Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This week's religious encounters

[Qu'ran Sura 5:48] ...For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny - all of you - then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.

Monday night, I went to hear Charles Kimball, author of the book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Fascinating, brilliant, fair observer of religion, he had me spellbound. I loved the passage above from the Qu'ran that he mentioned during his talk. God has a plan; we don't have to worry about whose faith is the most meaningful and important. Now this, folks, is the kind of "good news" I've always wanted to hear from the pulpits of our churches.

I was talking last night to someone about Bart Ehrman, author of the book, Misquoting Jesus. Ehrman has researched the transcription of the Bible extensively. After reading his book, I came away feeling that there is truth in the Book, but that it has been surrounded by so much myth that you have to dig around to find it. And thinking about this leads me back to Dr. Kimball. He said, "The truth of the three Abrahamic religions is this, 'Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.'"


Before I can love my neighbor as myself don't I first have to LOVE MYSELF? How many of us love ourselves unconditionally? How many of us look in the mirror some days and feel disgusted at the way we look or at the way we behaved at the cocktail party or at the food we ate so unhealthily yesterday or that we can't seem to find time for the things and people we love? How many of us wish we were someone else or somewhere else or richer or happier or that we could just start all over? And if we're doing that kind of judging on ourselves, what in the heck do we expect to happen when we encounter our neighbor?

I think all this talk of religion this week has led me to these conclusions:

1. Love God, Love yourself, Love everybody else.
2. Let God be the Decider--He'll sort it all out in the end.


G Liz said...

Mamie...I really like your second bullet..."Let God be the decider." That one can be tough to trust in Him. I struggle with this myself. Yet, doesn't it make sense that just maybe God presents hurdles in our lives, not to hurt us, but to bring us closer to show us that we cannot get through life without Him?

Thanks for the blog!

mamie said...

In the context of Kimball's speech, I think it also means not to judge people of other faiths on the issue of whether we hold the golden key or they do. That's for God to ultimately decide. But I agree, we like to think that we are large and in charge and it's hard to give up the reins!

trisha said...

This thing about other faiths is a sticking place for me with my church leaders who want everybody, everywhere to be Christian. I don't support our church's international missions and I don't evangelize, much to my pastor's and lay leaders' dismay.

Anybody else out there with these or similar concerns?

mamie said...

I have always thought it is pushy and presumptuous of some Christians to assume that they have all the answers and that they have to take it everywhere, even where people are perfectly happy with their own beliefs. In one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible Jesus says, Only THROUGH me is there salvation. Christians of course like to latch on to that as proof positive that everyone else is doomed, but for me it means he makes the decision as God, which harkens back to my original post! One of my favorite writings by Frederich Buechner says something to the effect that they (fundamentalists) probably turn more people off to their faith than they turn on. Amen.