Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newton Presbytery and the True Believers

Newton Presbytery has submitted an overture to the PC(USA) General Assembly, "On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between The Christian and Muslim Communities." It seems like a good overture to me. It is a call for dialogue, peaceful relations, and finding common ground.

At my previous congregation I wrote an article for the local newspaper that advocated this kind of approach, Respond With Hospitality to Growing Diversity. In that article I recounted the following story:

One doctor who became a friend of mine was a Jain. I had never before heard of Jainism (even though it is a religious tradition that predates Christianity by six centuries). His wife was Roman Catholic.

He told me that they had a sacred space set up in their home in which each had placed icons, statues and other symbols of their respective faiths. With a big smile he assured me, "All of our gods get along wonderfully!"

Implied in that statement is, "So do we."

It seems that the point of this overture (and the point of my article) is to connect on the human level. It is about all of us and all of our "gods" (read: our various conceptions of God) getting along. What could be wrong with this?

Plenty, according to the Christian true believers. They have issues with theology. When they get into it my eyes glaze over. Theological and biblical "proofs" abound. It is a foreign language to me. I think some people would rather read their Bible than talk to another human being.

It seems to me that the only reason to bother with theology or religion is to make the world a better place and to increase love, mutual understanding, and cooperation between people.
But so much theology and religion makes things worse. Religion is just one more cause for division.

The real issue is not between my Jain friend and I. We had a great time. The issue is between the true believers (of my own denomination) and those who wrote the overture. That is the challenge. How do we deal with the true believers? The best way I have found is to try to work on things in common and not talk about religion.

At the same time, you can't allow the true believers to keep you from doing what you have to do. This is an important overture for our time and acting on its recommendations is even more important.


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