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The Dalai Lama once said, "The biggest obstacle to interfaith tolerance, is a bad relationship with one's own faith tradition."

 

Thoughts on this quote?

 

 

 

I personally love this quote, and it rings with so much truth. But what's sad is that this not only applies to inter-faith relations, but that it continues to be a strong reality even between Christian denominations -within- the faith. It plagues Christianity in so many ways.. People often think they have an amazing relationship with God -- and perhaps they do in and of themselves -- and it ends there. A good portion of them go on to have a really crappy relationship with other faithful -people-. It is such a disservice to God on so many levels, when we've been commanded above all other commands to love not only God, but each other as well. In a way, this comes full circle to again question the health of one's relationship with his or her own religion, and how they truly understand it.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd put the quote up for discussion. Thoughts?

Edited by ada
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Ada,

I appreciate you raising this question/topic. Something that has been going on in my life is the realization how immense God is. I am wondering if the reason there is intolerance towards other faiths or denominations, is because each have brought God down to human level and claimed God for their own...and have modeled Him in their minds in a way that fits their version of what a God should be...and then to them, what God IS.

 

Therefore, if they believe that God IS THAT specific kind of God...Who only accepts as right, THEIR kind of lifestyles...then it would make it evident to them to try and convince others to either convert and believe the same way they do...or be doomed or excluded.

 

To me, how can we ever, EVER say exactly who God is?? If He (I say He, because I look at God as a Father) indeed is the Creator of the Universe and knows the very inner, minuet-workings of each heart...therefore, IF HE IS THIS gargantuan, then how can anyone know enough-even a fraction- about God to be able to define Him??? In fact, how can we have the gall to even try?!? To me, shouldn't we do the contrary? Be humble/overcome and even reverently silent?? At least respectful, knowing we do not and cannot have God all figured out??

 

 

The Dalai Lama once said, "The biggest obstacle to interfaith tolerance, is a bad relationship with one's own faith tradition."

 

Thoughts on this quote?

 

 

 

I personally love this quote, and it rings with so much truth. But what's sad is that this not only applies to inter-faith relations, but that it continues to be a strong reality even between Christian denominations -within- the faith. It plagues Christianity in so many ways.. People often think they have an amazing relationship with God -- and perhaps they do in and of themselves -- and it ends there. A good portion of them go on to have a really crappy relationship with other faithful -people-. It is such a disservice to God on so many levels, when we've been commanded above all other commands to love not only God, but each other as well. In a way, this comes full circle to again question the health of one's relationship with his or her own religion, and how they truly understand it.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd put the quote up for discussion. Thoughts?

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I think of the inter-religious intolerance issue as the mistaking Holiness for Hospitality. By the Two Great Commandments we are called to be Holy, Loving God, and Hospitable, loving ourselves and each other. There are many ways to be Holy within any religious tradition: postures of prayer, dietary rules, special clothing, vocabulary, chastity, heterosexuality, etc. Private personal behaviors. It is a violation of the call to love one another to insist that anyone follow the same Holy laws that I follow.

 

And I think the emphasis on our own understanding of the Holiness Laws limits God as you suggest, Jenny.

 

Dutch

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Dutch...I'm sorry, you lost me. I do not limit God...or truly endeavor not to...so I am not really sure where you are coming from??? I think I made it quite clear about what I was saying. I believe that if any group (because there are hundreds and hundreds of them) believes they have God all figured out, then they are likely to insist others follow "their" God as well. Therefore, I believe that it is most important (or at least something to consider), that we keep our hearts and minds open and be humble and not self-righteous concerning how we handle our own understanding of God...because God is too big and limitless, to be confined in anyone definition...which I thought this site was all about...?? I believe with all my heart that Christ is Divine and IS the One I follow...and I would hope that others come to see Him as the One to follow too. However, I believe that The Divine is so utterly immense that I KNOW that there is still a LOT I do not know about Him OR spiritual things in general for that matter...I will be learning for the rest of my life. This is why I prefer not to argue spiritual things with people, because how can we pit our spiritual experiences against each others, or why would we even want to? However, I am also endeavoring to be tolerant towards those who believe that they DO have the best understanding of God and/or spiritual things...thus the whole idea of tolerance!?

 

Say, I am not familiar with the Two Great Commandments or the Holiness Laws...do you have to believe in those rules in order to be part of this tolerance site??

 

 

I think of the inter-religious intolerance issue as the mistaking Holiness for Hospitality. By the Two Great Commandments we are called to be Holy, Loving God, and Hospitable, loving ourselves and each other. There are many ways to be Holy within any religious tradition: postures of prayer, dietary rules, special clothing, vocabulary, chastity, heterosexuality, etc. Private personal behaviors. It is a violation of the call to love one another to insist that anyone follow the same Holy laws that I follow.

 

And I think the emphasis on our own understanding of the Holiness Laws limits God as you suggest, Jenny.

 

Dutch

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I have a couple of thoughts regarding this.

 

First, I think there is a lot of truthin that quote, but I also think that it can be dangerously deceptive. I believe that the narratives in which we dwell matter. The storiesthat guide life identify what is meaningful/meaningless, right/wrong,good/bad. Therefore, I believe that we have a responsibility todisempower narratives that birth destruction in this world, whetherit be on a social level or the level of personal wellbeing. A goodexample of a destructive narrative is that which empowers abusivereligion.

 

The Dalai Lama's quote runs the dangerof protecting religious traditions (which includes their beliefsystems) from the need to change when they reveal themselves to beharmful. So, the religious ideology of an abusive religion doesn'tneed to change, because the real problem is that the people in thesystem who are abusive don't get it. The quote does not recognizethe power that narratives have in the meaning-making process, and asa result threatens to give "traditional" religion a blank check.

 

Second, there are pagans out there whoargue that "Christianity" isn't a diverse religion worshiping asingle deity through a variety of different interpretations of thatdeity. Instead, they argue that different approaches intoChristianity, while they seem to be the same on the surface, actuallyreveal themselves to be worshiping different deities. So, the god ofthe fundamentalists is a completely different deity than the god ofprogressives, which is identifiable in their different characters,desires, and actions. If this argument were to be taken seriously(and I think we should be open to outside critique and perspectives),then the biggest obstacle to interfaith tolerance is that many peopleare in a faithful relationship with a deity who is intolerant.

 

Third, I don't want the above commentsto overshadow the truth I believe is in that quote. Traditions havethe capacity to transmit a considerable amount of beauty through thestreams of time. Not always are people in touch with theirabundance.

 

Edit: Please pardon the funky spacing here and there. It's the result of a copy/paste from an Open Office document.

Edited by XianAnarchist
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XA,

 

I agree that it is important to identify subsets of a religious tradition that may pose problems of abuse, terrorism, and other evils. Islam, as a timely example, can be divided into at least two groups: moderates and extremists. Now, there is no compelling reason I can think of why we cannot identify these two as two separate religions, except for the fact that they partake of the same history, scripture, etc. So too with Christian fundamentalists vs. progressives. In fact the fundamentalists are very quick to say that we do not worship the same God or practice the same religion. We tend to be very hesitant to retort with the same line, but I think we all know that our idea(s) of God is very different from theirs.

 

Therefore we tend to, rather than denying Islamic radicals the claim to Islam, recognize them as extremists, radicals, or the like. We generally see these as bad expressions of religion that are yet contained in the tradition, because they identify and are causally related to the tradition. We are dealing with the conventions of language, I would say. What makes me a Christian is my identifying with some part of the tradition and community on the whole. I can’t prove that I am a Christian otherwise - but then again, nobody can tell me I’m not. Therefore, it seems like we have no choice but to allow people the claim to whatever religion they identify with, and then label them accordingly to whatever subset they represent: mainstream, orthodox, moderate, liberal, conservative, fundamentalist, radical, cultist, extremist, etc. It is probably only incumbent upon us to place labels where the danger of abuse and terrorism are present. So long as radicals are drawing from it and identify a continuity with it, it seems they have a relationship with what must be called ‘their faith tradition’. This does not mean, however, and you are right to point out, that the narratives they tell themselves are the same as those of a more moderate and liberal perspectives. Their ideologies and driving stories must be condemned, deconstructed, and refuted. There is no one story behind any major religion, so in effect, the narratives of radicalism are false.

 

Now regarding the Dalia Lama’s quote, I'm not sure that there is any such allowance given for religious abuse in the logic of the statement, because he states specifically that a ‘bad relationship’ with one's own faith tradition correlates to bad interfaith relations. Therefore it implicitly denies the validity of religious views that are inherently intolerant - such views constitute a “bad” approach to their own religion.

 

I agree that the stories we dwell in matter very much, but the problem inherent in that, as I'm sure you know, is that it becomes easy to assume that one’s story is the only story. This is not only the problem with religion but with culture, society, and especially nationalism. We all must learn that there is room enough in reality for more than one valid narrative. We are all too familiar with the fact that there can be more than one false idea about the world - but we are not often aware that there can be more than one true idea about the world. God, to me, is a source of meaning behind any true story. Stories are true when they lead back to the Source.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Jenny,

 

I apologize. I was referring to the following when I was thinking about limiting God.

 

Therefore, if they believe that God IS THAT specific kind of God...Who only accepts as right, THEIR kind of lifestyles.

 

If we believe that our understanding of the what it is to be Holy is the only way then the God with which we are in relationship is limited.

 

Dutch

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Jenny,

 

 

Say, I am not familiar with the Two Great Commandments or the Holiness Laws...do you have to believe in those rules in order to be part of this tolerance site??

 

I am sorry if I offended you. :(

 

You don't have to believe in any "rules" I referenced to explain my understanding of the source of inter-religious intolerance. Holiness and Hospitality are the framework. If it doesn't work as a reference for you it doesn't work. I use "Holiness" to stand for "Love the Lord your God with all your heart ..." and "Hospitality" to represent "Love your neighbor as your self." For example, If I insist that others practice religion the same way I do - pray with arms up, or observe the Sabbath or be chaste or wear a particular article of clothing, say the same things about God that I do, shave, don't shave, put fish on my car, pledge to the flag, wear a flag lapel pin - and that if they don't do as I do then I judge them as "un-Holy", demonize them then I can justify my failing to be Hospitable to them justify not loving them as I love myself.

 

Dutch

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The Dalai Lama once said, "The biggest obstacle to interfaith tolerance, is a bad relationship with one's own faith tradition."

 

Thoughts on this quote?

 

Based on what of I have read from the Dalai Lama, I would take this to mean that a "good" relationship to one's own faith is one that overcomes individual afflictive mental states such as clinging to faith (or G_d) in an immature, not fully developed, manner. On this point, I agree. I take the Dalai Lama to mean that a "bad relationship" is much the same as a human relationship with problems of excessive dependency, enmeshment, etc. The primary focus of Buddhism is to look into one's own conditioned mental states which, theoretically, should lead to a fully developed state of compassion.

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Dutch,

 

I've taken some "trips" through the internet lately, to see what others say about PC. I find it interesting the multitude of perspectives...especially when I began using other words other then progressive. There are apparently many folks who see that Christianity...as far as that which comes from the conservative viewpoint...needs to be reevaluated in how it has been practiced, and even what role Christ still plays in the whole thing.

 

My background is in the conservative Christian way of thinking. Which is from basically childhood up until about 12 or so yrs ago. So I guess that would mean I was in it for about the 1st 40 yrs of my life...altho things normally don't happen overnite and so I was questioning for several yrs before that.

 

To me, the majority of conservatives, in my view, have defined God so tightly that they do not have room for other perspectives. I also see that they have not only defined God as far as God's character or expectations, but also "dimensionally". In my own family God is, in abstract terms, small - in relation to what I now picture any God to be. I see that the mere idea of a God translates into a being that transcends any human definition...or, that we would at least understand that our perspectives are possibly limited.

 

 

Anyway, this is where I see things. Now in hindsight, I wish I would have said that I believe that one of the keys to tolerance is understanding and being able to speak the other's language a bit...as well as not expecting or assuming the other knows my language when trying to communicate to them my perspectives. For instance, if I wanted to be more tolerant towards the people of another country lets say, then I would not insist that they speak my language so I could begin to understand them. Part of the process would be for ME (the one who is trying to be more tolerant and hopefully more evolved) to learn their language so I can learn to understand and communicate more effectively with them...in essence, it is in my thinking a very proactive endeavor, because there are ways of thinking out there that believe in NOT being tolerant towards other ways of thinking, and so they are not going to build any bridges! Therefore, it is in the hands of the "enlightened" to not only be the ones reaching out, but possibly to even be the ones that set an example of a Divine love that transcends our own thought processes and human perspectives.

 

 

 

Jenny,

 

 

 

 

I am sorry if I offended you. :(

 

You don't have to believe in any "rules" I referenced to explain my understanding of the source of inter-religious intolerance. Holiness and Hospitality are the framework. If it doesn't work as a reference for you it doesn't work. I use "Holiness" to stand for "Love the Lord your God with all your heart ..." and "Hospitality" to represent "Love your neighbor as your self." For example, If I insist that others practice religion the same way I do - pray with arms up, or observe the Sabbath or be chaste or wear a particular article of clothing, say the same things about God that I do, shave, don't shave, put fish on my car, pledge to the flag, wear a flag lapel pin - and that if they don't do as I do then I judge them as "un-Holy", demonize them then I can justify my failing to be Hospitable to them justify not loving them as I love myself.

 

Dutch

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Dutch good to see your words. They are always thought provoking.

 

The Dalai Lama once said, "The biggest obstacle to interfaith tolerance, is a bad relationship with one's own faith tradition."

 

The Dalai Lama is a very good man who is wise.

 

As the Dalai Lama says, I feel acceptance is the key because when we accept others, we accept ourselves and are not disturbed with the things around us; we notice that these things have a purpose in being the way they are. Acceptance does not punish or reward a man because it is simply a way to help us live with happiness, health, success, sorrow, disease and failure. It helps us live in harmony with Nature's Laws, observing the law of cause and effect in perfect harmony with one's individual demands; therefore, my way to change my condition in life is to change my mind about life. It helps us to live in the present, here and now.

 

Biodiversity is a blessing in faith and life with so many choices, so many opportunities to know God in His/Her and Its infinite variety.

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Dutch, I also have a tendency to do the same thing. I think we all do. However, I do think tolerance has to start with me...then radiate out from there as I believe it stems from an attitude of the heart. An attitude that is humble enough to admit that we do not have all the answers. That we may not understand all the dynamics of communicating effectively (to the other person). I like the picture of someone who enters a room that has been filling up with gas fumes...the person who has been in there doesn't notice anything, in essence - it is common and familiar to them. Yet the person who walks in is ready to scream and say, "Get out of here!! Don't you smell it?? Oh, no...open the windows!!

 

We all have a tendency to expect others to do what we think is the right things to do and in the ways we think they should be done, yet we have to realize that they may not be smelling the fumes! SO, therefore, we have to back-up and be ready to realize that they may not even speak the same language or come from the same reference points as we do. I think that if we truly want to be a tolerant person, and one that communicates well, then it is might behoove us to step into the other persons world a little bit first.

Take care,

Jenny

Jenny

 

 

 

Yes. I didn't take the time.

 

Dutch

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think focusing on the deficiencies of those who can not be tolerant does not lead to a solution in the struggle for inter-religious tolerance, acceptance, enjoyment of our differences. As has been acknowledged communication is key and so is recognizing fundamental differences in how followers of the same tradition seem to be followers of different Gods. Although I often start from XA's position that the extreme do follow different Gods I don't think it is helpful if I want to persuade a faction to "return to the fold."

 

Also I wonder if seeing the intolerant as having less developed states is of much help. There is a ladder of faith development (I can't recall the person who should be given credit.) If the ladder is looked at as a measure of progressive development then those who never get beyond concrete thinking will be considered delayed and somehow less. If we view them as religiously disabled what accommodations should we be making according to the ADA? :) Another approach is to place the ladder on it's side which represents the diversity we find among thereligious.

 

One answer for creating an atmosphere for inter-religious tolerance is to seek to do mission together. Although often successful there is not always an easy answer to the question, "Can we work together?" Tolerant people do well working together. But there are significant difficulties that cannot be overlooked. One of my pastors in a deeply divided church said lets just do mission and forget our theological differences. The problem is that sometimes you cannot ignore theology when you do mission. I worked in a non-profit and once received a call from a church which offered to provide a substantial number of volunteers. I did not accept their offer because they wanted to proselytize while tutoring.

 

Can we tolerate the intolerant and allow them to participate meaningfully in the public square or will we always push them aside. One of the major efforts of the ecumenical project of the 20th century was to find beliefs in common and to say "We all believe thus . . " or "We all believe that Christs calls us to this action . . . " One Eastern Orthodox clergy expressed frustration that the Eastern Orthodox church always wrote the minority opinion and urged the church's withdrawal from the Ecumenical effort.

 

Churches who make exclusive claims on truth are most difficult to include in a pluralistic society but three such found common cause. The Roman Catholic Church, The Eastern Orthodox Church, and conservative Christians, who have said terrible things about the Catholic Church in the past, all joined in the political efforts to promote Pro-Life stances policies.

 

Some hardline atheists are hoping to stop public Xmas displays in public spaces. In some areas local official had the guts to allow the atheists to set "Happy Solstice; there is no God" poster with the other displays. The atheists hope others bad behavior will stop the Xmas custom. It is my fervent hope that they will always be allowed and that those posters will become another part of the holidays.

 

A friend of my wife stopped talking to her when we joined a church with a lesbian pastor. One of the steps out of the silence occurred when the friend celebrated with us at my daughter's memorial and met the pastor - the human connection. Hospitality won over Holiness. The command to love one another won over the OT passages which describe how we remind ourselves that we are set apart as God's children.

 

 

Take care

 

Dutch

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In my own observation..what I think is the biggest cause of division and thus an anti-inner-faith mind-set is putting doctrinal beliefs above compassion. Far right faiths get so overly focus on proving that their doctrines are right and everyone's elses is wrong..that they forget kindness..Thus Having to be "Right" trumps 'wanting' to be "kind" to one another.

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I think focusing on the deficiencies of those who can not be tolerant does not lead to a solution in the struggle for inter-religious tolerance, acceptance, enjoyment of our differences.
glintofpewter

 

I agree with this quote because we reach romantic maturity when we accept our significant other for who they are and stop trying to change them. When we stop taking things so seriously and reacting to every little thing then we start seeing our partners in a significant way. We don't try to make lions herbivores, we enjoy them for what they are. I feel we can't trust another till we trust ourselves, because if we don’t trust ourselves then how do you know who’s trustworthy?

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>>Glint: Although I often start from XA's position that the extreme do follow different Gods...<<

 

Quick point of clarification: This is not necessarily my perspective. I was just presenting that as an alternative to the dominant one that assumes that the Divine is One. It enables us to look at the significantly more conservative approaches to Christianity not as being "wrong" or "less right", but rather as being "right in their own religious way, a way that manifests faithfully the spirit of their God, albeit a way that is distinctly not our religious way, for the character of our God is different." This is not an argument for or against; just an optional perspective.

 

>>Glint: Also I wonder if seeing the intolerant as having less developed states is of much help. There is a ladder of faith development (I can't recall the person who should be given credit.) If the ladder is looked at as a measure of progressive development then those who never get beyond concrete thinking will be considered delayed and somehow less.<<

 

The author you are thinking of is James Fowler. He looked at faith development in light of developmental psychology. Ultimately, his theory can be summed up by saying that as human beings continue to engage their world in a healthy manner, their sense of identity with other human beings expands. This outward expansion can be represented with concentric rings of identification, each with their own postures toward the "insiders" and "outsiders" that reflect their sense of connection with their Ultimate Concern. (Hmm, come to think of it, isn't there a thread here about Fowler? I'll have to look around.)

 

I actually find Folwer's approach helpful when dealing with others. It reminds me that we are allin different places in life. Of course, I would not say to someone, "you're being very concrete in your thinking about God." Instead, I try to recognize where the person seems to be and use that understanding to help me to connect with them while we talk. Furthermore, developmental psychology has in it a (as it was described to me) "law of readiness." People won't be able to identify with others until they are "ready." That is a process that can only be nudged, not forced.

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Zionanachist, I like your approach. It seems like it would be very effective, caring, and compassionate.

 

"My movements are different not for the sake of being different,

They are different for the sake of being effective.."

 

~ Robert Bussey ~

Master Togakure ryu Ninjutsu

"King of Combat"

Reknown Self Defense / Protection Expert

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I tend to think the biggest obstacle is religious bigotry. Bigotry being a fundamental human flaw with the religions of the world attempting (some better than others) to help curb our animalistic tendencies.

 

steve

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Guest billmc

Anyway, just thought I'd put the quote up for discussion. Thoughts?

 

Ada, I initially saw your question on another Christian forum. I don't know how often you frequent that forum so I thought I would post my 2c here:

 

I, too, have contentions with the Christianity of my past and with how some traditional/fundamentalist/conservative Christians see things and act. But it certainly isn't a matter of thinking that I am better than they are or that I have arrived spiritually while they haven't. Rather, it is that I know that their worldview (which used to be mine) is so different from the one I now hold to that I believe they often have a different agenda for humanity and for the world, an agenda that, IMO, could actually lead to harm, and perhaps destruction.

 

For instance, if you believe that Jesus is going to return and kill all of God's enemies, of what value is "unsaved" human life?

 

Or if you believe that wars are preordained by God for our time, why seek peace or resolution to world/cultural conflicts?

 

Or if you believe that God is going to destroy the earth soon, why care for it now?

 

Or if you believe that God actually commanded the death of homosexuals, why be offended if one is dragged to death behind an automobile?

 

Or if you believe that this world is not our home, why try to make a difference here and now?

 

Though I value many of the teachings of Jesus, I find that I have more in common ethically and morally with unbelievers, agnostics, and atheists than I usually do with my conservative "brothers and sisters", who are, religiously speaking, part of my spiritual family. We just usually aren't on the same page. This certainly doesn't mean that I hate them or that I would refuse to join up with them in a humanitarian effort. But I do often wonder if we worship the same God and believe in the same Jesus.

 

If I believed that "God is in control" of the world and that everything that happens is going according to his divine plan, I suppose I could turn a blind eye to it all and expect it to come out in the wash. :) But seeing as I believe that humanity actually has the power and responsibility to shape our collective destiny and home (or, in biblical language, that we are our brother's keepers and have stewardship over our world), it does frighten me when some Christians use God, Jesus, and the Bible to support their violent or apathetic agendas. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often. But it does happen.

 

I attempt, occasionally, to deal with this by focusing on the commonalities. But I sometimes feel as though while my more conservative brother and sisters metaphorically know the same actors and actresses that I do, the movies we are watching and learning from are completely different. The plots are not the same. So it makes discussion difficult. It is, therefore, still an area where I need to grow.

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Hi Bill, nice to see you back here.

 

You wrote, “I believe that humanity actually has the power and responsibility to shape our collective destiny and home…it does frighten me when some Christians use God, Jesus, and the bible to support their violent or apathetic agendas.” Totally agree.

 

You also said, ”I attempt, occasionally, to deal with this by focusing on the commonalities. But I sometimes feel as though while my more conservative brother and sisters know the same actors and actresses that I do, the movies we watch and learn from are completely different. So it makes discussion difficult.”

 

I identify with this –might be interesting to talk about a meaningful film here. Off and on I’ve posted on a forum on popular culture where members seem to be orthodox or fundamentalist. Yet I was surprised to see a thread where a number of them discussed and mostly accepted the 8 points of PC. I believe it’s possible to connect with the “other side” of Christianity in a constructive way, but my own lack of interpersonal skills or instincts gets in the way. Often people who enjoy writing are not so good at communication :lol: I guess that’s why I admire the biblical Paul so much, not only was he brilliant at rhetoric and theology, he was able to relate emotionally/spiritually to a sharply divided world and draw the fragments together. And I like to think of progressive Christianity as recovering the original open, accepting Way Jesus taught.

 

As Tariki said earlier, “I think our faith is either a fortress to defend against all comers, or a safe haven and rock which gives us the trust and courage to reach out to others.”

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Guest billmc

Hi, Karen, nice to see you, too. My reference to films, actors, and actresses was merely a metaphor that illustrates that although I might use the same words as my conservative brothers and sisters (God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, sin, heaven, hell, etc.), I mean different things by these words than they typically do. This can be an opening of conversation between us, especially if we try to get to the ideas behind the words or the “spirit” behind the “letter.” Or, if they insist on being monolithic about their usage (such as salvation only means going from hell-bound to heaven-bound), these words become stumbling blocks between us.

 

>> I believe it’s possible to connect with the “other side” of Christianity in a constructive way, but my own lack of interpersonal skills or instincts gets in the way.

 

Mine, too. It’s a challenge. Typically, I just don’t know when to shut up and drop a subject. :) I was recently in conservation with a fellow musician from the UK on a music forum. He really liked my online music, especially my “Christian” stuff. So he asked me if I was born again. I found it a little odd that he would ask me such a question given the quantity and variety of Christian music that I have on my website. I told him that I had been saved when I was 12 years old and have spent a great deal of my life in church, serving as musician and Sunday School teacher. But my answer still wasn’t specifically what he was looking for. He wanted to know if I had personally put my faith and trust in the Jesus who was God, who died for my sins, rose physically from the grave, and who could rescue me from going to hell. I replied, in brief, that my interpretation of Jesus’ mission and of salvation was much broader than that particular synopsis. End of conversation. He didn’t want to speak with me further because my interpretation did not match his own which, of course, he believed was the only correct one to hold to. The end result was that while he enjoyed my music, I wasn’t worth getting to know any further because I didn’t line up with his theological understanding.

 

>>And I like to think of progressive Christianity as recovering the original open, accepting Way Jesus taught.

 

This rings true with me as well, Karen. I know that, according to modern critical scholarship, we probably have very few words of the “real” Jesus of Nazareth. We have interpretations of what he said or how he lived. Nevertheless, when we look at the gospels comprehensively, Jesus’ teachings are much more centered on what we do rather than on what we believe. And I think this is key to getting past the divide between conservative and liberal Christians. This is my opinion only, but I think it is almost fruitless to try to iron out all the theological wrinkles that exist in the garment of Christianity between the liberals and the conservatives. All of those wrinkles should remind all of us that none of us understands all truth, that none of us can escape our own subjectivity. This isn’t a weakness because our own subjectivity shows that our faith is personal.

 

But what we can do is to put on the garment and get busy making a difference. And, yes, I know that many, many of us are doing this. Or we can share the garment or give it away. We don’t have to have our theology settled in order to give a cup of cold water or feed someone or help provide shelter, etc. Thankfully, there are many parachurch and even secular organizations who are doing just this – without insisting that any doctrinal or creedal system of belief held to. As long as the faith that is held to is life-affirming, why can’t we work together for a common good or goal?

 

I heard on the radio this week (a secular Oldies station at that) that there are about 400,000 churches in the US and that if every church gave just $30 towards the crisis in Haiti, everyone affected there would have the temporary shelter, food, and water that they needed in order to rebuild their lives. This wouldn’t require Christians ironing out theological differences; it would simply require compassion that leads to action. Of course, if one’s theology tells one that the tragedy in Haiti is the result of God’s punishment upon that nation, well, it would probably be futile to ask those kinds of Christians to join hands. But I don’t think most Christians believe this way. In fact, I believe most Christians are better than some of the theology they hold to. :)

 

Well, as I said at the start, I don’t know when to shut up. So I better do so now. Good thing God never called me to be a preacher. :) My congregation would pay me not to preach. Ha ha! But I just wanted to say that I think you’re right that the bridge to good relations between the left hand of Christianity and the right hand of Christianity must go through the heart, the "Way" of Christ.

 

Have a great day, Karen.

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Guest billmc

One small, further thought on this question. In my life, it has been important to me to understand why my religious tradition is the way that it is (especially the negative aspects of it) and also to forgive myself for buying into those negative aspects. Specifically, I became a Christian in order to save myself from going to hell (despite my claim that it was Jesus who was doing the saving). And I spent a good share of my adult life trying to ensure that I had the right beliefs in order to calm the "demons" in my soul that whispered to me that I wasn't where I should be.

 

But I accepted Jesus at a precritical age via an authoritarian method, much as a child learns to believe in Santa Claus. Granted, as adults we don't demean or punish ourselves for no longer believing in the jolly old Elf, but the theism of childhood is not so quick banished. I am still working through the forgiveness part, accepting that all of life is a learning process.

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