The irony of intolerance; Two articles By Tim Wildmon, AFA president & Mike Ghouse, Foundation for Pluralism
I am pleased to see clear statements coming out of a self proclaimed Christian fundamentalist. It is a good thing, and hope more and more God's men and women express their sentiments as truthfully as they can. You can dialogue with those who tell their version of the truth like it is, rather than propaganda.
We must rejoice that we have figured out the truth and it works for “us”. I do not see a problem when one claims and gets excited about the path s/he has chosen gives him all the joys of life. The problem erupts when one’s truth is made to negate other’s truth. At this time one has certainly crossed the line of spirituality and has entered the realm of politics.
Unless we develop the capacity to acknowledge that other’s path is as sincere to them as our own is to us.
This is where germs of the conflicts can take root. The belief that my way is the only way, the right way, imbues arrogance in one’s self and causes one to believe that other’s way is inferior, incomplete, deficit and not really the right way. It would make me to look at the other in a condescending way “man you are behind, you need to come up” as if my belief is on par and every one else’s’ is under par, thus not as valuable as my own.
As Rabbi Gordis says, at this critical point, your dialogue would be infused with missionizing efforts, and gets reduced to a monologue. There is no more communicating going on except the repulsion and internal conflicts “how do I get this guy to see the truth” and the other’s frustration “this guy does not get it”.
This is also a point where Muslims need to seriously push the refresh button on the verse “no compulsion in matters of faith” to be larger than it sounds. Qur’aan offers its wisdom “you cannot tell or compel other to believe what you believe unless they see your point of view”. The Jain faith encourages several ways of looking at the issue and Hinduism wraps up “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” meaning the whole world is one family, when you believe that differences work out as diverse views rather than conflicting ideas.
Conflicts can be classified into real and imaginary. The real ones are; i) When some one’s space is invaded, ii) when some one affects your loved ones and iii) your sustenance, your food is challenged. All else is imaginary outsides these three real conflicts.
If the Religious heads can make an attempt to understand and communicate at least to their own congregations that “my belief will earn the grace of God” as others belief will earn it for them.
My appeal to all religious leaders is to see arrogance in their claim that our way is the only way. Even the idea that my faith does not claim monopoly like others is a statement of arrogance. Spirituality is about humility, accepting the parity of life.
Christians and Muslims in particular can push the refresh button and ponder on the following two statements, and lift the limits ascribed to these sentences.
1. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
2. Islam is the final and complete faith. This is the way.
Do these statements negate other faiths? Are these statements for the believers without any comparative reference to other belief systems?
I think not.
When Jesus says follow me, Krishna says surrender to me or Allah says submit to my will, they are not asking to tread the physical path, surrender the physical being, or give up oneself physically.
They are in turn asking us to act like God, who loves his creation. The Sun he has created will shine on the dirtiest puddle as well as the crystal clear mountain indiscriminately, and when we do that, give the warm love and energy to the others indiscriminately, it falls all the barriers and the idea of oneness consolidates itself and a state of conflictlessness evolves; resulting in a blissful state of existence.
Jesus' words are profound, they are limitless and not confined to the shallowness of the words, and they are inclusive and all embracing. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Islam is certainly the final and complete faith, and the truth and the life, to the follower. One cannot go wrong if he or she follows any religious path.
After all, religion's purpose, viewed from Mr. Spock's point of view, which is not conditioned with any faith, is to bring balance to one own life, and balance with others and what surrounds him or her.
Respecting other paths as legitimate and divine does not mean infidelity to one's own, it simply means raising ourselves closer to God, the state of nothingness and everythingness. The higher we go, the broader our horizons would be.
Are we ready to push our refresh button and see the essence in all teachings?
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. He is the founder of the World Muslim Congress, a group committed to building bridges and nurturing a world of co-existence. He also heads the foundation for pluralism, an organization committed to studying religious pluralism and pluralistic governance. His personal website is http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and his writings are on the above websites as well as several of the ancillary Blogs listed on the sites.
The irony of intolerance
By Tim Wildmon, AFA president -
AFA Journal, April 2008
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
I am a Christian fundamentalist, meaning, for one thing, that I believe in the declaration by Jesus Christ in John 14:6. I believe His claim to be absolute truth.
Compared to other belief systems, this is an exclusionary statement. It divides people. Either you subscribe to it, or you don’t. There is no in between. No gray area. The Scriptures contain many other similar quotes from Jesus. For example, in John 3:3 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And in Luke 13:3, He says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Christian fundamentalists like me take these words literally. Jesus wasn’t talking metaphorically. He wasn’t talking in parables, as He often did when teaching. In these declarations, He meant what He said and said what He meant.
In recent years there has been a plethora of books proclaiming the “dangers” of Christian fundamentalism. Some have reached the best-seller list, e.g. American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg; American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges; and The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege by Damon Linker.
Christopher Hitchens, arguably today’s leading spokesman for atheism, has a new book titled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. To give these folks their due, they are intelligent thinkers. They and many others like them represent the intellectual power of the secular left and they have significant influence in the world of academia, the mainstream national media, and the arts and entertainment industry. The common theme in these books and among the secular left is that people like Tim Wildmon are a clear and present danger to other Americans who do not agree with my fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Three pejorative words are often used to describe us: The Religious Right. In the secular leftist view, people like me have a political agenda to take over the country and subject non-believers – through the power of government – to our particular religious dogma. Often these people will say that we represent the Christian version of the Taliban. Obviously, the idea of a group of people gaining control of government and using it to force others to obey their particular religious beliefs scares many Americans. It would scare me, if I thought it were a real possibility. Now there may be people in this country who would like to do this, but trust me, none of the Christian fundamentalists I know have any desire to force their religious creeds on other Americans who choose to believe differently.
The secular leftist thinkers become intellectually dishonest when they mislead people into accepting the lie that just because fundamentalist Christians are active and engaged in championing Biblical morality in the political process, that activity somehow equates to theocracy.
Consider abortion, perhaps the most divisive social issues of our time. Christian fundamentalists believe that human life begins at conception and should be protected by government. So we work through the legal and the political systems to elect representatives who share this view. This is how the American process works. All we do is participate the same way other groups do. We have no desire to send an atheist to prison because he doesn’t confess John 14:6.If you argue that religious people should be excluded from public debate because their beliefs motivate their political activity, then you would have say the American civil rights movement was illegitimate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian minister, led the movement to pursuade government to impose a particular belief on America that all men are equal in the eyes of God. It was a movement that found it’s deepest conviction in Christianity.
WE CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE BECOMING OUTCASTS IN AMERICA. BECAUSE WE ARE UNWILLING TO GO ALONG WITH THE IDEA THAT ALL ROADS LEAD TO GOD, WE ARE LABELED INTOLERANT. WE ARE UNWILLING TO SAY THAT ALL LIFESTYLES ARE MORALLY EQUAL, THEREFORE WE ARE BIGOTS. WE BELIEVE EACH PERSON MUST REPENT OF PERSONAL SIN AND ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AS SAVIOR TO GO TO HEAVEN SO WE ARE LABELED FASCISTS. IT’S UNFAIR, BUT IT IS REALITY. THE SECULAR LEFTISTS WHO SUBSCRIBE TO SECULAR HUMANISM AND MORAL RELATIVISM MAY FREELY PUSH THEIR AGENDA, BUT THEY WILL NOT TOLERATE CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISM. AND WE’RE INTOLERANT? NOW ISN’T THAT AN IRONY.