Read Part 1 by clicking here.
In a world culture that values inclusiveness, tolerance, and respect for all peoples, the notion that one religion claims to have the truth, in contrast to another, is utterly horrific, and people feel a deep need to reject such notions outright. We value cultural diversity, honoring the rights of all peoples, everywhere, and any seeming infringement on that we ardently strive against. But the fact remains, faith is rooted in belief in a perceived truth. So, if I believe in the truth of Christ, how can another person's belief in the rejection of Christ be true too? How are we to relate to each other in a way that is not superficial or falsely irenic? What is the relationship between differing religions and how are we to live together as human beings occupying the same Earth? Are the only solutions utter isolation or absolute relativism? Either of these are unacceptable to me.
And thus I find myself being a bit cautious; not willing to be so quick to reject claims to the truth, as seems to be the cultural trend. Moreover, I am cautious because I indeed believe the truth wholly subsists within Christianity, and more specifically wholly within the structures and Tradition of the Catholic Church. Do I believe rays of truth exist in other faiths? Sure, but the fullness of truth, in my belief, is fully contained within Christian teaching. I believe this not because of some sense of obligation to orthodoxy, but rather this belief is born out of my own personal faith journey, one rooted in prayer and study. And not only do I believe this about my own faith, but others believe this of
their own religious faith too (whether it be Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, or otherwise), with the same level of fidelity and conviction. To reject this seems to somehow rob us of a fundamental and real element of our identity. And so, the values we claim to strive against; tyranny, oppression, or imperialism (whether political, social, religious, etc.) thus become themselves imperialistic. So, I am left with the question: though the values of tolerance, inclusiveness, and acceptance are indeed good, is the rejection of the idea that one religion contains the truth really in opposition to tolerance? Does the rejection of this notion seek the values to their true end, or do we prematurely (re)act, in the name of these values, in a way that ultimately undermines them? For me, this is a critical question to address, especially when it comes to interreligious dialogue. I am not going to get into the finer details of the debate, which has been ongoing for CENTURIES. However, it is the question that Pope Benedict takes up in the book (if you are so inclined to explore further). Moreover, it is the question that the Church, in partnership with other faith traditions, has taken up, and one I hope to take up and offer some contribution to in my lifetime.
Pax and joy!