When I was a child our family used a certain brand of ketchup. I would look down on those who used another brand, thinking "how uncultured!" It was not until years later that I found our ketchup to be in the lower range of the market.
Many of us judge other religions the same way. My friends know me as a passionate Jew. But I am too aware that had I been born across the street to Islam, I would have been a passionate Muslim. Rumi, the great Islamic poet and lover is my all time hero. Another time, another place, and I would have been a passionate Christian. Many roads lead to One God. We are not in a competition. We are co-travelers.
Religion is a way of communicating with God and celebrating our togetherness. It was never meant to limit love, never to be used as an instrument of hate. Whether one prostrates to God facing East or West is between the bender and the Straightener of the Bent.
My new hero is Times Magazine's Man of the Year Pope St Francis! His speech is filtered through Love. Here are brief declarations from Pope Francis.
"The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”
“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us."
”Catholicism...has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone.”
“God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”
Ok. So these quotes were published in Diversity Chronicle 12-2013, and a spoof! But imagine a world where more of our religious leaders talked of this type of love and tolerance. That would be my religion!
Welcome to the religion of love, the religion of Rumi, the religion of Heschel, and now the religion of Pope St Francis.
What is of love and expands love is of God; What is of hate or limits love is of man.
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