Which Religion is True?

BuddhaFor many, this is a genuine question. It is not something that requires a pat, one word answer. “Christianity, of course!” say some. “Islam,” say others.

People have died because of either their answer to this question or their refusal to accept another’s answer as truth.

Brian McLaren not only gives insight into this (often contentious) question in his most recent book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? but has just put up a post about it on his blog. Here’s some of what he writes:

I appreciate logic as much as the next person. But I find your statement seems to be missing some pieces:

“either all religions are false or only one is true.”

I can imagine four options:
1. All religions are completely true.
2. All religions are completely false.
3. One religion is completely true and others are true wherever they agree with it.
4. All religions are partially true and partially false.

I find #1 impossible since different religions contain many contradictions. I find #2 unlikely and incredible. That leaves #3 and #4. A big problem with #3 is that you have to ask, “Whose version of which religion?” For example, if you want to claim Christianity is completely true, you have to ask, “Pope Urban II’s version of Catholicism?” or “Benny Hinn’s version of Pentecostalism?” or “C. S. Lewis’ version of Protestantism?” or “Leo Tolstoy’s version of Russian Orthodoxy?” or … you get the point.

I would be happy to say that God knows what is completely true … but I would reject any human’s claim that they or their religion knows God’s mind with perfect accuracy. That’s why, as a committed follower of Christ, I advocate
– humility of heart and mind,
– a childlike desire to learn,
– love for neighbor, stranger, outcast, and enemy,
– and a sincere hunger and thirst for justice,
because, as Paul said, “we know in part.”

Think on these thing.

(You can read the rest of Brian’s post here.)

Simplicity

Here is something of which I need to be reminded often (and I suspect I’m not alone in this), from Richard Rohr:

We are all complicit in and benefiting from what Dorothy Day called “the dirty rotten system.” That’s not condemning anybody; it’s condemning everybody because we are all complicit in and enjoying the fruits of domination and injustice. (Where were your shirts and underwear made? What wars allow us to have cheap food and gas?) Usually the only way to be really non-complicit in the system is to choose to live a very simple life. That’s the only way out of the system!

Thus most of the great wisdom teachers like Gandhi, Saints Francis and Clare, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Jesus and Buddha—lived voluntarily simple lives. That’s almost the only way to stop bending the knee before the system. This is a truly transfigured life in cultures which today are almost always based on climbing, consumption, and competition (1 John 2:15-17).

Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige, and possessions, we are part of a never-ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating, as well as elitist and exclusionary. It will never create a just or happy world, yet most Christians never call it into question. Jesus came to free us from this lie, which will never make us happy anyway, because it’s never enough, and we never completely win.

Adapted from Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CD/MP3 by Richard Rohr)

Certainty

“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” -Francois Gautier

Certainty can sometimes silence our strongest instincts–when, ironically, certainty is always an illusion.

The secure job could become obsolete. The dependable friend could move away. The stable relationship could run its course.

None of the things that seem secure and safe are guaranteed to endure–not forever, or for any length of time, for that matter. The nature of life is that everything moves and changes, ebbs and flows, with beginnings, middles, and ends.

We don’t get to know what will end when. We don’t get to know how long things will last. We can play the odds, try to align ourselves with probability for maximum longevity, comfort, and ease. Or we can instead focus on the possibilities that excite us and enjoy the journey to and through them, one moment at a time.

We can either make what seems to be the best choice for minimal loss and change; or we can get clear about what we want to do with the short amount of time we have, and then embrace the unknown, with our passion as a compass, finding our way as we go.

The irony about choosing the path that seems the most certain is that it generally guarantees only one thing: that we go through life wondering how things could have been if only we weren’t so scared.

Today if you find yourself clinging to something that feels predictable and safe, ask yourself: Are these the moments I want to remember when I look back on my life some day?

by Lori Deschene, from Tiny Buddha

I am Wrong

 

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

According to some folks, I’m wrong.

That’s fine with me. I can live with that burden. It causes me a bit of embarrassment at times when I think I’m right and decide to put a voice to my thoughts. Often when I do, I’m immediately told I’m wrong. I used to be a little sensitive to this and retreat in shame for a few days . . . afraid to show my face. One time I immediately wrote an apologetic explanation for my misunderstood views in some vain attempt to justify my thinking . . . I realise I don’t need to do that any more.

What I am realising more and more, as I attempt to dialogue with those who are ‘right,’ is that my entire way of seeing things is different. No use arguing. They are simply right.

While their worldview is obviosuly the correct one (yes, Ken Silva, you have me there!), mine is full of errors. While their perspective is from such a high vista, mine is obscured by trees, buildings, and possibly a few dumpsters. While their understanding of the way things are is so clear, I evidently am walking in a fog and losing my way. It therefore is their God-given responsibility to show me where I stray (and I thank them for that because I am unable on my own to arrive at any sort of correct conclusion).

Besides, they have God on their side. That’s always a bonus, especially for those people with really bad comb-overs and 70’s-style oversized spectacles. It’s also handy when when dealing with people like me whose views are so far removed from the Divine. It’s a shame, really, because my incorrect understanding informs me that God is love and that a characteristic of those who follow God’s way is that they are loving, inclusive, peaceful and hopeful people. But then I am wrong on so many other things, I probably don’t know anything about this either.

What’s even better is that they are so well qualified to pass judgement. They know their Bibles so well and are very good at ‘chapter-and-verse’ stuff. (Not like I, who often fumble around say something stupid like, ‘I think God says somewhere that . . .” or mistakenly quote a verse from the wrong version–or worse, from The Message–and I don’t think that’ll cut it when moving in more well-versed circles.)

Personally, I kinda like being wrong. It means that I can live in a state of blissful ignorance. I can truly love someone whose is different from me because I don’t have a list of criteria he or she must meet. I know beyond any doubt that God loves everyone and has no regard for our perceptions of status: right or wrong, male or female, black or white, Baptist or Hindu, straight or gay . . . I believe I can know that all my sins are forgiven, even those ones I don’t call ‘sin’ but are so plainly and rightly pointed out to me to be such. I can be happy because I know I am not a slave to guilt; I don’t need to submit to manipulative guilt trips or holy-sounding ‘Thus saith the Lords’ because I know what God has spoken to me in my heart and through wise people I have been privileged to have encountered along the way.

What’s more, while I am already clearly wrong, I can accept others’ truth at face value. I can see spirituality in some of the words of Buddha, Mohammad, Desmond Tutu or even Jerry Falwell! While I may not agree with their truth, I can appreciate their understanding and insight on some level, even if it is acknowledgement of a universal truth that we all have in common. (As I was informed by a wise and intelligent professor in my College days, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’) And I wish their followers well because they, like me, are on a journey–it’s just they are not at the same stage or on the same path as I am.

Ah! The joy of allowing myself to be wrong. Funny how the awareness of my being wrong and having this label inflicted on me doesn’t seem so important any more. Possibly because I know that God still loves me without any conditions or reservations, and that label–like so many others–doesn’t really have any sticking power on me (Thanks, Max Lucado, for your brilliant parable You Are Special.)

So I’m wrong. No further discussion needed. I would suggest this admission would bring some folks some happiness or relief, but then I’d probably be wrong there too.

(P.S. Not everything in this post is written in sarcasm. I really do appreciate the truth so cleverly and clearly presented through Max Lucado’s beautiful storytelling, and I truly know that God’s love for me and everyone else in this world is real. Much of the rest is open for debate.)