Out here in the world of hip cafés and spiritual bookshops, just
about everybody believes that we humans are one people, and that
there is one God (whether labeled Spirit, the Tao, Grandfather,
the Almighty, Allah, the Ground of Being or whatever). Also, that
there ought to be some common, universal way for all of us to connect
with that one multi-named God. On the other hand, inside our churches,
mosques and temples this kind of thinking sounds likes a problem.
The difficulty lies in the perceived nature of truth. It seems
that if what one system of religious thought teaches is true, then
what everybody else teaches cant possibly be true. This translates
instantly to: Since my stuff is true and yours is lies, Ive
got to protect myself and everyone I care about from the terrible
effects of your swindle.
Historically, when two sides feel that way about each other the
result is war. This brings to mind, for most of us, some unfortunate
moments in the history of the Church, and last September the Roman
Catholic Church, which on good days presents itself as a flagship
amidst the fleet of Christian denominations, and on its worst holds
itself to be the only Christian church anywhere, chose to indulge
itself in a very bad moment indeed. In an announcement dated September
5th, 2000, the Vatican labeled all non-Christian ways to worship
God as mistaken and all other forms of Christianity as mere wannabes.
Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the most Catholic look-alike
of all the Protestant denominations was outraged.
Is there hope for Christians who feel the pull of one species,
one God to find a solid basis for a truly all-embracing interfaith
ethic within their creed? Jesus, the focus of Christianity, traveled
around his local countryside denouncing selfish wealth, healing
the sick, performing exorcisms, teaching in parables and working
miracles. But he did these things as tools of his wider mission.
His saw his mission as clearing the way for the Kingdom of
Heaven. We are lucky to be looking at this in English translation.
In English its clear that the meaning of king
is head of the kin. Jesus sought the kin-dom of heaven,
the consciousness of one loving family amongst all human kind.
It is here that hope for an all-embracing ethic lies. The man known
to history as the apostle Paul, who more than any other individual
is credited with creating Christianity as we know it, wrote letters
that talked about Christians coming together to provide Christ with
a new body. A body of Christ cadre of spiritual workers,
to carry on the mission that the old body, Jesus, had begun: the
mission of creating a Were-all-one-family consciousness
for the Human race.
All of this is obvious and unremarkable to modern scholarship.
What may come as a surprise is the thought that perhaps, way at
the beginning of things when early Christians were feeling their
way through the blind labyrinths of history, the two projects -
body and kin-dom - got mixed up with one another; that they are
not necessarily one and the same.
Of course, in darkened times it was natural to think that if one
was making Christians for the purpose of bringing about
the kin-dom of heaven, than all one need do was keep making them
until everyone converted. All one religion; presto, all one family.
This has not even come close to working.
Two thousand years have passed and spiritual togetherness is still
far away. Only a third of Earth is nominally Christian and the peoples
of two of the three continents marked as Christian majorities, Europe
and South America, have only remnants of their former involvement.
Western Europe in particular is famous for its thousands of empty
churches. In North America, where one in five still go to church
of some kind, Christianity provides a striking example of bewildering
fragmentation rather than of unity.
If the kin-dom of Heaven is to be an interfaith family, the body
of Christ can stop imagining itself an agent of spiritual conquest
and get down to being the glue that holds the world of spiritual
togetherness together. The universal kin-dom of Heaven.
Thomas Chavez is an evangelist for Christ the Healer UCC, which
meets every Monday night at 7 pm at 5150 SW Watson in Beaverton
for drumming, prayer, healing, and spiritual exploration. 503-259-3315.