Alright, I've been rather milk-toast lately. Lots of gushy wedding stuff and piddly articles and talking about Batman a lot.
Then my friend/colleague Chris points out the latest issue of the United Methodist Reporter. On the cover, a caption below a picture reads: "United Methodists, as do most Americans, believe that many religions can lead to eternal life".
In that one statement, there's a lot to "unpack".
First of all, its my understanding that The General Conference speaks for United Methodists, not the reporter. You can site a survey if you'd like, but I would not have phrased the caption in such a way.
"Many religions can lead to eternal life". I take that to mean, that since religions lead to the same end, eternal life they're all essentially the same. I think most people who would agree with that statement just don't want to come off as being judgmental. But ironically, that is exactly what happens. Because in trying to avoid making assumptions about another person's faith, you actually are.
By saying that Buddhism and Christianity are really not different, you're making assumptions that I feel a Christian and a Buddhist should both disagree with. The trinity is not the same as the 8 fold path, and nirvana is not the same as heaven. Escaping from suffering is not the same as "thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven".
The only people who really agree with a statement like "many religions can lead to eternal life" don't know their own faith or know anyone of a different faith, because they're not the same.
Now, does that mean we just go around telling folks they're going to hell? No. There was a situation several months back where I stopped by the side of the road to give some guy a lift because his car had obviously broken down. Turns out he was a Muslim imam. Shame on all the Christians who passed this man by. Picked him up, payed for his tow, and brought him back to his mosque. A got a tour and we exchanged phone numbers. Couple months later, he calls me and we go on another errand together.
Did we have some interfaith dialogue? You betcha. Do he and I believe the same things? No! And both of us would agree that we disagree, but guess what, I'll still give him a ride.
So lets not buy into this politically-correct humanistic bare-minimum theism, which is really reserved only for spineless bourgeois intellectual types. Lets not put that junk on the front cover. If Methodism devolves into universalism, you can count me out.