Ultimate Truth & Interfaith Work
Today's guest blogger is Amber Hacker, a graduate of University of North Carolina Wilmington and a Leadership Associate at the Interfaith Youth Core. Amber manages the bridge-builders network, an online community for leaders of the interfaith youth movement.
I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. That is my personal truth. I believe it when Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me."
I also believe, like Billy Graham suggested in an address to the Kennedy School at Harvard, that God is the judge of peoples' hearts and minds - not me. And I trust that God will make those decisions justly and mercifully. As far as what God will decide, I believe, again like Graham, that God doesn't ask my advice on those things.
I believe the heart of God and the heart of our relationship with Him through Jesus is mystery, and our own inability to match God's complexity in our constant error and infallibility, given to us through the incomprehensible gift of free will, means that the world will always have events and people that we do not understand.
I've been told in the past that people with exclusive truth claims should transcend the "chosen people paradigm" that has brought so much conflict and tragedy to the world. I've been told that in order to bring out the beauty in religion, those of us with exclusive truth claims should drop them and accentuate the "positive" aspects of our faith.
Yes, the Christian belief that Jesus is the only path to heaven and salvation has been used as an excuse for hatred. I believe that exclusive claims can become tied to hate philosophy. But so have many other things - democracy and fascism, capitalism and communism. All people and ideas, including relativism, can become dangerous.
I also think that the incredible conviction that carried Martin Luther King, Jr. through terrible trials rested in his conviction that he was headed down the right path, that his religious faith had a unique window into ultimate truth.
Conviction can be positive.
My faith - the same faith that leads me to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven - also calls me to work with people of other faith backgrounds - and no faith at all - in order to create social justice in the world.
I believe that's called building religious pluralism.
But, as suggested above, if only the most theologically liberal adherents in a religious tradition can work together, I don't see what's inclusive about that kind of world; it's exclusive, and it excludes me.
Fortunately, I've been welcomed into the interfaith youth movement, a movement of people coming together to serve their communities with people of different faith backgrounds - those with exclusive truth claims and those without; it's part of the reason I'm grateful to work at Interfaith Youth Core, an organization whose methodology welcomes diverse faiths into the interfaith movement.
Rick Warren is exclusive in his theology. But to me, in the end, the question is pragmatic: do I wait to do good work in the world because I'm uncomfortable with some of Rick Warren's theology? Or do I eclipse that because I realize the importance of the work that Warren is leading to alleviate poverty and injustice, the work that my Muslim boss respects?
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.
November 12, 2008; 4:11 PM ET
The Faith Divide
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