Opportunities abound for growth in faith
Eileen Stulak, spiritual leader, Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane:
Christians should not be discouraged by the existence of various interpretations of their faith.
There may be times when an interpretation that is different from that of our own may feel threatening or even disrespectful. However, I would rather look at a perspective that is different from mine as an opportunity to grow and deepen my faith.
When a conversation on religious beliefs can be shared from a place of respect, it has tremendous power. Differing and/or other interpretive views can serve to expand our religious and spiritual awareness by imparting knowledge that was perhaps unknown to us before.
Inherit in any decision to listen to interpretations of Christianity that differ from our own is the possibility that our prior belief system may be brought into question in our own minds. As a result, our faith may seem to lessen or perhaps be shaken to its core. Or we may find that our own beliefs become even more deeply rooted within us and the foundation of our faith actually becomes stronger.
A third possibility exists as well. Through an ongoing dialogue with others in which differing viewpoints and interpretations are shared, we may just begin to find the common ground upon which we all stand. Within this possibility is the power to dissipate feelings of discouragement and in turn experience stronger bonds of faith throughout the Christian community.
Faith relies on openness to interpretation
The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
I celebrate the many interpretations of our Christian faith. That for 2,000 years this message that God is love, that this love is among us, that this love has the power to raise out of death new life, has been able to speak in so many different languages, cultures and ages is testimony to how vital this faith is.
Here we are two millennia later, still poring over the ancient texts, discussing their meaning. Would there be the same energy if instead of four different gospels, each with its own take on the events of Jesus life, we had only one story?
Ask five people who Jesus was and you will get five different answers. One sees a revolutionary, another healer, another teacher, still another, lover. This is what makes Jesus so enduring. The core message of Christianity has proved so adaptable to various cultures because its truth is so compelling, so universal.
This fall, I will be experiencing first-hand just how diverse Christianity is. For a month, I will be living in Kerala, India, as a guest of the Church of South India.
This church celebrates roots that go all the way back to St. Thomas the Apostle who is said to have visited India in the second century. Some of the questions uppermost in my mind as I prepare for this journey are the following: What is it like to worship in a Christian church outside of North America? What's it like to be a minority faith?
A vital faith is an open faith, a faith that not only tolerates pluralism but celebrates it.