As a boy I marveled at the documentaries that showed how people approached what they perceived as God around the world. Some worshipped rocks and trees, (animism) while others picked some venerable ancient personage and elevated them to the place of deity (avatars).
When missionaries encountered the Sawi tribesmen of South America they found cannibalism and it was considered a way of gaining complete power over someone by eating their brain. When documentary commentators described the tribe’s religious beliefs in their narratives, I found it hard to give much credence to them in light of their other frightening cultural practices. Could those who think it’s fine to eat other people have stumbled across the true path to God?
Differences in culture can be as innocuous as simple color preferences, like the fleshy pink houses all across Lisbon’s hilly neighborhoods; versus the stark white dwellings so favored in the cities towns and hamlets of France. The Louisianans eat mudbugs (crawfish) and, in North Carolina a breakfast of white gravy and biscuits makes the day for millions of country folk in the beautiful rolling hills of Appalachia.
None of these cultural differences hurt anyone and in fact, they are the unique aspects of regional and historical norms that make life interesting for most of us. But what if cultural differences do harm someone? Shouldn’t we ask the all important question; can this kind of tolerance be tolerated?
When cultural differences harm no one then diversity is fine, but when it costs lives or someone’s eternal destiny it is anathema. As much as we would like to think we are citizens of the world, cosmopolitan, or simply cool we all know when cultural norms have crossed the line; or do we?
The one area where we don’t seem to get it is in religion. We cringe at the idea of a woman being stoned to death for accidentally showing her uncovered hair, or being condemned to wear a complete body covering (hijab or burka) for life, a religious practice that seems all too much like someone’s brilliant notion that women would be delighted to live their lives in a potato sack.
We hear of Hindu Sheiks who traveled across the entire Indian continent by rolling on the ground and Fakirs who have met their doom while trying to charm a cobra. We know it seems ridiculous but we pull back in silence, because after all, much more than a cultural thing it is a ‘religious’ thing.
In scripture limitations are placed on Satan as to what, when and where he can assert his damaging powers. One limitation that is not placed on him is the restriction to interfere with, pervert or even create a religion. The arch deceiver is active in many religions and in fact he is the creator of some of them. If you are going to deceive someone why not use religion? Although it is hard for unbelievers to understand; true Christianity it turns out, is not a religion at all. It is the only means of salvation provided by God and it is solely His work and couldn’t have been produced by us if we gave it a worldwide concerted effort.
This is why we call it God’s grace. We have added ceremony, liturgy, interpretation, doctrinal stances, traditions, perversions and theology to it, and sadly even some toxic kool-aid but, the work of grace, done by God alone, stands by itself, far above our religious meddling, and it always will.
The hypocrisy of the new tolerance and diversity is blatantly apparent. The same crowd that loves to repeat the oft heard albeit, grossly erroneous saying that “more people have died for religious reasons than all others combined,” are the strongest proponents of ‘live and let live’ as it pertains to religions of the world. Are the haters of religion guiding the new freedom of religion in the world? Do you think?
When five hundred Christians were dragged out and hacked to death in Nigeria by Muslim extremists during February and March of 2010, were the followers of Allah (God?) killing the followers of Christ? (God) Was God killing his own people? Is God confused; or are we?
Is God divided against himself? Wouldn’t it seem that one of these beliefs is wrong and the other is not? Not even the rulers of Satan’s kingdom are so dumb that they do not know what Jesus meant when he said “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Mt. 12:26) Since we know God is not dumb and Christ said Satan is not that dumb the only ones left to pick up the title is the tolerance and diversity crowd.
Almost five years ago I put the quote made by G. K. Chesterton on the front page of my website. I see no reason to ever remove it until the day it is a website no more. G.K said, “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” It is a saying that seems to defy all argument and raises a very important question. Why Christianity, why hate the religion of, turn the other cheek and love thy neighbor as thyself?
The answer is surprisingly easy; it is a religion of accountability. The God who claims to have created man holds him accountable, and that is as it should be. It isn’t that Christians believe that they should turn the other cheek that bothers the world. It is because Christians also proclaim that all men will one day stand in a final judgment before a God who sees and knows all the secrets of the heart and the years of our lives.
In the last few decades it tickled the liberal class to dismiss Christianity with another nonsense saying; “Man has made God in his own image.” In fact man has made God in every image he can think of, animals, spirits, wooden objects, meteors, fallen space debris, mold, women, figurines, pebbles, rocks; this list has no end. It is all too sad when we think that mans persistence in breaking that part of the first commandment to have “no other Gods before me” is coupled with the promise that there are no other Gods to add to the list anyway. Check it out; “… I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.’ (Isa 43:10)
The sad part is that since Christ has been revealed and finished speaking the words of life and then finishing his work on the cross (substitutionary atonement) there is simply no longer an excuse.
This is why Christianity is hated. God, being gentle, forbearing and willing to mitigate for man because he had not yet revealed himself in his Son; was willing to overlook past idolatries. Paul said it best; “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:” (Acts 17: 29, 30)
Who doesn’t like the term “winked at?” Who says God is one of the screaming blue meanies? He is willing to let all that idolatry pass as water under the bridge? It is what follows Paul’s anthropomorphic description of a winking God that un-nerves the un-repentant.
Paul proclaims a severe warning but not in undefined or nebulous terms; rather, he describes what basis or standard by which we will be judged. “Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
It turns out that Christ’s life isn’t the only thing that qualifies him to be the judge. His death and his resurrection are the other unparalleled events that God recognizes as the mark.
When I spent a few years studying Buddhism, spiritualism, the Muslim religion and a plethora of other esoteric persuasions it was this fact that always came back as the most significant difference between Christ and every other religious belief of man. Resurrection, it turns out is always the qualifying difference.
On Lenin’s tomb was the epitaph “here lies the Saviour of the world.” Not only did Lenin remain in his tomb but even his brainchild of worldwide communism has found itself captured and left lifeless in deaths dark void. Mohammed remains dead, Buddha is yet dead and virtually every last figure in religions line up of ‘whose who’ is simply dead. Lesser idols of wood and stone were never alive to begin with so, where does that leave us?
Over 30 times throughout the scripture God is referred to as “the living God.” Doesn’t it seem that the living should hook up with the living God and not a god who is no god or, whose representatives are after all, dead? This choice seems easy for me but not everyone shares this opinion.
In fact it is a much greater question than religious tolerance and diversity; rather it is about life and death. I would not believe anyone who disregarded or endangered another’s life for some religious hokey pokey much less someone who jeopardized a man’s eternal destiny for a waltz across the flimsy fantasy land of tolerance and diversity. The Apostle Paul chimes in the best when addressing this point, Paul says…
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14)
Copyright ©2010 Rev. Michael Bresciani