Sometimes, when I hear people talk about Christianity, I wonder when God got hijacked. I know I could never be at home in a community so narrowly defined.
There seem to be similar issues among the other Abrahamic faiths as well.
Can I be a person of faith without burning copies of the Q'ran or changing political parties? Can I have differing theological understandings and still stand united with others? Can I believe in the acceptance of differing ethical positions and be part of the faith? Must I believe the a coming rapture to be a Christian?
Rev. Thomas Nyman
If every group gave me some sort of a heresy test before accepting me, I could find myself on some sort of small island.
Or can I limit my understanding of the faith to those who wholly agree with me? I'm thinking that, if I did so, my circle of the faithful might include only a handful or two.
Some years ago, a delightful woman I call the World's Oldest Girl Scout, took me for a walk in the woods. She bubbled over with enthusiasm over the many kinds of edible things one could find on a Sunday afternoon walk. Then she pointed out some birds.
She said, "Isn't it wonderful that God made so may different kinds of birds with different shapes and different colors? God could have made just one kind, but, no, God made all these different varieties."
I was caught up in her enthusiasm and readily agreed with her. And I thought she was onto something bigger than birds.
When I think about the array of believers, on my worst days, I might question the intellect and perceptions of many. On my best days, however, I might say something similar to what my friend said. "Isn't it wonderful that God made all these strange birds? God could have made all the people of faith the same shade of gray, but instead we have a veritable rainbow.
I would miss the rainbow, I would miss some of those old birds, and they might even miss me.
I would miss the dialog and the opportunity to examine my understanding in the light of others' journey to faith. I would miss many opportunities for growth in understanding and perceptions. I would miss walking alongside them.
In many of our faith traditions, there is a journey involved in coming to faith. Sometimes the journey is metaphorical, but often it is physical.
Abraham was a wandering Aramean. Jacob set off for another country. Joseph went to Egypt. Moses, David, Jesus and Paul all encountered faith and growth through journeys to different lands and cultures.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all seek to understand and accept each other's faith journey? I believe that God is pleased by our diversity. I believe that God is pleased when we share the love rather than beat on each other with rules and dictums.
I believe it is entirely possible to disagree and still respect each other. And, if we haven't had much experience being open minded, today is a good day to try it out.