I have noticed in our ever increasing secular world a growing desire for the spiritual.
But in our generation of individualism and great consumerism, those who naturally long for such wish to fill the void as a customer.
Today’s attitude towards religion is one of a spiritual shopping trolley, where you can select the bits you like from each (or simply drive-thru at Christmas) and create a bespoke system that works “for you”.
A “personalised religion” that comes with a god who does not question your lifestyle and choices, a god of your choosing, who works around you and on your terms, essentially a god of self creation.
On the contrary I am delighted that my faith does not always work for me. I rejoice that I do not come to a god who bows the knee to my whim, or one that changes to fit my lifestyle choices, as this “god” would be no better than me, in fact this god would be submissive to me and thus not a god at all!
Yet, this nominal religious view continues to trend and has caused the popular psyche to amalgamate what ‘they know’ of religion and fill social media with infographics such as the one below.
There are a few points I wish to prayerfully make about such a graphic and what it is teaching.
The argument raised here is that “every” religion essentially shares the same “primary” teaching.
There is some Biblical truth to this.
We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that God put eternity in every human being and it says in Genesis 1:27 that we are all made in God’s image. So it is logical that humanity would naturally and collectively seek the divine. Equally it is expected that such an innate aspiration would manifest itself in various ways, yet share common truths, just as we share in a common humanity.
With that said one of the main issues I have with the above (and other meme’s like it) is that they often include just nine “religions” out of many thousands practiced today.
If you are willing to state that all “religions” are essentially the same, then you are also placing them alongside those that practice; the mutilation of girls genitalia, the sacrifice of children, Satanism and the occult, religious discrimination (by race, age and sex), mass poisoning and drug taking, suicide pacts and of course the Jedi knights.
No reasonable human being would be in support of such practices, so I assume that what is being concluded by the above infographic (and similar memes) is that the “big 9” religions essentially share the same ethos? Am I right?
If this is the case, the inclusive religious ethos advocated by this graphic, has in fact excluded and eliminated many thousands of other “religions”.
The practicing Christian (or Muslim, or Hindu for that matter) is then mocked as “bigoted” for following one path exclusively, when all they have done is simply add another eight religions to the many thousands you have already culled.
There is no denying that loving your neighbour as yourself is a key Christian teaching.
Jesus did say “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind this is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:40)
For the aforementioned reasons I also concede that such teaching is echoed across the “big 9”.
However, my dispute is with the commonality implied.
We (humanity) live in a foreign town of death (we all die – you can’t argue with this), yet we all have an innate understanding of eternity, we are sentient beings who know of the past,can imagine the future and perceive the immeasurable, such as love and grief. This is because we are body and soul.
Our souls are eternal and thus we are all aware of our immediate danger! We all understand that we need to leave this town and get home before it is too late! But the journey home to safety (God) is long and arduous and it can only be achieved by car (Religion)!
If loving others was the core teaching of all the options to escape, you could call it the engine of every “religion”. Now if my understanding of God’s revelation is wrong and embracing this truth was all you needed. Then congratulations you have your engine! It is now sat on your driveway!
But as the town begins to collapse you will soon realise that the “engine” (by itself) is of no help, you can’t get anywhere with just a lump of metal sat on your driveway can you?
The engine is useless without a frame, wheels, lights, seat and a steering wheel. For this reason we have millennia of academia and scholarship, philosophy and theology, supporting and justifying the need for the other parts.
Now you may think you could pull different parts from each car that you like, but this will not help you either. The wheel of one car will not fit the frame of the other, the gear box from a smaller car will not drive the momentum of a larger vehicle.
Eventually your worldly logic maybe able to build something out of the spare parts, but it will not last the journey home to God. Nothing of this world will, only a divine carriage will suffice!
So, we are left with a garage of eight attractive automotives, all promising the ride of your life, comfort and great attention! Which one will you choose to take you home to God?
The Budhism or Hinduism options are of course very attractive, however you will find that as you drive around you will always come back to where you started, doing endless laps in vain, in different forms, around the crumbling neighbourhood, you get nowhere and the problem remains! Rein’car’nation.
The New Age “Eco” model is an exciting mystical option, but yet in itself superfluous as it teaches “god” lies in your own higher consciousness, so despite your innate desire to journey home to your maker and escape the inevitable death, you are not going anywhere, just put the air-conditioning on and practice your meditative breathing whilst the town crumbles around you!
You may go for Islam or other works based religions (like Catholicism), big engine and all you could possibly need for the journey, but it comes with a huge car manual. Solid and reliable build, very popular, however by its own admission, God is divine and home will always be beyond the reach of the vehicles lifespan however well you drive it.
So what do you do? What vehicle do you choose?
None offer real salvation from this fallen world. God (by definition) is divine and perfect, we are not and our imperfections have lead to death. We need to escape, but how?
Well notice I only mentioned eight fancy cars in the garage – we are missing one of the Big 9?
Christianity is unique to all the rest, because it is primarily not a teaching, neither is it a philosophy or a legal principle, or an order of law for you to follow. Christianity is a person (Jesus Christ).
Christianity is not a “religion” in the context of the others listed, as there are no works that need to be done to achieve salvation. – it is simply down to a matter of faith. Trust in God the Son.
Christianity is not a car you can drive! Because no car you have can provide the escape needed, however comfortable or glamorous it seems. They will not survive the journey home, and your own imperfections will cause you to get lost on the way anyway.
Christianity is about having faith in God Himself to save you. Essentially Christianity is calling a taxi!
A taxi may not be beautiful, it may get messy at times and you may have others sharing the ride with you. But with God Himself (Jesus Christ) at the wheel, you know His perfection will get you home safely.
The ride may get bumpy, you may have to sing along to whatever the driver chooses to put on the radio, but you get to meet new people who share the ride with you. Who will not judge you for not having a fancy car of your own, for they are in the Taxi with you. If you make a mistake, or want to take a wrong turn, Jesus is behind the wheel and can get you back on track!
OK John – Nice analogy, but the Taxi fare would be extortionate to get to God. What if we can’t pay?
Well this is the beauty of the Gospel! The driver of the Taxi (Jesus Christ) already paid your fare in full, on the Cross at Calvary. The only thing you have to do is jump in the wagon and trust that He will get you home.
Christianity is totally unique in that it is about humble acceptance of your own unworthiness to get home and accepting in faith God’s condescension in Jesus for you. He drove into the crumbling town and is offering a free ride to escape! Will you jump in? Or continue trying to build a car of your own choosing that will get you nowhere?