Last night we had a discussion in housegroup lovely local person who is an interfaith minister. It was a chance to meet and share our perspectives, which is always such a blessing.
Check out this clip if you want to know more about the idea of interfaith ministry-
Carolyn spoke movingly of her journey through growing up in the Church of Scotland, through working with Buddhist nuns in India, and the deep spirituality she found in the practice of Yoga. She described her experience of feeling that her spirituality was being simplified and reduced to a kind of pure essence- and how she came to believe that this essence flowed through all the different religious traditions.
If you are interested in some of the services/ceremonies that Carolyn provides, she has a website, here.
I have written before about my own encounters with the concept of universalism (here and here for example. Check out the words of the George Matheson hymn in the second of these two posts.)
Last night was a chance to reflect again on what is precious to me about the faith I have found- and to do this in a spirit of generosity and openness towards other perspectives. I believe that we have nothing to fear and lots to gain from these opportunities.
Truth sets us free- it should never lock us up into theological defensive castelations. I have spent too long behind these kind of walls. Let us celebrate what we have in common, and allow our easy assumptions to be challenged by people who look from a different angle.
So here are a few of my thoughts emerging from our discussion last night- they are not intended as a critique of Carolyn’s position in any way- more a little internal mastication of my own…
Jesus. He is the personification of all that I follow. Despite all the baggage that his followers have accrued over the years, he remains the best of what we aspire to be- for both Christians and people of other faiths.
Inherited tradition. We stand on the platform built for us by people of faith that went before. And although it is right to question and wrestle with this, it is also wise to respect it, and allow it to become a means by which God shapes us and reaches for us, as we reach for him.
Simplification/deconstruction. This has been the story of my own faith journey over the last few years. For a while I seemed to be questioning everything. But I have come to believe that our theological constructs are vehicles of faith- at their best, they are ways of travelling towards (and with) God. None of them are perfect- but what use is a car with no wheels? Spanners tighten nuts as well was remove them.
Individualism. I think that we each have the right to seek out truth for ourselves- but I also believe that we always do this in community. Our faith develops through enlightenment and inspiration, but also through discussion, shared celebration, teaching and modelling by others. I am interested perhaps most in small theologies, worked out in community, in respectful criticism of the big theologies that we inherit.
Sacrifice. At the heart of the Christian tradition is the concept of sacrificial living- a life that finds purpose in serving others. Jesus constantly challenges us to reject faith is that becomes self centred. The kind of faith that is overly concerned with self actuation, self-fulfilment and personal health and healing. These things might be by products of living the Jesus way (or they might not) but they are never the object.
Difference. We had a discussion last night about the essence of faith- which for Carolyn, and perhaps for me too, is a matter of the heart, not the head. But we humans are so different- our personalities, our gender, our education, our culture- these all skew and influence the way that we explore the concept of the divine. We spoke a little too about the gender difference- how the sorts of soft spiritualities that we had in common tend to alienate men. I think that we need both and- and that we need to trust in a God who reaches for us through many different media.
Lots of questions remain for me- I think they always will. All the business of whether or not God does indeed reveal himself through different religious traditions. The implications of this for our scripture, our theology and our eschatology.
I am determined to remain open, generous and reflective- and this means being prepared to be wrong- both in terms of what I stand on now, and what I might move towards in the future. How else are we to be real pilgrims?
But equally, I remain a follower of Jesus. This is the starting point for me for any adventure.
The rest is up to the Spirit within all of us…