No Such Thing as Passive Pluralism

Is religious pluralism important to Phillips Academy? At this Wednesday’s All School Meeting, Dr. Diana Eck talked to the student body about the importance of pluralism. On her website, Dr. Eck describes religious pluralism as “the energetic engagement with diversity,” “the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference,” and “the encounter of commitments.” Although there is an always capacity for improvement, on the whole Phillips Academy is relatively religiously tolerant. Every Andover student is required to take a Religion and Philosophy class on the premise that education tends to breed understanding. In addition, the Academy employs several full-time religious leaders—including Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders. There are eight student-run religious clubs on campus, including “Andover Interfaith Council”. Just last term, Matt Lloyd-Thomas ‘12 did a CAMD Scholar presentation on atheism at Andover. On Monday, upperclassmen have the opportunity to attend a Martin Luther King Junior Day workshop entitled “Atheism, Religion, & Spirituality in the Modern World. This Tuesday, Azhar Usman, who CNN called the “Funniest Muslim in America,” came to campus. We are not ignorant, but we do tend to internalize religion. Despite all of the aforementioned activity, very rarely does conversation on campus ever deal with religion. Whatever the reason, whether they feel it is too personal or not politically correct, most Andover students do not openly express their religious beliefs. To improve the religious climate at Andover, we don’t need rhetorical questions and lively slideshows. Dr. Eck’s passion for the expansion and acceptance of religious pluralism was impressive, but her presentation was less so. The assembly was neither remarkable nor enriching; we were hoping for more insight from Eck’s speech. Dr. Eck has the right idea: we need to improve our dialogue.There is more to human compassion and understanding than religion, but religion plays a significant role in defining many people’s values. And understanding the values of people whose lives revolve around their faith is crucial to understanding the context of their actions and the actions themselves. Though the timing and methods of her presentation made her point moot, Dr. Eck has the right ideas and outlook to improve the religious environment at Andover. A passive approach of simply recognizing that many religions exist will not suffice; it’s our turn to start reading and talking. This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian board CXXXIII. Information about the MFA from the article, “Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts Tells a Tale of the Americas” from the January 7, 2011 issue of The Phillipian, should have been credited to the November 14, 2010 issue of the Boston Globe Magazine. The Phillipian regrets the error.