A reader writes:
I'm a Christian . . . I think.
I say, "I think" because a recent trip to India left me stumbling on the foundation of faith laid since my youth. I was raised in the church, by a fundamentalist, Baptist preacher father and an "amen" mother. It's true that at several points during the course of my life I have left the practice of my faith, but even in those willful and deliberate seasons I still knew God was God and I could just as soon call him Jesus if I wanted to.
India, for better or worse, has caused me to question all of that.
The temptation, mind you, is not to now let go of Jesus and embrace any of their hundreds of gods - though they are older and arguably more tangible and personal than he is . . . and more clear in their own assertions of divinity. No. What India did is place me squarely at the foot of the cross of Christ to wonder if it was big enough to shadow this whole, big, diverse, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., world.
Most people I spoke with in India shared the same gratitude and love for their beloved Ganesha that I did for Jesus. Does this, as the Bible has been traditionally interpreted to suggest, mean that all those beautiful, hardworking, sincere people are going to hell, forever?
For the first time in such a visceral way, the morality of eternal hell - a cornerstone in the Christian faith - struck me as severely lacking. I returned from India angry, incredulous, and disoriented in and about the faith that I had for years prior really made the compass of my life and work (yes, I work in a church). Hell, I didn't even know who to pray to or what to say if I did stumble my way into a quiet mind and heart.
My new-found discontent sent me into the arms of Karen Armstrong and others trying to find a scholarly approach to God, but what can a finite mind fully know of transcendent infinity? I went back to favorites like Lewis and still rebuffed against the exclusivity and "one way"-ness of my faith. In truth, atheism seems like the kinder position . . . except that would require that I deny the countless and real encounters throughout my life that I've had with God, His grace, His mercy, His provision, His joy, and His presence. But still I question, everything. All is not lost.
In my reading, I've stumbled on a book or two that have helped me shape my thoughts and put into words my present experience with Jesus and God. The most notable is If Grace is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. I don't agree with every position they take, but it resonates somewhat within my spirit. And, it gives me hope that the God I love is not morally inferior to me, rejecting some of his children while embracing others . . . but that he will claim every child as His own in the end.
I have to believe that, otherwise, I simply can't stay if what Jesus did isn't enough for everyone.
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