In last week’s article on pluralism, I argued that practitioners of Eastern religions would find it easier to embrace pluralism that their Western counterparts. This is based on the fact that Eastern traditions are not mutually exclusive. It is acceptable and common to simultaneously follow beliefs and practices from more than one tradition. All are viewed as equal and appropriate ways to pursue a good life. Whereas Western religions (including Christianity) often claim to contain ‘ultimate truth’, and are promoted as the only path to reach a good life. In this respect, Easterners have the advantage in living with a pluralist mindset.
But the sermon provided at my church this past Sunday got me thinking about elements of Christianity that may help make the shift from an exclusive to a pluralist point of view. In Christianity the divine takes the form of the trinity. God is both one and three at once. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are divine independently, yet all three are part of a larger whole. If Christians can not only accept but take comfort in the various forms of divinity, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then it is not far to be able to acknowledge and accept other forms of divinity from other religions as equal and valid. Christians have had practice being inclusive concerning different expressions of the divine, within their own faith constructs. With this practice, Christians are predisposed to recognize the various expressions of the divine in other faith traditions and are more than able to take on a pluralist perspective while staying rooted in their own faith.
The sermon touched on another core tenet of Christianity that immediately jumped out as relevant to life today: the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Jesus was believed to be wholly divine and wholly human in his life on earth. Not half divine and half human. But both God and man, fully and simultaneously. My reverend described it this way, “Imagine three identical cups, all the same size. Two are filled to the brim with equal amounts of water, one containing divinity the other containing humanity. The third cup is empty, this is Jesus. Imagine pouring the two full glasses of divinity and humanity into the empty glass, and somehow all of the water fits. Not one drop is lost. This is the mystery and wonder of Jesus.” It is hard for us to imagine. It is a sacred mystery in Christianity. It defies logic. This contradiction is accepted and contemplated with wonder. Considering this, isn’t it strange that America with all of her ‘Christian roots’ has become so secular? So consumed with labels and boundaries. With the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus as a centerpiece of the Christian faith, it seems only natural for Christians to take on a holistic view of the world. The mundane would become divine and the divine would become mundane. Perhaps this new-found holism could help Christians take characteristics of their faith beyond the artificial boundaries of their religion. Embracing holism, perhaps Christians could extend their pluralistic view of God, as the trinity, to other faith traditions to create respect and understanding for how the divine is working in every corner of the globe.