Recent discussions of religious, cultural, and/or moral diversity raise questions relevant to the descriptive and normative aims of students of religious ethics. In conversation with several illustrative works, the author takes up issues of terminology, explanations or classifications of types and origins of plurality and pluralism, the relations between pluralism as a normative theory and the aims of a liberal state, and the import of an emphasis on plurality or pluralism for the comparative study of religious ethics.
In 2001 the leading American newsweekly, Time magazine, ran a series featuring the people who were considered to be the most influential in their fields of leadership. The religious thinker who was given the title “America’s Best Theologian” was Stanley Hauerwas, who teaches ethics at Duke University. There is an element of irony in the fact that one of the leading arbiters of cultural popularity would choose to honor Hauerwas in this manner. While Hauerwas is officially a Methodist, he identifies (...) closely with the Anabaptist tradition of ethical thought, often citing the late Mennonite theological ethicist John Howard Yoder as the primary influence on the development of his ethical thought. The Anabaptists, as we all know, make much of the need to form communities of radical disciples of Jesus who stand over against the dominant cultural patterns, and Hauerwas, like his mentor Yoder, is not shy about calling for this over-against-ness. (shrink)