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A Spiritual Togetherness
by Thomas C. Chavez

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 can’t possibly be true. This translates instantly to: “Since my stuff is true and yours is lies, I’ve 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 it’s 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 “We’re-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.