DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

April 4, 2008

                                                           

                                      

Finding my Religion

In the Friday Morning Women’s Fellowship, we are about to embark on a series on World Religions. Over the next six weeks we will survey five major world religions. In this week’s session we will explore the topic of world religions in general and our own feelings about this study in particular.

I think it is a pretty good series and there is a constant hunger to meet and understand the other great religions of the world. These days we, in America, see Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs on a regular basis in the grocery, at our schools or doctor’s offices. I have never been comfortable with the push to call America a “Christian Nation” and these days we see that our country is quite diverse in many communities. Our religions are diverse.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist clergyman, who is also the speaker in our weekly video clip, wrote our World Religions series. He does an excellent job of clearly presenting the religions and outlining his own understanding of those religions along with his understanding of how Christians should approach the other religions. He says this in the opening chapter of the series…
If we are honest, the thought of contemplating the claims of other religions makes most of us a bit nervous. It is threatening to our own faith. What if the other religions are right?

Well put and I think what Rev. Hamilton is saying is that basically, as Christians, we are reluctant to examine other religions. We are a “bit nervous” about it, as if studying another religion is a betrayal of our Christianity.

I wonder if it has to do with Christian’s basic reluctance to delve too deeply in another religion for fear of possibly converting. We have always been the ones to go out and seek others to join us in our Christian endeavors, to join our religion and be “saved.” We are not comfortable with the idea of joining another religion or that they should make the effort to convert us to their beliefs. So, we steer clear of even studying the other religions.

That’s too bad. Are we afraid that if we learn about another religion that we will find weakness in our own understanding of Christianity? Do we have such an incomplete understanding of our faith so that it cannot withstand the accumulated weight of the facts of a new religious experience?

I see this in the same light as Americans’ reluctance to engage the rest of the world for fear that we might become less American, less patriotic. I lived in Zambia for 3 years and came to appreciate much of what that country was trying to accomplish. As a teacher in the school there in Zambia we had to be a part of the weekly flag raising ceremony in front of the school, and the singing of the national anthem of that nation. It never occurred to me that respecting the flag and national anthem of Zambia was a rejection of my love of America. At one point, the country of Zambia was swept with patriotic fervor and was going to require all expatriates (like myself) to swear allegiance to that country and sign a statement to that effect.

 

We were not ready to go that far. None of the foreign nationals on the staff were ready to sign their name on something like that. I guess the country dropped that requirement and everyone continued to sing the National Anthem. There was no “slippery slope” of losing our love for America and thus becoming citizens of another nation.

Maybe that is the fear of Christians. We fear if we come to close to another religion then we will want to reject Christianity and embrace something new. I think for many the very act of exploring another religion is likened to rejecting Christianity.

Adam Hamilton gives us some terminology (originally used by Dennis Okholm in “Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World”) that helps us view other religions. There are the “Pluralistic” the “Exclusivist” and the “Inclusivist” perspectives. It would take a much longer essay to explain what each encompasses. But, I imagine that as we begin our study and move through the weeks we will find ourselves drawn to one of the three perspectives. I already know which perspective I find I fit into and I also note that Rev. Hamilton says that the perspective, with which I identify, does not make sense to him.

So, frankly, I feel pretty good about that. We all like to think we walk paths, which others will not tread. When it comes to religion, I rather like being at the other end of the basketball court (see last week’s e-gram “Bleacher Seats” on our website to understand what I am talking about.) But, it is to Rev. Hamilton’s credit that he is not real concerned if folks agree or disagree with him and I do believe that he would think no less of me for my perspective.

I was talking with one of the women in the Friday Bible Study and she has already placed herself in one of the three “perspectives” (same one as I have chosen) and then she went on to read the next chapter on Hinduism and found herself drawn to some of the basic beliefs of that faith.

I like that. I like that she (and hopefully, many of those studying in the coming weeks will do the same) has found truths in other religions. I like that she realizes we cannot put ourselves into absolute boxes in regards to our religion and faith. I know we are all seeking absolute answers in our faith…but what if the answer is that ….there are few absolutes?

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing