August 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 1
God In The Melting Pot
Describing America as the great melting pot may be loosing its previous force, but, in the eyes of many, not when it comes to religion. The United States of America is a nation of faiths – a lot of them. Actually, America has been a shining example not only of a deeply rooted religious culture, but also of a tolerant religious culture. Although it cannot be disputed that the pages of American history are stained by many periods and incidents of widespread and localized religious prejudice and persecution, the members of the manifold religious faiths in America have managed to live peacefully together.
There is, however, a feature within the general ecumenical tranquility of the nation that is false in its assumptions. This fallacy might be expressed anecdotally by the story of a priest encountering a former parishioner who has converted to another religion. The ex-Catholic sheepishly states, "Well, Father. We are all worshiping the same God." No, I don't think so. An individual might be desirous of seeking God. He or she may be sincerely and authentically holding the belief that their worship is that of the true God. But anyone knowledgeable about the creeds and moral codes of other religions would not conclude that it is all the same God (or gods for that matter). Indeed, one might conclude that certain Eastern religions believe in no god at all.
American culture is to be complimented for its "live and let live" attitude toward the religious diversity among its people and for the protection of the various religious beliefs by the tenets of the Constitution. The cooperative efforts initiated by different religious groups in addressing the needs of society and in gathering to pray together for certain celebrations is praiseworthy. Yet, respect for the differences of belief and moral values - even among Christians - is, perhaps America's greatest societal accomplishment regarding religion. Trying to toss God into a melting pot or attempting to homogenize belief into some divine consensus does not treat the realities of religion in America fairly.
Serious religion is more than a diffuse collection of attitudes and sentiments. Adherents who stand by the historical claims of their own faith cannot without contradiction either accept the essential equality of other religions or play by the rules of tolerance that date from the Age of Reason. By the same token, believers find it hard to go along with secular or scientific claims that contradict what they regard as revelation.
– Christopher Clausen; America's Design for Tolerance
If God were playing hide-and-seek, any religion would suffice. If God chose to employ a revelation of the Truth, then a True Religion is the natural product. The believer who is devoted absolutely to his or her religion considers that faith to be true. This is common sense. The truth contained in one's faith does not negate necessarily truth being believed and practiced in other faiths. Yet, the believer would hold that there is some degree of creedal and moral insufficiency in other religions. As a Catholic, I hold that my faith, as stated in the Creed during Mass, is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." These are known as the Four Marks of the Church. This Church is the Church that Jesus Christ established through the apostles as the Living Body of Christ throughout the ages. I have the mandate to spread the Gospel by living my faith as authentically as I can. My wish is that all people would receive the grace to enter into the Church. Again, any firm believer of whatever faith would wish the same for his or her church. And, I might add, the non-believing secularists would harbor that hope for their kind of non-believers.
While I do not subscribe to the melting pot, I do promote the search for commonality in all faiths that proclaim a goal of love, peace, and justice for all. There are basic doctrines in most, if not all, of the world's faiths that are rightfully a source of unity for all the peoples of the world. We must respect and support the goodness found in all faiths. I believe that God wishes all humanity to be united in faith, but that unity must come through a process of love and respect, human decency and caring, and the work of the Spirit in human hearts. Until then, let members of all faiths in America share only the heat of the hot August sun and share always the light of the good in their beliefs.
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