Religion Tolerance

This past weekend I was in Dallas to participate in a liturgy celebrating Churches United in Christ – an ecumenical partnership that has survived many attempts to undo itself over matters of race and sexual ethics.

From there I flew to Omaha to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony with Countryside United Church of Christ. Having sold their  perfectly good building and property, they are building a new facility on a campus shared with a Jewish synagogue and Muslim temple. Called the Tri-Faith Commons, all three are making a statement that the rest of the world would be wise to heed.

Religious tolerance is in short order these days. Righteous indignation being the order of the day, too often we see the religious other as an enemy to be defeated rather than a friend to be cultivated.

Different life perspectives that engender different spiritual pathways, or to reverse that different spiritual pathways that engender different life perspectives, are seen as threats to be eliminated.

Christianity took a wrong turn about 1700 years ago. In the early days, we were a struggling, persecuted community wandering the Earth in search of others who recognized that love changed the game. Love could eroded cultural expectations about who was welcome at the table. Rich and poor, male and female, young and old, free and slave no longer defined us could all come to the table together as one. That’s all Christianity asked for and needed.

Then we found an emperor.

His armies became the defenders of the faith.

The faith itself became a set of dogmas to be adhered to.

Defiance of dogmatic expectations, defended by the sword of the emperor, became a matter of life and death.

In this spiritual equation, there is little room for doubt and no expectation of tolerance. Christianity expressed in this way is a total aberration, and one I am personally committed to exchanging for a call to simply love thy neighbor – the act that Jesus himself said would fulfill every expectation of the law.

And so it was with great joy that I attended  the groundbreaking for Countryside United Church of Christ last night, the Christian participant in the Tri-Faith Initiative in the formation of the Tri-Faith Commons in Omaha.

This is the Christianity I want to embrace, one in which there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female. All are one.

My spirit will not be fed by anger, hatred, judgment, condemnation, or righteous indignation.

My spirit will be fed by grace, tolerance of differences, openness to all other spiritual pathways that engender love of neighbor, hospitality to the stranger, and peace with the created order.

I am grateful for the leaders of Countryside United Church of Christ and their bold, courageous act of love and tolerance. It was an honor to break ground with them not just on their future property, but our shared future as a world of love and acceptance. May such love accompany all of us on our journeys Into the Mystic.