Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference
Paperback Edition (with new preface) now available
Reviews and Endorsements
Every once in a while, a book comes along that perfectly suits a cultural moment – not by reflecting the prevailing ethos, but by challenging it at the deepest level.
— Michael Gerson, Washington Post
John Inazu has addressed a question as old as our republic and as current as protests in Ferguson: with strongly felt differences, how can Americans live together as one people? In words both scholarly and inspiring he confronts the notion that we serve the good of the whole when we silence the voices of the few. As a law professor, he argues for stronger legal protections for voluntary, often dissenting, groups, and as a concerned citizen, he calls us to listen to and respect those with whom we strongly disagree. In an age of rants on social media and campus speech norms, John Inazu has shown us the way to a more inclusive and tolerant nation. Confident Pluralism is important reading for our time.
— John C. Danforth, former United States Senator and former Ambassador to the United Nations
Too many people view the freedom to pursue one’s beliefs and associations as important to their own interests, but not for the sake of others. In this timely book, Inazu shows how all people, even those with deep-seated disagreements, can benefit from these freedoms and live together in civil society.
— Michael McConnell, Stanford Law School
Inazu’s Confident Pluralism is a remarkable book that grabs by the throat the most profound problem we face: the question of whether we can live truly with each other, not merely alongside each other, in situations where we genuinely feel most alienated from, and even threatened by, one another’s beliefs or behaviors. With a good lawyer’s acuity and a committed citizen’s painful honestly, Inazu probes for the places where our differences are most tender—race, religion, sexuality—and demands that we address those concerns for what they are. Inazu ultimately hopes—as all our best public thinkers have hoped—for more from us than just resigned indifference. The book’s real bravery means it will make almost all of its readers uncomfortable at different points, and its admirable ambition means that it takes that discomfort as an inevitable, if unintended, consequence of its aims.
— Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia
Confident Pluralism is important both as a theoretical book and as a practical one. Inazu’s unusually thoughtful treatment builds on theories of pluralism to show how contemporary legal doctrine and civic engagement can and should put that pluralism into practice.
— William Baude, University of Chicago Law School
Confident Pluralism is a great and important book. It’s a way forward. Get it. Use it.
— Timothy Keller, author and pastor
We are a nation that has become deaf to the other side, to the possibility that ‘the other’ has insights, belief, ideas, or values worth recognizing and considering. So good for John Inazu, in his fine new book Confident Pluralism, for taking on the issue and beginning to create a legal framework to understand how we might move the country back to a place where it was acceptable to disagree and a public necessity to occasionally entertain the idea that the other side might have a perspective worth considering.
— Ken Stern, President of Palisades Media and former CEO of NPR
Much of the discourse around diversity these days highlights the differences that people like. Confident Pluralism unabashedly raises a much harder, and more interesting, question: how do we think about diversity when it involves the differences we don’t like?
— Eboo Patel, founder and president Interfaith Youth Core
If America’s diversity is going to continue to be a national strength, we need structures and laws that respect and facilitate diversity. Confident Pluralism offers a difficult but worthwhile vision for how to ensure the American family has room for all.
— Michael Wear, founder of Public Square Strategies and author of Reclaiming Hope
Inazu’s book should be read by all who desire a more civil, thoughtful society than the one in which we find ourselves.
— Carl Trueman, First Things
The key question at the heart of Inazu’s hope and pains is this: How might truth and diversity co-exist, sometimes in an interdependent relationship, sometimes simply surviving side by side? How do we live out our convictions—and protect those of others—in an increasingly diverse society, and not just increasingly diverse, but more feverishly diverse, more separated by creed and worldview, subculture and life experience, networks and information flow?
— Anne Snyder, Philanthropy Roundtable
American society is becoming increasingly diverse. As that happens, the public square becomes a crowded, and sometimes hostile, place. At times it seems there is no longer room for meaningful public debate. Inazu sets forth a framework for public square engagement that allows citizens to live according to their convictions while actively participating in a diverse society.
— Josh Wester, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Readers will find much of value in Inazu’s brisk and winsome vision for an American polity newly reoriented toward confident pluralism.
— Jordan Ballor, The Gospel Coalition
One of the great virtues of Inazu’s work is that it attends to both culture and institutions. Confident pluralism both prescribes the kinds of institutional and legal changes that would protect the groups and associations that make genuine pluralism possible, and it describes the habits and inclinations that would make those institutions effective.
— Bryan McGraw, Wheaton College
Confident Pluralism is an illuminating account of how the American experiment, in both law and culture (and the intersections of the two), might help us foster a modest unity of public goals. Inazu surveys relevant constitutional doctrines—the right to associate, the features of the public forum, the vexed legal dimensions of public funding—with a brevity that also manages to be thorough and clear. His discussion of civic culture is aspirational and guardedly optimistic, but not Pollyannaish.
— Kevin den Dulk, Comment Magazine
The 2016 presidential election, assuming both Clinton and Trump are the nominees, may well be the ugliest and most vicious election many of us will have ever seen. There’s no easy or quick way out of this. It will require some large number of Americans to re-think how we are to engage in politics in this era of rage and polarization. Toward that end, Inazu has written Confident Pluralism. It’s so unfashionable, so unrealistic, so out of touch. It’s chic to be cynical. Except for this: Disagreeing with others, even passionately disagreeing with others, without rhetorically vaporizing them is actually part of what it means to live as citizens in a republic. The choice is co-existence with some degree of mutual respect – or the politics of resentment and disaffection, the politics of hate and de-humanization.
— Peter Wehner, Commentary Magazine
Confident Pluralism makes an important new contribution to our discussion of pluralism and the public good. While Inazu attends to important systemic concerns about constitutional law and precedent, he also rightly recognizes that forging a common life in the midst of deep directional diversity requires specific dispositions of tolerance, humility, and patience.
— James K.A. Smith, Calvin College
Into this polluted political atmosphere comes a different sort of academic. Inazu is proposing a national cleanup effort to make our public life more pleasant and productive….We should not downplay the stakes. Tolerance, humility and patience are not the ornaments of a democracy, they are its essence.
— Washington Post
Inazu has presented an accessible and thoughtful case for pluralism in contemporary America. It will not convince all the skeptics. But perhaps it can start a conversation that will continue in the spirit with which Inazu wrote: confidently putting forward ideas, and considering alternatives with humility, patience, and generosity.
— The New Rambler
Inazu’s vision is an attractive one, and we would all be better off if our political institutions were less eager to intervene in our associational lives—and if those associational (and private) lives were characterized more by tolerance, humility, and patience.
— Books & Culture
Confident Pluralism is a reminder that—whatever our preferred groups and approved politics might be—bracketing disagreements and building friendships across divides is the essence of ‘diversity work’ in our fractious republic.
Holding together a diverse nation of strongly held interests has been the great American project since our beginning. Inazu calls us to make it our project today.
— The Christian Century
Inazu has emerged as one of the leading scholars on freedom of association and religious freedom.
— Library of Law & Liberty
Confident Pluralism names the challenge we face as a society that is made stronger by being more diverse and more dynamic, and weaker by being more divided and fragmented at the same time. The answer to that challenge, as Inazu suggests, lies in taking pluralism seriously and framing a political conversation that focuses on our successes rather than dwelling on our failures.
— Yuval Levin, author of The Fractured Republic
We need a unity in this country that is not at the expense of our differences. And that is what Confident Pluralism is about. It’s finding what unites us in order to help us negotiate those deep divisions over matters that are very important in our lives.
— Charles C. Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute
Longer Reviews and Interviews
Jake Meador | Mere Orthodoxy | January 31, 2018
Paul Horwitz | Prawfsblawg | July 11, 2017
Response by John Inazu: Inazu responds to Horwitz's review of "Confident Pluralism"
Bob Wells | Faith and Leadership | May 16, 2017
Mark David Hall | Learn Liberty | May 4, 2017
Johnny Sneed | March 11, 2017
James K. A. Smith | Comment | March 1, 2017
Laurie Hertzel | Star Tribune | January 30, 2017
Eric Schulzke | Deseret News | January 5, 2017
E. C. Sands | Choice Reviews | December 2016
The Quest for Confident Pluralism - Interview
Gordon Haber | Religion and Politics | November 21, 2016
Spotlight: John Inazu on Confident Pluralism - Interview
Carmen LaBerge | The Reconnect | November 15, 2016
Michael F. Bird | Patheos | November 9, 2016
Lauren Green | Fox News | October 24, 2016
How Confident Is Our Pluralism? - Interview
Albert Mohler | Thinking in Public | October 17, 2016
John C. Danforth | The Christian Century | September 28, 2016
Eboo Patel | Sojourners | September 2016
Lael Weinberger | The New Rambler | August 29, 2016
Tish Harrison Warren | The Well | August 10, 2016
James K. A. Smith | July 21, 2016
Krys Boyd | Think (KERA) | July 18, 2016
Liz McCloskey | July 11, 2016
Rob Vischer | Mirror of Justice | July 10, 2016
Kevin den Dulk | Comment | June 30, 2016
John Hawthorne | June 30, 2016
"Confident Pluralism" with John Inazu - Interview
Phil Vischer | The Phil Vischer Podcast | June 28, 2016
Bryan McGraw | Capitol Commentary | June 27, 2016
Ken Stern | June 23, 2016
Anne Snyder | June 23, 2016
Michael Wear | June 22, 2016
Josh Wester | Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission| June 16, 2016
Jordan J. Ballor | The Gospel Coalition | June 15, 2016
Michael Gerson | The Washington Post | June 6, 2016
Mark Tushnet | Balkanization | June 2, 2016
Response by John Inazu: Confident Pluralism, Expressive Association, and “Tone”
Carl R. Trueman | First Things | May 27, 2016
Response by John Inazu: Confident Pluralism: A Response
Peter Wehner | Commentary | May 2, 2016
Bryan McGraw |Books and Culture | 2016