God did not make denominations; people did
I do not remember the source, but when I was writing my final paper for my D.Min. degree, I found that at that time, 1993, there were 23,000 different Christian denominations.
I was stunned. There is one God, one Jesus...and yet, there are all these denominations, all purporting to speak the truth.
Add to that all the different sects and religions of the world, and we have a motley mess. Caught up in doctrine, dogma and the need to be "right," it is as though the religions of the world have put God on the back burner.
I have studied, albeit not in depth, but have studied nonetheless the tenets of different religions, and Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama and Huston Smith seem to be right: religions are a lot more similar than we might want to believe. At the heart of what they teach, there is God, and God is love. Therefore, those who love God then agree to enter into the process of learning to love as God loves.
It is more simple than we religious folk like to make it. The doctrine of love, coupled with forgiveness, brings people to God and makes it more possible for people to live in harmony, or so I would teach.
But the different religions, insistent on being "right," and exclusive, help people to draw lines in the sand and to live in contention, thinking that such contention is the work and will of God.
I recently read a Taylor Branch's "Pillar of Fire," in which a conversation between Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a young white man had a conversation.
"I happen to be a Christian," the man apparently said to Dr. King before the latter even responded. The young man wondered aloud to King if he thought he was advocating the same love Jesus taught, even though "your methods incite one man against another."
Dr. King responded by saying that "love is strong so that you love your fellow men enough to lead them to justice." He then asked the young man if he thought segregation was Christian ... but according to Branch, the young man didn't answer, but really wanted Dr. King to understand that his efforts to "do love" was doing more harm than good.
But in that conversation is the gist of the problem. We have one God, true, and one word, "love," that seems to be the essence of who God is ...but we have literally millions of people who interpret "love," and therefore "God," differently. There is no consensus of belief.
Sometimes I wonder if we would agree, in fact, that there is only one God. Denominations and different religions almost seem to act on constructs of God that they have built themselves.
Steve Prothero is right on one level when he says "God is not one," not because God is in fact not one, but because people will not allow the one God to be. Humans make "gods" of their choosing, pretty much ignoring much of what most sacred texts say about "the one God."
I disagree with Prothero, though, that there is NOT one God, and I think that what's most dangerous and disrespectful is how we humans manipulate God to suit our own whims, desires and wishes, and how we bastardize certain people and religions and say that it is of God and from God.
That divisive, exclusive God is not the representation of love that I was taught God is, and frankly, at the end of the day, what people need most is divine confirmation that they matter in the world, and that they matter to God, no matter what.
God did not make denominations, nor did Jesus or Allah nor Moses or Abraham. People did, and in putting denominations and different religions in front of God, or between God and people, have probably caused many, many people to lose their way.
Posted by: sgordon1 | July 19, 2010 5:02 PM
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