Friday, February 12, 2010

The Good News

Okay, here’s a credo (at least for this moment). I know that universalism of the “all paths lead to God” variety is fashionable now. This is why evangelism is getting such a bad rap these days, even in Christian circles; thinking that Christianity has something to offer to the world is, apparently, gauche (Buddhism, on the other hand…). The underlying unity of all religions is certainly an enticing prospect, but unfortunately, the evidence just doesn’t support this. I have definitely come to see that there are vast, fundamental, and irreconcilable differences between the world’s religions, and that some major shifts need to happen in order for all of us to find our rightful unity (one world under God, indivisible?). The world’s religions can’t agree on what God is like, how many gods there are, or even whether there is a God. The way things are now, it is clear that all paths do not lead to the same place. That is why we have needed Jesus. Obviously, humanity has become extremely confused. The man Yeshua was born in the ancient Middle East to show us (remind us?) what God is like and what he wants. And if God is indeed anything like Jesus we’d all have to agree that none of us would have ever imagined a God like that on our own. The various world religions that humanity has concocted (including what Christianity has become) demonstrate this.

I have heard some people make the argument that Jesus was meant for “our civilization” (implying, of course, that “their” civilizations got the other religious luminaries of the world). I believe that Jesus, mysteriously, was God, and not only a teacher or a prophet. So I don’t believe that Jesus was sent only to Christians (or only to Euro-America). I believe he was sent to the entire world, to all cultures, to lead and instruct and inspire humanity. Christ invites all to the table. That is why I believe that all people, regardless of religious tradition, have been given the Light of Christ, the Light of God-With-Us. But very few of us cleave close to this Light. Instead, we become confused by the colorful trappings of our individual religious traditions (“Christians” are as susceptible to this as anyone). The “Good News” that disciples of Christ are commanded to share with the world is the news that all of us can set aside our trappings and grow together in this Light. Together, we can seek out the true God, the Living God, the Great and Holy Spirit that loves us passionately and has the will and the power to unite us.

After all, have you noticed that deeply God-centered people are the ones who have most successfully seen beyond the hard encrustations of their individual religions? Also, have you noticed that these people—whether they identify as Quaker, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or a follower of any number of indigenous faiths—have come to recognize a God that looks remarkably the same, and that this God is the God that Jesus has shown us? That is, the God of power and compassion and love and suffering, who loves all humankind equally and commands us to do the same? How could we have ever imagined such a God on our own?

Jesus said that he did not come to change The Law but to complete it. So it seems to me that all religious traditions (like the ancient Judaism—“The Law”—into which Jesus was born) have salvific potential. But too often these faiths become complicated and distracting (or even self-centered and tribal), and lead us away from the Central Presence rather than drawing us close. So The Laws of the world, all of which seek to connect humanity and divinity, must be completed through Christ, who causes us to recognize the immanence of the true God that he makes known to us. Jesus asked the ancient Jews to look beyond their political, tribal conception of God. Now, he commissions us to ask the same thing of the entire world, so that we may all grow together in his Light. This is good news.

4 comments:

Micah Bales said...

Thanks for this post, Stephen. I think you do a good job of balancing the universality of Christ's presence and transforming power - regardless of our religious affiliations - with Christ's uniqueness and centrality.

I reflect on my own experience of who Christ is in this post on my blog (http://www.lambswar.blogspot.com). I think we come out in a similar place.

In friendship,

Micah Bales

forrest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
forrest said...

There's a 'a vast, fundamental, and irreconcilable' difference between the drawing of the old lady with the nose and the young lady with the neck. But they're the same drawing.

God, as Jesus described him, has always been present to inspire human intuitions of how It All works and how we fit into that. The "religions that humanity has concocted" are creations of God-- which does not render all doctrines equal, but does imply that all are intended for our ultimate benefit. The only "no God" religion I know of is modern secular humanism (and even that provides useful insights, so long as nobody mistakes its vision for "the Real World.") Buddhism simply refers the question of God's existence to "meditate long enough and you won't need to ask me that."

And that does not, by any means, stop me from agreeing that Jesus was an excellent reminder of what God is like. Or that he brought out a perspective that's only implicit in various human religions (including that religion mistakenly called "Christianity.")

Stephen Higa said...

Thank you both for your views!

Micah, I've visited your post and found it very inspiring. Thank you for leading me there!

Forrest, I suppose that my problem with the old lady/young lady drawing is that there is no underlying Truth. I'm wrestling with a Truth that is ultimately completely beyond varying interpretations. I pray that humanity may come to grow in unity with this Truth, whatever it turns out to be!