Christians in a world of many

“For in him we live and move and have our being.” -Acts 17:28
The world today is increasingly interconnected. This is first and foremost cause for celebration. But it brings challenges. People have different perspectives and guiding experiences. While we are knitted together through common connections, interests, and aspirations, we speak many languages, eat different foods, and come from different places. Marian and I discovered this yet again in Argentina and Paraguay, where we served as ambassadors from a diverse country, to an increasingly diverse region.
semana de la no discriminación

From the Tabladas Congregation, near Buenos Aires. The church includes people from Bolivia and Paraguay.

Into such a world, Christians must prepare ourselves for ministry.

There are several Christian approaches to pluralism and religion. Some say that the God of the Christians is the same as the God of the Jews and the Muslims (and the Hindus and Buddhists). They might also believe that righteous women and men from these religions and others will be saved through the sacrifice of Jesus. Others do not suppose what will happen in the end, but believe that while we are here, we must promote reconciliation between the different religions as a sign of the in-breaking of the reign of God.


Mt. Fitz Roy rises above El Chalten in Argentina.

Amidst these differing perspectives, I would offer the metaphor of the hand (this image comes from my hospital chaplaincy supervisor, who received it from his mentor). The hand has several fingers. Each is unique but also interwoven, at its base, with the other fingers. You cannot reduce the thumb to the palm, but at the same time you cannot separate it. You can compare the fingers but you cannot make them one. Each is separate, distinct, and related. Understanding this is essential for loving our neighbors and our projimos.


From the Igauzu Waterfalls

I would therefore urge us, when thinking about other religions and our interactions with their adherents, to come with an open mind, treasure what we can learn from the encounter, and avoid bringing an interpretive lens that seeks to fit their beliefs and our conversations together into our Christian schema. As Moderator Dr. Neal Presa of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) put in in a recent lecture, our motivation must be, “I want to learn from you!”


Fellow ice-trekkers on the Perito Moreno Glacier.

But – we also have today quite a few people who, confused by the wide array of religious options, are swayed to choose no religion at all, and they even opt for the religions established by our consumerist culture; I hope that a greater openness to the possibilities of interfaith partnership does not prevent us from reaching out to the people who are genuinely lost.

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