.

"The cry for meaning" is everywhere in the culture and on campus-a case Nash swiftly makes in the opening chapter, which also contains his own nine-point preliminary credo as well as several definitions important to his argument. The second of his six chapters is devoted to developing the complexities of "The Paradox of Religious Pluralism." He contends that religious diversity on campus is a growing and neglected problem that, if left unattended, "will threaten to divide students, faculty, and administrators in a way that makes all other campus divisions look tame by comparison" (p. 30). Unless a way is found to air and evaluate competing truth claims and perspectives in mutually respectful ways, we risk ideological Balkanization that enervates and diminishes the life of the university and society. Departing from Stephen Carter's idea of "bounded discourse" (Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, 1998), where parameters are drawn within which some ideas may be discussed and others not, Nash argues for "unbounded dialogue" where everything is in play-a wide open conversational encounter toward the end of mutual understanding. The challenge in all this, he asserts quoting Peshkin's study of a fundamentalist school, is to know when "intolerance must replace tolerance in order to preserve the principle of tolerance"(quoted in Nash, p. 49).

In developing the landscape within which this dialogue must be fashioned, Nash spends two chapters detailing six narratives represented among college students. …

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