Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gloves are coming off

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.


Dru said...

Thank you! Finally -- someone who isn't afraid to share their honest opinion.

I'm so tired of listening to/reading fluff. If we spent a fraction of the time being honest with ourselves and others as we do trying to sound politically correct or not stepping on anyone's toes, there would be a lot less crap floating around. That's why I love working with kids -- they have no problem speaking their mind.

And, besides, what's wrong with being different from one another?

Mustoe, you are certainly one well-spoken and thought-provoking bloke, and I'm proud to have been a member of Brian's D.O.C. band with you...

Professor RJ Gumby said...

I am glad I missed the issue you referenced. And I agree with your assessment. When Jesus says he is the way, the truth and the life, he is making a truth claim. And I believe him.

I also love to have discussions with atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus etc. because dialog is the most important thing. All people are God's children and your story of giving the Muslim is the way to treat our fellow human beings.

I think one reason the relativistic point of view has come to dominate in the post-modern era is that relativism gives many people who call themselves Christians a nice place to hide, so we do not have to defend our faith (and do the homework required to do so). It's a nice dodge.

The prophets came to tell Israel that the people could not hedge their bets, so to speak. You could not follow God, and also follow the gods of the surrounding "ites". Israel did, many times to just be sure they had all the bases covered. It didn't work then, and it really won't work now.

Maybe I should go to General Conference sometime and crash the proceedings. And just as I was encouraged that they put "witness" in the membership vows this year.

The Millers-Because we like it Original! said...

I'm glad I did not see that article! My pastor would have raised a fuss, to be sure.

I agree with dru-I'm glad that I work with the Youth Group in my church-although I am slightly concerned about the fleeting lack of clothing they are starting to wear.....