Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Religious Tolerance

In my view the coin of ‘life’ has two sides especially in the context of “Religious Tolerance”.

On one side is the peaceful coexistence with my brothers and sisters of the other faith systems wherein we look beyond the respective doctrines and theology of the other faith. In fact before coming to serve in the Church, I have had more non-Christian friends and I have loved them as how I loved my Christian brother or sister! Since my heart aches for my non-Christian friends, we have had religious conversations but we have maintained gentleness, decency, decorum and respect for each other’s views and beliefs. We have always given the other the opportunity to pull out of the conversation at any point in time. Even though I am serving in the mainstream of Christianity (Church), I still love my old friends dearly and I continue to make new friends from outside of my faith. We love being in each other’s presence irrespective of our religious differences. I neither participate in their religious practices nor stuff my belief into their throats! I also don’t take offence if they don’t participate in my religious practices too! There is a mutual respect in these behaviors. However, I have loved and will continue to love a hearty meal in any of their homes.

On the other side of the coin is the fallacy of this so called ‘tolerance.’ The underlying fact is that some religions are inclusive whereas some others are exclusive. This is because ‘truth’ is always ‘exclusive,’ 1+1 is always 2. There are no other correct answers to this equation! In other words, even though there are many religions in this world only one can speak the truth and the others do not. There cannot be many ways to God & heaven but only one way and each one of us are in pursuit of this truth. In my opinion this is an ‘either-or’ but not ‘both-and’ system of logic. It is ‘either my faith or the other faith’ but certainly not ‘both mine and other’s’! I am convinced of this!

Now, a non-Christian brother of mine will not tolerate my God Jesus Christ’s teaching that HE (Jesus) is the only way to heaven - “Jesus Christ is THE way, THE truth and THE life”. Jesus Christ claims exclusivity and this is an ‘offence’ to people of other religions. This is not a new phenomenon! As much as a non-Christian will not buy into this teaching, no serious Christian will buy into the doctrines of the other religions! It is in this side of life’s coin the meaning of ‘tolerance’ dilutes.

I believe this ‘offense’ is in the heart of persecution. It is this ‘offense’ that drives people to take extreme measures against Christians. These extreme measures come under the pretext of ‘coerced conversions’ etc. But I sincerely believe that the underlying factor for these extreme measures like burning of Churches, killing or maiming Christians is fallout of this ‘offense’ in one way or the other for this ‘offense’ is deeply embedded in the hearts of our ‘serious non-Christian’ friends.

I also believe that each religion is indeed journeying on parallel roads that will never converge in this time & age. However, I firmly believe only one of these roads is the right way and the others not! So a peaceful coexistence will be the consequence of the quantum of one’s supposed tolerance to the other’s faith, especially the ones that claim ‘exclusivity’! It is precisely here that ‘tolerance’ should fade and ‘love’ should take over.

“Unconditional love” has far greater power than one can comprehend or even imagine. This is a tried and tested fact! I believe we can still unconditionally love one another irrespective of the other’s faith. We need to look at peaceful coexistence from the perspective of “Unconditional love” than from the perspective of “Religious Tolerance.”


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