The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:
Definitions: Hostility runs from hearty debate to bloodshed; some is healthy, some is evil. Religion pertains to strongly held ideologies, viewpoints, or philosophies purporting to describe ultimate reality, producing truth claims and ethical values adherents claim are worth propagating: “If more people agreed with me here, the world would be better!”
Thus defined, we see how over recorded history hostility has also characterized quests for land and treasure; interactions between tribes, races, and nations; and ideologies few call religions yet they also claim to tell “The Big Story” and offer “The Way Forward.” Communism, Nazism, and Fascism of the previous century were non-religious ideologies responsible for more bloodshed than all religious differences existing then. Simply observe: We cannot outlaw race, trade, and politics simply because many have crossed moral lines to promote their interests in the name of human flourishing. Neither should we scorn religion per se because some promote theirs through violence.
A more fruitful tact: Look within! James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote: “What is the source of conflicts and hostilities among you? Your pleasures wage war among you. You lust and don’t have, so you murder. You’re envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. When you ask [God], you ask with wrong motives so you may[pursue] your pleasures. But God gives greater grace. He’s opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit and draw near to God, and He’ll exalt you.” Often our pleasures, lusts, and hostilities wear religious garb. Today’s question does not ask for a solution, but I offer a direction: What we need is a religion, way, truth, word, or God who is able and willing to deal with us personally, bringing about inner transformation, restoring shalom between/among the Spirit, self, neighbors, and creation. Is there such a Truth?
— Send email to John McFarland at JMMLawrence@aol.com
The Rev. Gary O’Flannagan, pastor, Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, 802 W. 22nd St.:
When it comes to the area of religion what is really being discussed is worldview. A person’s religion is often how that person sees the world, how they live their life and why they think the way they do. So when different religions intersect as they are more and more today, conflict happens because worldviews are colliding. There is in our culture the idea that all religions should coexist, those who adhere to this tend to believe that all religions are equal and share in a common result. All religions can coexist but cannot possibly be equal because not all beliefs and ideas are equal, and there is just too much disparity in the beliefs and propositions every religion makes. Also all religions are not equal in result, and what I mean is the eternal result. Just do a basic study on world religions and you will see that various religious belief systems strive for different results. Some religions deal with eternity, some don’t, some religions have deities, some don’t. Some religions want to improve the person for life in this world, while other religions strive to improve the person for the next.
So what should one do, I would urge all who are exploring a religion for a worldview to seek the truth. What is truth a man once asked? Truth about existence, why and for what reason, truth about eternity, is eternity a reality, are there different forms of eternity? As a person I wrestled with these questions and I looked at a number of different religions and found nothing. Until I had an encounter with Jesus Christ, I didn’t like religion. Religion has too many rules, too many regulations, too many tiresome requirements. But following Jesus Christ is about relationship, not rules, it’s about giving Him my daily life and it’s about eternal truth that speaks to our spirit. Jesus spoke of this to some people who questioned Him about truth: John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So seek the truth and seek Jesus Christ.
— Send email to Gary O’Flannagan at email@example.com.