interfaith

The Truth Is Truth Can Be Found In A Lot of Places

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

My office is “my space.”  If someone takes the time to look around my office they can get a snap shot of my life and what is important to me.  There are the many shelves of books collected from my years in school and from inheriting the libraries of two other ministers.  My collection of Lions and Lambs are prominently displayed on my window sill.  All the finisher’s medals from my road races are hanging from the coat tree – which has no room for any coats.  There are many pictures of my family, especially my children and there are all sorts of small gifts and trinkets that I have gathered from thirty years in ministry.  One thing that hangs on the wall of my office, directly across my desk, is a small poster that contains Gandhi’s “Seven Deadly Social Sins.”  These seven sins are

Politics without Principle

Wealth without Work

Commerce without Morality

Pleasure without Conscience

Education without Character

Science without Humanity

Worship without Sacrifice

Though these words are not part of the canon of Christian scripture, I wouldn’t be opposed to having a Council that consented to adding them.  We could put them in between the Testaments as part of the Apocrypha.  I have them displayed in my office where I do, so that when I look up from desk, the face of Gandhi, which is part of the poster, is looking right at me.  I see his face.  I read his words.  I see the truth that is in both. Of course, Gandhi was a Hindu who said that he had a great deal of respect for Jesus but that some of his followers didn’t seem interested in following Jesus too closely. There is truth in those words as well.  

As a Christian, I should be interested in truth wherever I find it.  Whether it be in another religion or in the discipline of science or in the cultural norms of a different society.  Truth is truth and all of it is God’s truth.  For too long, much of the Christian faith has seen other religions as “a tool of the devil” and the only proper Christian response to be conversion.  That should no longer be the case.  Though Christ should always be our plumb line for how we understand truth, we should never think that our understanding of faith is the sole harbinger of truth.  Wherever there is compassion, wherever there is care for those on the fringes of society, wherever there is concern for enhancing life then there is truth to be found.   For those expressions of truth, as we understand it through Christ, we should be grateful for whoever shows it and whenever it is shown.  The ways of God are not limited to those of us who call ourselves Christian.  The ways of God are present wherever love and sacrifice and kindness to others is displayed.

Sometimes, I wonder if we are moving toward a day when the church and the synagogue and the mosque and the temple will no longer be symbols of different religions but symbols of the one thing for which all religions are ultimately looking for – the kingdom of God. 

It's All Made Up Anyway

By Tim Graves

"The Holy Trinity's all made up, anyway!" My friend thought I was joking. I wasn't and I'm not. I'm not an atheist; I believe in God. I'm even  [caption id="attachment_960" align="alignright" width="300"] Painting by Anthony J. Kelly. Image retrieved from Rev. David Eck's blog.[/caption]

trinitarian with a higher sense of the Holy Spirit than many other mainline Christians. Still, it's pretend.

I perceive a divinity that connects us, that flows through us, and encourages us to lovingness. Our stories and theologies -- including trinitarian theology -- reveal truths that are beyond the rational, scientific explanation. They are not, nor were they ever intended to be literal, historical retellings of facts. 

Through the Christian biblical narrative, however, God continues to speak. For me, Jesus is,

"the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father." (John 14:6-7b CEB Read this passage in context.)

This is the path upon which God has lured me. This is the only way for me to be the loving, unique person that God created me to be. It is in the life of Jesus, that I enter into a relationship with the love that underpins all of creation. It is in the human Jesus that I learn how to be who God calls me to be.

Jesus functions as a gate for me (John 10: 1-10 CEB). However, just as it is naive and ineffective to expect all children to learn via only one modality (e.g.; visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), it is naive to think that God's love only opens through one gate. The arrogant teacher is one who thinks there is one -- and only one -- way to reach all children. This assumes the gifts, skills, challenges, and experiences of each individual is the same. 

Arrogant Christian spirituality, is one that projects its own gifts on all. When we do this we deny the truth reflected in Paul's writings to the Corinthians. That truth is that as we seek to follow the One, we each have unique roles and gifts.

Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? (1 Corinthians 12: 14-17 CEB Read this passage in context.)

Though Paul wrote to a squabbling community of Jesus followers, to expand this truth beyond Christianity is to hear the voice of God in a new time and place. Paul -- and the other authors of the canon -- wrote contextually. That is, the biblical writers spoke to specific people in a specific era, place, and culture. When we read and study the texts thoughtfully, communally, and prayerfully, we hear God's voice for today. We can find truths.

The gospels interpret the life of Jesus as he challenged the prevailing human-defined circle of acceptable behaviors and the people that were worthy of God's love. The Good News of the unfolding Realm of God (love) is that it is for all of us. God's love is expansive and extravagant! The One is love. The One, who I call God, reflected in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament reveals an arc of loving inclusiveness and justice for all.

To find God through Jesus, does not require dismissing others. On the contrary, to follow the teachings of Jesus is to engage in loving, respectful relationship with others. Other peoples have stories, metaphors, and narratives that describe their experiences of the One, the divinity that I perceive. Just as the Christian Bible reveals truths, the sacred writings (or verbal stories) of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Rastafarians, and others reveal truths. They reflect the ways that others have experienced the One I call God. Is it hard to perceive that the mysterium tremendum that is God, might speak to others in ways that make sense to them?

Rather than limiting God, I accept the Trinity as a metaphor that helps me to describe how I experience the One. It helps me to follow the Divine's call on my life. I don't need to idolize it into a literal fact anymore than I need Jesus to be the only way to the extravagant, expansive love of God.