“There are two roads to homogeneity. One is totalitarianism/Nimrodism…. The other is pluralism/ Canaanism….”

There are two roads to homogeneity. One is totalitarianism/Nimrodism, which gives absolute value to a very specific and detailed set of cultural markers and seeks to enforce them on others. The other is pluralism/ Canaanism, which insists that all cultural markers have exactly the same value and denies the objective legitimacy of any values hierarchy.

Extreme pluralism is opposed to diversity. A healthy, diverse culture celebrates values clashes but develops robust nonviolent arenas for persuasive combat. In a culture of aesthetic diversity, some value classical music and others value heavy metal, and they argue about matters of taste. In a culture of moral diversity, some favor limited euthanasia and others see it as murder; but all agree to abide by a common decision procedure.

In a culture of diversity, identity is more than a source of grievance, more than the basis of a claim to equal rights; it is the basis of a claim to genuine moral superiority, which is the antithesis of extreme pluralism. It works in reverse as well; without a claim of superiority, no identity is sustainable long-term. Cultures of extreme pluralism will eventually be conquered from within or without.

This kind of identity can also develop under totalitarian persecution; revolutionary individualism goes easily with condescension toward the homogenized masses. And it seems the Ancient Near East had no genuine cultures of diversity, so Avraham could only develop under Nimrod.

But revolutions tend to replace one totalitarianism with another. The challenge is to maintain hierarchy without absolutism, to believe that something can be less correct without being wholly incorrect, less valuable but not valueless, not ultimate and yet not unnecessary.

Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, “Avraham, Yitzchak and Intermarriage”, moderntorahleadership (5 November 2015) [https://moderntoraleadership.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/avraham-yitzchak-and-intermarriage/]