Monday, August 29, 2005

God is Love

To the exclusion of other points of view, too often media elites parrot born-again Christians' version of salvation and truth.

With the conservative Christian faction in the news from Pat Robertson's latest blunder (calling for an intelligence officer to “take out” Venezuela’s elected president), comments regarding faith and Christianity that travel under the radar screen and are regularly accepted as gospel beckon a dialogue today.

Evangelicals, same as Orthodox Jews and Catholics, assert the Bible is not only the word of God but recorded history, exactly as it happened; no digressions from dogma.

Yet many followers of the faith accept the former but reject the latter; and the wide gorge between the two is not renounced but instead embraced.

For them, the Bible is simply the elixir from which Western man sustains his spiritual life while on earth. It is the riddle solving ale that quenches mankind’s thirst for knowledge of God and His purpose for humanity. The New and Old Testament weep drops of the divine to help humankind understand the world around him.

But so do the Koran and other holy books. Humans are forever seeking the ultimate knower and chronicle their findings in writings.

From the Old Testament, King David said of God in 1 Chronicles 28:19, "I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of his plan."

The Bible is a book of God. But only the Lord imparts understanding.

John Stott, preacher and evangelist extraordinaire, asserts there is no room for “all faiths [to be] independently valid; and David Brooks, of the New York Times in a column, agreed with him in the not-too-distant past.

Still how can Brooks and Stott assert the “central message of the gospel [is] not the teachings” that may also be found in other faiths...?

The New Testament certainly seems to quibble with their dubious notion.

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy ‘mind.’ This the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as your self. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

The central tenet for all religions is love of God and fellow man. All satisfy this cardinal command.

What is more, evangelicals of the Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell ilk seem to exalt Jesus a tad too highly, who after all is only divine because according to scripture God's spirit permeated every drop of blood He gave on the cross.

For televangelists, Jesus is the sole advocate who can guarantee heaven; and any person who does not believe likewise is condemned to hell.

What of a life that is lived as ethically, morally and holy as possible for an earthly being? What of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, take your pick, are they condemned to perdition because they don‘t believe what they don’t...?

Inquiring minds like those of Larry King, Bill Maher, Tim Russert, Chris Matthews and other panel hosts want to know.

But any discussion on the subject is forever stopped on its track by Bible thumping Christians with a quote.

Shrugging shoulders as if to say, "Well sure, if it were up to me I'd let the sorry heathens in…” they cite John 14:6 as proof positive non-Christians are all going to hell.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life," they quote. "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

This is an excerpt from Jesus explaining to his doubting apostle of the path one must take to go where the Master was going, presumably heaven.

This passage is forever enough to stop any foolish, mulish nonbelievers dead on his hoof marks and stop further inquiry. Believe or hell is ones eternal home address.

Yet Jesus never said one “must” believe or else. In fact He also told Thomas to stop worrying about his salvation. In John 14:1, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

He was clarifying to Thomas that He was the way; the spirit of God that was in Him. A spirit, which some might reason could just as easily have permeated every fiber in Buddha, Mohammed or any person God so chose to endow His spirit with.

After all, God is God. Who can argue...?

Out of the mouth of man and to your heart, Jon Meachan, editor of Newsweek once discernibly noted, “We’re all seeking the means of grace in the hope of glory.”

No exactitudes here on earth, please.

What if more people were to hear and heed this added notion...? Just think how the moral focus might change from panic about salvation to security about grace.

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