Hi Edward. I am amazed at how much you are able to say succinctly with few words. Truly a skill of an experienced writer. I wish you well with your book promotion and that it can have the acceptance you wish.
In a recent essay you say, in my fair paraphrase, that, “by the exemplary lives(of believers) unbelievers have observed and have asked questions and have eventually been blessed.” I think the unstated message is that it is 'not likely that believers will observe exemplary lives of considered non believers and be blessed.' But wouldn't a moment of thought by a fair minded person discover that both of these can and do happen in the real world?
|Assuming Superiority Does Not Ever Promote Mutual Cooperation.|
At the risk of seeming to knit pick I will offer a thought. I found myself reading this remark as if I were an 'unbeliever'. And I was struck with a bit of 'seeing ourselves as others see us'. The line above is an example. You are not at all meaning to but, if we consider respectful conversations to be mutual, it would be taken by such a person(an 'unbeliever' or 'different believer') as overt superiority and condescension.
I've struggled with this problem of Orthodox Christian teaching many times before. A typical Christian attitude assumes that 'we' have far more important information or understanding to add to the religious/spiritual conversation than the 'other', the unbeliever or 'different' believer, does? I think many Christians are not bothered by this openly superior attitude. They would argue that this is how it must be. To add another dimension, I think our American national attitude is often very similar as we relate to other nations whom we see as very different from us. It seems our 'Christian' superior attitude also comes forth in how we relate as a nation to other countries.
|The Primary Post-Modern Symbol Of Human Self Destruction|
Such an attitude would not work at all on any playground. Why do we think it is no problem on the world stage where there are guns and bombs? Why do we not see the obvious connection between such attitudes and all kinds of reactionary terrorism? Such 'believers' might likely be ones who will fight to have a nativity scene in the park but would be offended if not vehemently opposed to a statue of the Buddha or Mohammad there at another time of year.
In light of Christ's numerous examples of reaching out, honoring and accepting the 'different ones', and maybe even Paul's when he gave some credit to the pagan 'unknown' god and in no way insisted it be removed from public display, Christians should be just as confident, respectful and courteous? A central development in the New Testament centers around conversion dreams/visions of both Peter and Paul. They and other Hebrew Christians, upon reflection, though at first horrified learn that their Gentile neighbors are just as much favored by God as they are. Should we Chrsitians not expect such conversions ourselves in our world of different kinds of people? That is surely a much needed dimension of any unpretentious 'exemplary life', no matter what ones religion or national allegiance.
|Jesus finds 'greater faith than in all Israel' in non-Jewish Canaanite Woman|
This is an important issue and becomes more so every day in a shrinking and pluralistic democratic society, not to mention as a Christian influence in areas of the world that are not democratic. I think the problem surfaces in any religion that claims an unreflected but certain ' one and only' status in the world. Christianity can be faithfully interpreted and followed and its potentially life transforming power enhanced without this 'one and only' insistence on the Christian Deity. Jesus did not relate to those outside his own religious community as if they were the spiritually inferior and backward and neither should we as his followers. We need to 'look carefully'(Latin for religion) at how it got this way....that Christ followers came to see themselves as God's one and only people(the Hebrews taught them well) and as ones who carry the 'one and only' truth. It is not unfaithful, quite the contrary, to challenge these deeply embedded superiority assumptions. For the good and peace of the future world we must explore it and set an example for other 'one and only' religions to do the same. We all got that way for the same basic reason even if following our very unique historical paths.
|Maybe A President's Bow Reflects Strength-Not Weakness|
Is this problem not in fact a very major obstacle in thoughtful and educated unbelievers 'observing the exemplary lives of believers and asking questions... ? ' The relationship of major world religions does not not need to continue to be one of overt childish and waring competition. It remaining that way makes the world increasingly less safe for our children and grandchildren. It should not be considered a spiritual tragedy should a ' non believer observe the exemplary life of a 'different kind of believer' and ask questions and come to lead the same good and exemplary life that 'kind of believer' follows. Why is this so hard for orthodox 'believers' of all the 'one and only' God religions to value, embrace and to pursue for the sake of God's beloved humanity? I do realize that it is EXTREMELY HARD for we have many centuries invested into our 'superior' stance toward 'the other.' But has not the time come for Christianity to attempt something extremely hard rather than following what is comfortable, secure and, as seen from afar, quite egocentric?
Edward, reviewing this it sounds at points sarcastic but I do not intend it that way. I am attempting to say exactly what I mean and I believe the solemn seriousness of the points made.