Sunday, September 6, 2009

God unites but religion divides

I had recently lost a dear friend, very suddenly. He had a heart attack while swimming in the sea and drowned as a result.

I'm Christian, he's Muslim. But we got on perfectly fine. We spoke often about our religions. We discussed the concept of God, salvation, heaven, hell. We shared our frustrations with our own religions, dogma, conservatism, and I realised we were not so different after all. We both belonged to a younger generation of Christians and Muslims, educated, middle class, and more exposed to the world beyond our national borders.

Yet, when I went to his funeral, I found myself struggling. How was I to pray for this dear friend of mine if my religion teaches that only believers of Jesus Christ can enter into the kingdom of Heaven? Should I pray that his family would come to know Christ some day? How can I be so presumptuous to think that they are wrong in their faith?

I prayed that God be with his family in the end. And I'm sure he has been. But I've thought long and hard about what all this means.

Can I be a true friend to those of a different faith?

We chose to focus on the similarities of our faith rather than the dogmatic differences. We chose friendship, peace and pluralism over religion, dogma and separatism. Yet, when it came to his last day, I had no peace in my heart. Blame it on my Christian upbringing? Perhaps.

But something another good friend told me is true. I cannot force myself to believe something that my heart doesn't agree to. And for the last decade, since I started thinking seriously about my faith, my heart tells me that going out there to try and convert as many people as I can is absolutely not the way to go.

Jesus didn't approach the gentiles preaching about how they were all going to hell if they didn't believe in him. He first loved them, healed them, fed them and prayed for them. The rest came of itself. They were moved by his life and his words because he lived them, not because he merely spoke them like the pharisees did.

The churches we see today are divided. What does this say about religion? While churches often report how we are in the midst of revival just because XX thousands of people made confessions of faith, but how many have continued in their faith and lived their faith? Do any of these churches keep track of these numbers? I doubt it, and for good reason, because I think they will only be disheartened.

Can we ever divorce God from religion? Can we not just call ourselves followers of God instead of Christian, Muslim or what not. Why are we wasting resources trying to convert people when we should be feeding the poor, protecting the oppressed, standing up against injustice. To say that this body is but temporary, which would be exchanged for a glorious and perfect one in heaven is but an excuse for inaction.

How do you expect someone who lived an entire life of poverty and oppression to die with no bitterness and anger towards God? How do u think such a person can enter into the glorious gates of heaven?


Anonymous said...

The Church was divided as early as the days of Paul. There is little doubt that Jesus is real. The problem is in the ego and ambition of men. I believe in Jesus but I often find myself questioning the Bible. For now, I believe the only thing that matters is Jesus' love for us. And a child-like devotion to him. Perhaps he meant that he is the easiest and surest path (relatively speaking) to salvation. Even CS Lewis (the Christian writer) in the last book of Narnia questioned this and conceded that perhaps Muslims too can enter the Kingdom of God.

But for now, lets just stick to Jesus and do\live the best we can.

God Bless.


Carpediem said...

Thank you Passerby. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this thread of thinking.

Bless you!

AC said...

Live by the commandments Jesus has left us, which is love. All will fall in place after.

A great example to follow will be Mother Teresa.

Anonymous said...

if you follow christianity to its's logical conclusion, it can only lead to division and conflicts. christianity is an exclusive religion centered on jesus. anyone who denies this central tenet denies god and reap damnation.

jesus did not preach today's christian gospel.

the christian gospel is idolatrous.

jesus gospel is anti idolatrous.

the christian gospel will lead to wars.

jesus gospel draws ALL men to him.

but what is HIM???????????????

rem said...

Researcher of Koi,
I hear u and i sympathise with u.
Indeed, i have often asked this same question many times.
must religion be so divisive?
why can't we just get along?

take care. Uncle Kopitaste prays for your well-being.

Anonymous said...

Religion of some form is found universially in humans in all ages in all cultures, just as music. Therefore, like music, there is is a biological basis for religion. It is once of those things that humans do. Recognizing this is fundamental to understanding what God isn't and our place in the universe. God, my friends is above all your earthly religions. Unknowable,inscrutable, God is beyond our understanding, our reason, our faith, our religion. God is what he is. Not what we say he is. What God has done is create a universe for us that we, through the gifts he has given us, can understand and in time and through that understanding, we may come to know some infintessimal part of what he truely is. Science has shown man more of what God is, than any religion made by man. Whenever a religion says that you cant be saved unless you believe in my religion, by saying just that, it surely denys God as much as any atheist.

Anonymous said...

dont worry my christian friend prophet JESUS is going to turn back on the planet earth.

Anonymous said...

Carpe Diem,
Thank you for your thoughtful words.
In my experience, nothing encourages rancor, discord, and even hatred among people as much as differences in belief with respect to Religion and politics.
There are people in this world today who believe that the religion which they profess is the only way to heaven. Some believe this so strongly that they are willing to give up their lives in order to kill those who believe otherwise.
There are other religions which teach that belief in a certain person/god is a passport to heaven, and without such passport, entry is forbidden.
Still others believe that heaven is what one makes of their life on Earth.
To which of these "religions" do you belong?

All three share a belief in monotheism, and yet even that should not be a requirement for the rewards offered by the Universe for living a life guided by the one Supreme Law of the Universe: treat others the same way that you would want to be treated. Period.
That's all.
Spirituality is the most personal thing that there is in this life. Who am I to tell a person how to live a life?
As for me, my God knows the ways of my heart. My God is not your God. You are most likely thankful for that. My spiritual framework is one that, in my heart, I've thought out, worked out, and am trying to live. My God asks for no more than that. And while I obtain strength, wisdom, and courage from the actions and words of others, what I ultimately believe is on me and me alone. How I treat and respect other things in this glorious, unknowable Universe, including living and non-living things, by definition determines my place in it.