“Why so many religions?” was the focus of our capable trainee assistant David Hume, on Sunday morning (view on Fullarton Connexions’ Facebook page 26/1/20 livestream). He found it hard to prepare for but was helpfully humble, clear, concise, cogent & personal.
David compared Christianity to 4 major world religions. There are numerous similarities and contrasts, but he homed in on the unique intimacy and personal relationship with God, which Jesus introduces us to. Buddhism, through meditation & the 8-fold path encourages us to seek enlightenment like the Buddha; Islam, devoted to one transcendent God through 5 pillars, nurtures reverent respect; Hinduism points us to the worship of many gods & the constant attempt to become better in your next life (reincarnation) through karma & dharma; while Judaism introduces us to an almighty God and the need for a Messiah, but does not recognise Christ as that Deliverer. In contrast Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, reaches into our need to re-unite us with our Divine Parent & Loving Purpose.
Serving on multi-faith teams in the athletes’ villages of Commonwealth Games, Olympics & Paralympics increased my respect for people of other religions. Humour is a great icebreaker and I’ve found much in common with Muslims who adopt the approach of Jesus to some ethical & pastoral situations they face (The Bible is one of Islam’s holy books). Islam’s Sufism is perhaps comparable to Charismatic Christianity. I’ve appreciated the calmness of Buddhists and the history & theology Christians share with Jews. Working together with people of other faiths to serve the spiritual & pastoral needs of athletes and the village workforce proves that it is possible to live & work together with humility & mutual respect; without losing personal conviction about the uniqueness of Christianity, ‘Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the only way to The Father.’ (John 14:6)
David identified some reasons for myriad religions: spiritual fulfilment, fear, upbringing, tradition, desperation & need, search for answers, guilt, socialising & community, comfort & assurance, etc. One runs the risk of being too simplistic in comparing religions, but I see people ‘reaching in, out & up’ for intimacy, significance & transcendence through many pursuits, which may not be called religious (e.g. sport, sex, high experiences, money to do what you want, mindfulness, etc). I believe every human desires & seeks intimacy with God, and that the great disillusionment in our world is that all our attempts to fill the ‘God-hole in our soul’ fall foul because God is too high, holy & beyond us. But God loves us, isn’t content to leave us to our own devices and visits us through Christ. God reaches down into our everyday order & chaos, to live, die & return for us, to lead us into the reason we were designed & made, “To love God with our all & our neighbour as we love our self, forever.”
David got kids up to perform for sweets: count 1-10, recite the alphabet, and give an extraordinary punk version of ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’. Zac stepped up and was ready to perform ballet for a huge box of choc’s, but simply had to accept the box as a gift (and hopefully share it with others). Yes, it’s as simple as that, Jesus knocks on the door of every heart, ready to come in to free us for ‘life in all its fulness’. I actually don’t like the word ‘Religion’, ‘Relationship’ is a much better word it.
“Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:26-27 / MSG)