Skip to content


November 24, 2015

For the past four weeks I have been teaching a class at our church in which we have discussed religious diversity, religious extremism, and the path to peace.  On this week of Thanksgiving it seems appropriate to pray for peace, so I share my reflection, a brief summary of my presentations at Immanuel. (About two pages in length.)

As difficult as it may be for some Christians to accept, God loves other nations as much as he loves the USA. Arabic and Islamic nations are now being torn between opposing ideologies, Western secularism which holds the promise of freedom and democracy, and Islam which holds the belief that Allah has given us laws by which to live. Conservative Muslims continue the call to Jihad, a struggle against all worldly forces which would separate us from Allah, including American interference in political and economic issues. Moderate Muslims see the possibility of maintaining the faith in a pluralistic culture. Radical Muslims believe their faith represents the truth, and all the world should be converted to Islam. Ironically, the same divergent views are held by moderate and conservative Christians, equally committed to either co-existence in a pluralistic world, or to a mission of conversion for Christ.

All human beings, of every race and religion, are the Creator’s children (for those who believe in a Creator). All human beings are paradoxically good and evil, holy and sinful, wise and foolish. The problem is not “religion,” as some scientists and atheists contend, but in ignorant or naïve, extreme or unenlightened expressions of religion. Every religion needs to warn its observers of the dangers of zealotry. Passionate, well-reasoned beliefs are good. There is nothing inherently wrong with commitment, sacrifice, and dedication; but when taken to the extreme, these virtues can become distorted and twisted into spiritual blindness and evil passions.

Our friends of the Buddhist faith encourage all souls to seek enlightenment. Science and religion seek truth. What is enlightenment? What is truth? These age-old questions are being explored in new and relevant ways. Science has given humanity a new perspective on many aspects of reality, on the nature of the universe, on how our world has evolved and changed, on how things work, and often, why they are the way they are. Religion is being forced to come to terms with these facts, findings, and theories (which, if not proven, provide the most logical and consistent explanation for many phenomenon).

Most scientists exhibit humility, acknowledging that the more we know, the more we realize is still unknown. Proponents of religion have also been humbled by the amazing discoveries of science. We might say we are awed by how much control and responsibility the Creator has entrusted to humans. A smug, know-it-all attitude, whether exhibited by a scientist, religious leader, or street thug, is a sure sign of ignorance and lack of enlightenment.

Enlightened individuals are becoming more and more aware of the value and necessity of dialogue. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all lay claim to “divinely inspired scriptures.” These writings tell of our origins, ethics, and beliefs about God. We must find ways to explore the truths within these writings which do not deny the truth within the scriptures of others. For example, within the Christian tradition, one common sense principle of interpretation is that: “Every verse or portion of scripture should be interpreted within the context of the whole.” Another example is that of historical context and on-going or progressive revelation. Some laws of the Old Testament or Jewish scriptures no longer seem relevant or valid because history (or God) has so changed our human community (slavery, polygamy, animal sacrifice, etc.).

In our world community, communication has changed the way we interact with other cultures. Most of us are “products” of our nation and religious heritage; but we are broadening our perspectives and beginning to realize that in order to co-exist, we must acknowledge the validity of other cultures and religions. In medieval times, Christians referred to Mohammedans as “infidels,” the same term Muslim extremists now use for Christians. This commitment to dialogue must become part of the mission of each of our world religions. The arrogance of religious extremism and absolutism must be renounced. Perhaps the greatest evil facing our world today is not unfaithfulness, but ignorance.

Faith is more than believing something is true without proof. Faith is the trust I place in God and in the promises God has made through the prophets and through Jesus. This faith of mine is a personal choice and commitment, and I am as certain of this truth as I can be of anything that is beyond verifiable. I cannot prove any of it, nor will I try. It works for me; it seems good as well as right. At the same time I acknowledge the value of many different faiths for those who practice them.

I recognize that others hold their beliefs with similar passion. And I believe they should have the right to do so without interference from me, from any religious institution, or from any state or government. The only exception might be religious practice which is self-evidently harmful to life, society, or the environment; or which flagrantly violates just laws. Terrorist killings such as we have witnessed in Paris and in New York on 9-11 are clearly evil acts of murder for which there is no justification in any religion.

And finally, I believe that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, and that nothing but good can come from humble dialogue, discussing what we believe about the one true God of justice, mercy, and compassion, and why we believe as we do.


One Comment leave one →
  1. skdl permalink
    November 25, 2015 5:52 am

    thank you for sending this to us. I printed it out to read again. Happy Thanksgiving to you two and your boyslove Sharon & darrel


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s