My sense is that Bush-style fear propaganda in Christianity is on its way out. Why do I think this? Because I had the nerve to hand back a flyer to a newly-converted evangelical because of these words printed on the front:
“All the other prophets and teachers are dead. But Jesus LIVES!”
The young man and I had a good 30-minute conversation, on the sidewalk in front of the Walgreens on Mission Street, about why it was wrong to print such inflammatory words on a conversion flyer.
My point was that people don’t give their lives to Christ because they think all the other religions are wrong, they do it because at a time of need in their lives, the message Christ delivered so eloquently 2000 years ago, offered hope, salvation, forgiveness, and a new start. It’s the fearful flock leaders, the ignorant and sometimes power-starved ministers and pastors, who preach over and over again to their grateful, hungry and vulnerable followers, the notion that unless someone follows Jesus as their sole prophet & teacher, they are being mislead and will certainly perish in hell.
I think this idea is on its way out for the same reasons that ignorance, ego, and protectionism are going out of vogue in the world. I attribute this to the recent spread of commercial air flight availability, global corporate expansions, and of course, the internet. We simply cannot afford to dismiss the merits of the world’s religions and traditions when they are practiced faithfully by people we know and love, from countries we’ve been to and appreciated. This goes for “alternative” lifestyles and partnerships as well.
You cannot be successful in tommorrow’s (in some places, today’s) world by condemning everything that is not practiced by you or your family. As far as religions go, I’m more and more convinced that all paths do lead to the same ultimate truth, light, one-ness, etc. You just have to have the humility and curiosity to explore the religions for what they have in common. Where they agree, you will find truth. What better scientific proof is there than when seemingly unrelated sources draw the same conclusions?! Where the religions disagree, you must use your best, un-biased logic to determine the value of the teachings.
The Bill Maher-s of the world (super-atheists) are serving as the weight on the other side of the religion scale, balancing those who think every word of the Bible should be taken literally. I sat on his side of the scale for a while, and there is plenty to condemn from his point of view. Religion has brought out the best AND worst in people. On his program tonight, his guests talked about the fact that the US Army has handed out Bibles and tracts with cartoons to citizens of countries we have invaded! Sometimes the cartoons make fun of the other religions’ teachers & prophets. Simply passing out Bibles would be fine, except the message being spread is not one of hope, but a message of “We are right and you are wrong.” Evangelicals need to get back to their roots and speak from their hearts, not from a place of fear.
I have settled somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, realizing that religions exist because they contain crucial information about how to be successful as a species; how to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of each other. I don’t think it is necessary to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. I am very grateful for my upbringing and exposure to the wonderful, transformative message of Christ, and lessons from other prophets and teachers in the New and Old Testament. And I am just as grateful for the lessons I have learned through my own experience, and from the experiences of those in other religions and faiths around the world.
We will have no choice in the next generation but to learn to live as one (like the Beatles song!).