Another Sunday is here...and as has been the case for a couple decades now...I will not be going to church. Does that mean I have no interest or concern for things "spiritual"...as a matter of fact I do. But I have discovered in life that walking into a church or synagogue doesn't make you a Christian or Jew any more than walking into a garage makes you a car.
I have had a few interesting discussions this week with friends who remain a bit more on the fundamental side of Christianity than I have evolved to. While I have less and less interest in discussing or arguing over "beliefs" or theologies that are somewhat mystical or esoteric...I continue to be interested in what people believe in and why...and then cross check those things with my own current understanding. Understanding what and why people believe helps one better predict their actions and determine potentials within a relationship. When it comes to my own sense about people of faith...I have come up with a "Litmus test" that works for me anyway in determining respect for someone`s faith or religion. For me, the effectiveness of faith depends on what ACTIONS or BEHAVIORS result from those beliefs as to whether I can agree with them or not.
I believe there is "good" faith and "bad" faith. Since my religious heritage is Christian, I tend to revert to many Biblical sayings and teachings even if I have strayed a bit from fundamental zealotry over that book...or collection of books I should say. There is a New Testament scripture that says "faith without works is dead"...and in another part it says "by their fruits your will know them" (referring in context to professing versus real believers). It doesnt take us long in this world to find someone who chirps a lot about their faith or their religious traditions...but their actions or lack of integrity does not match up to their claims.
We live in a world full of "faith". We each live daily exercising faith in something or someone. We make plans for the future assuming we will be in good enough health or without disaster to fulfill those plans. We get on airplanes where most of us have no clear understanding of aerodynamics...but we have "faith" in the knowledge and expertise of pilots and airplane builders that this bird will carry us to our next destination. We have faith in financial institutions full of strangers that we trust to guard whatever level of worldly wealth we have earned or acquired. Perhaps there are much better examples than these...but for the sake of argument lets agree we do a lot of things based on 3rd hand or non scientific understanding of how it will work.
As has been a frequent theme in my blogs...I believe true religion or faith should be a UNITER, not a divider, of men and races. I believe that 80% of what the main world religions teach in their churches and books are compatible for the most part. Man made religions spring up over slivers of disagreement over interpretations of what someone said over 2000 years ago. If a reasonable person steps back and analyzes the reasons for various divisions between all the major religions of the world...one may quickly discover frivolity and vitriol in the origins of many of these divisive religions. Most religions or denominations have sprung up over personality contests or false comparisons of who is more like the originator of that religion.
For me, truth is truth, wherever it is found...in whatever book it is found. I think there are truths in the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud...and even the Book of Mormon or Scientology`s new slant on things. Heck, I found truths written in Jimmy Carters interview in Playboy magazine back in the late 70s. The problem comes in most religions when someone or some group claims "exclusivity" over truth or ownership of "God". How presumptive of any person to claim by divine revelation or personal hallucination that they heard a "new" truth about the Supreme Being and everyone should follow them. This for me is the first "oh oh" moment when listening to someone talk about God or their faith.
I think the Christian Bible which I am most familiar with has relevant instruction about this issue:
For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)
To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? (Isaiah 40:18)
I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. (Romans 10:20)
I could go on and on quoting...but let it suffice to say that Gods message to man through ALL the major religions is..."I am God, you are not". You cannot understand nor bring me down to your level. That's why I AM the "Supreme Being". Why are you constantly trying to bring me down to your level of nature and understanding?
It is unfortunate that throughout the history of mankind on earth, we have been fighting and killing each other over our particular religions claims on "God". We continue to do that now, even in the US of A which, while founded on Judeo Christian ethics of freedom and personal sovereignty and responsibility, most Americans have now sacrificed those ideals for securing religious and patriotic ideals for themselves over reasonable and right thinking for all. Instead of PEOPLE helping PEOPLE, we have subjugated ourselves to governments to take care of our futures and act for us. We have aligned our faiths in many instances with a temporary and impure flag of government and state. This mixture of faith and politics has watered down both matters to a level where no one can clearly see right from wrong, either by faith or by principle. We have relegated reasoning and resolution of conflicts to governments and courts which do not necessarily function based on "good faith" principles.
For both people of faith and those of political passion...I suggest we return to the causes of "good" faith that people of all races and religions can agree upon...at least a majority. I think anyone of "good faith" will approve of what I deem the core doctrine of "good" religion, whether you believe in the divinity of Jesus or not. Of course, you`ll notice it mentions nothing of following "rules" or going to church. It primarily focuses on what good faith DOES...
Marks of the True Christian
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If America wants to truly be a "Christian" nation...it is time for her to take this previous passage to heart...and action. Same goes for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc... This to me is the secret to having peace in our time...and the litmus test of true Faith.