Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conversion or Compassion?

a high mountain and the vast expansive desert valley

Three million young people are gathering in Brazil and the pope is telling them to "go and make disciples of all nations." 

I wonder what "all the nations" might actually think when they hear the words of that "great commission" spoken by a pope to the youth of the world- go and baptize the nations, convert the world, bring the world to Christ? 

I think about the many Muslims I have known in my life, some of them friends and faithful followers of Islam, kneeling on a prayer rug, celebrating the holy month of Ramadan;  and I wonder how they might hear those words? I think about my friends in the Buddhist monastery in Korea, people in touch with such a deep and profound spirituality; and I wonder how they might hear the call to baptize all the nations? I think also about my many Jewish friends, faithful and committed believers, sons and daughters of the Torah; and I wonder what they might think about what the pope is telling the youth of the world? 

I also wonder how the ever-growing number of people who are on a spiritual path but see no value in religion might think about that call for their conversion? 

While it may be true that the church established after Jesus did indeed believe that it was commissioned to convert the world for Christ, I don't think Jesus himself ever tried to covert anyone. In fact, he celebrated and lauded those of different faiths and those who walked divergent spiritual paths. He praised the Samaritan for showing compassion and he celebrated the faith of a "Phoenician" pagan woman. 

I can't imagine Jesus wanting all the nations to be converted and baptized.  I can't imagine Jesus condoning the horrors of history perpetrated in his name for the cause of making disciples of the nations- the bloody crusades, the devastation of the deeply spiritual native cultures of Latin American destroyed by missionaries who imposed the cross at the point of a sword. 

Jesus came among us to teach the way of compassion, not conversion.

Instead of bringing the world to Christ, I think the church should be bringing the spirit of Christ to the world. Jesus embraced the world with open arms and loving acceptance. He healed the leper, ate with sinners, embraced foreigners and taught his disciples to call no one an enemy. 

Disciples of Jesus are indeed commissioned to go out into the world, not to convert the world but to embrace it with the same compassion of the Christ whom they follow.

I am a disciple - a follower of Jesus,  and "because" I am, I cherish the teachings of the Buddha and honor the people of the Koran. I am a spiritual descendant of the people of the Torah,  and I have profound respect for my spiritual ancestors. I also respect the spiritual path followed by many today who have "no religion." There is much to be learned from them.

Gandhi once said:
Though we know God by a thousand names,
God is one and the same to us all.

I think that maybe Jesus taught the same.

1 comment:

  1. If we started understanding that we all need the same air to breath we might use our life and energy for positive aims. Sue Bradbury