DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pursuit of Turth

Written by: on February 16, 2018

The breakfast tables were lined with row after row of everything that I would want (and more). It was ready and available for the choosing. I love when someone else cooks and does the dishes. This morning when I went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel I am staying at, I was a little overwhelmed. I walked from table to table, area to area scoping out what delicious morsels were prepared for me. Knowing that I am here for a week, gave me comfort to know that I did not need to experience everything at one time. I could try out a little here and there and know that tomorrow was a new day with new choices. Religious plurality and a breakfast buffet have a lot in common; you can take a little from each area and not fully commit to any one thing.

 

Author William Cavanaugh, in Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, says, “There is pluralism in the body: some are eyes, some are hands, some are feet. And yet precisely because of that differentiation, all are needed.”[1] Differences were created within us and ultimately when we express ourselves even in worship, those differences come out. Plurality, whether ethnically, religiously, nationally or sociologically, tend to divide rather than unite. How we react to the differences colors our responses and the relationships that come out of those interactions. “The key question in every transaction is whether or not the transaction contributes to the flourishing of each person involved, and this question can only be judged, from a theological point of view, according to the end of human life, which is participation in the life of God.”[2] If how we interact with the world is a theological interaction, then what we buy reflects our understanding of the god we serve.

 

As one that lives in a world of commodities we are forced to make choices in purchasing items our families need. These choices then reflect our convictions (or lack of) concerning how a product gets from the manufacturer to our home.   I have a daughter in college that goes out of her way to buy “fair-trade” items; whether it is coffee or sweatshirts. She recently told me she bought an article of clothing and how much she spent and I responded, “wow, that is a lot”. She responded, “it’s fair trade and we are giving back.” I too get caught up in the “cheaper is better” hype and realize the marketing I unintentionally consume affects my way of thinking.   We want (and demand) a smorgasbord of choices that we are entitled to. Miller says that we do not want to know where our products come from because it would bring more accountability.[3] In an age where our clothing represents a world traveling experience, it is easier to be detached from the factories, sellers and even a physical store now that amazon is around. In first world countries, our wants influence our decisions and the pursuits we focus on.

Religious plurality, according to Cavanaugh (and Surin) are linked to globalization.[4] We have become so used to choices that it influences our faith. When we lived in Beijing, there were two other foreign families that lived in our apartment complex. The said they were Baha’i. I originally thought that was a particular people group but learned quickly that it was a fast growing religion. The founder of the Bahá’í Faith, says: “The foundation of the religion of God is one” because “[t]he divine religion is reality, and reality is not multiple; it is one.”[5] For the Baha’i, literally all paths lead to the divine. A girl said, after spending time in Korea, that she had found her faith. She said that she was Baha’i and felt the most comfortable there because there was not all the restrictions that her methodist upbringing had. She did express that it wasn’t perfect because she was having sex with her boyfriend and Baha’i was opposed to that.

 

Religious pluralism seems to be about finding what works for each individual and leaving the rest behind. William L. Rowe, professor of philosophy at Purdue University, observes: “Perhaps the most natural position for a believer in a particular religion to take is that the truth lies with his or her own religion and that any religion holding opposing views is, therefore, false.”[6] The insatiable desire for the pursuit of things matches our faith and lifestyle. Baha’i’s are pluralists—in fact, they go beyond religious pluralism. “The divine religions must be the cause of oneness among men, and the means of unity and love; they must promulgate universal peace, free man from every prejudice, bestow joy and gladness, exercise kindness to all men and do away with every difference and distinction. –”[7]  Baha’ist believe that all religions are equally authentic, true, and vital to the well-being of humanity.

 

The villain in The Incredibles movie says, “If everyone is super, then no one is super”[8]. It makes me think that if everything is the truth then nothing is the truth. The feeding trough of the religious buffet does not provide the long lasting fulfillment and true peace that comes from knowing a God that we did not create ourselves. “If God is God, then God must be always beyond our comprehension. We are, nevertheless, less, invited to participate in the Trinitarian life through Christ and the work of the Spirit. But in order to do so, we cannot grasp, we can only submit.”[9] I saw a T-shirt in China that said, “I am the Way, the Turth and the Life”. After taking a photo with the young man, I thought how often do we misspell truth (purposefully or not) to fit our daily desired consumption of God? Truth is found in the pursuit of the one true- sometimes divisive -unifying God.

 

[1]      Cavanaugh , William T. Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire. (Kindle Edition).586

[2]      Ibid, 25-26

[3]      Miller, Vincent J.Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. (New York, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2003)

[4]      Cavanaugh, 783

[5]      http://bahai-library.com/pdf/s/savi_religious_pluralism.pdf accessed February 15, 2018

[6]      Rowe,William L. Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993) 175.

[7]      http://bahaiteachings.org/many-paths-god -Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha accessed February 15, 2018

[8]      The Incredibles. Movie. Directed by Brad Bird. Los Angeles. Walt Disney Pictures. 2004

[9]      Cavanaugh, 858

About the Author

Greg

Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

11 responses to “Pursuit of Turth”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Greg,
    You are a wise man Mr. Greg. Nice comparison between the buffetism and pluralism.
    When you said, “What we buy reflects our understanding of the god we serve” I thought of Jay’s post and his consumerist adventure at Cabela’s. If it is all God’s anyways, then we are just sharing in His love, grace, and supply for our needs. Do we “need” things that we really don’t need?
    How about those Incredibles? I like them, and the idea of superheroes. Apparently, the superhero business, fictionally speaking, is in big demand if you watch the Marvel buffet of movies. Speaking of T-shirts in foreign countries. Yes, T-shirts, billboards, and signs in 2nd and 3rd world countries produce some exciting and sometimes funny attempts to be “Western”. I think God must look and smile too when He sees someone playing Christian?
    What did you think about the Eucharist theme in Cavanaugh’s book?
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Greg says:

      Thanks Mike. The idea of being consumed by God as we consume eucharist is an interesting. I like the idea of giving our whole self to God as a reflection of the Eucharist.

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Greg, great post. I always get caught up on the “one faith, one hope, one Lord, one baptism, ect…” clause of scripture. How can we both so many and yet still claim to be the “truth”? I was intrigued that you brought up the BaHai faith as well; when I first read up on this religious movement, I found that they have only retained approximately 5% of the original teaching surrounding this religion. In fact, all of the other 95% is new formed based upon the current modern leaders. They have had the chance to create a new religion while basing it in an old history. I cannot help but wonder how many christian organizations are attempting to do the same thing today; it is the name of Jesus that is wielded so openly, and yet it seems so few actually seem to resemble His teachings.

    There is a story in Acts 19 regarding some priests that decide to wield the name of Jesus and Paul in an attempt to expel some evil spirits from an individual; however, in the story, there is an important lesson taught…though there is power in the name of Jesus, that power is only delivered through those who are truly His. Using Jesus name, or touting God as our authority does not actually give us credibility in the eyes of man or God; it is only when we are true to what we practice.

    Do you believe that there truly can be only “one true church” today, or have we become too corrupted for that?

    • Greg says:

      That is a tough question. Do we act like one church or do we just say that to make us justify our actions? I like to believe we have a unifying agent that can remind us of the one body. I will be the first to admit that we get in the way all too often.

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Greg,

    When you described the buffet breakfast, I immediately thought about our time in Cape Town! The same feelings you felt in your hotel, I felt in our South Africa hotel…

    Thank you for your discussion on religious pluralism. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I had to do some further reading (Like we need any more reading to do).

    You summed it up nicely by saying, “participation in the life of God” is the true flourishing of each person (pluralism).

    Well written!

  4. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Excellent paper Greg. Your writing about the fair trade business practices reminded me of the times that has been used as a marketing tool. The “fair trade” and “better for the environment” is hijacked as a way to be more competitive and sell more of your own brand of product. TOM’S shoes are a perfect example.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX0g66MWbrk

    • Kyle – awesome video!! I feel the same way about Samaritan’s Purse and their Christmas boxes.

    • Greg says:

      I’m with Mark. Great video.

    • mm Jennifer Williamson says:

      Totally agree that there is a lot of misuse of “fair trade” out there. But I don’t think that excuses me from becoming a wise consumer. I think it takes some time and some intentionality, but I do think we can be more mindful of how our purchases impact the greater world. TOM’s is, for sure, a negative example. But there are positive examples out there as well. I say “bravo” to Greg’s daughter for trying to use her purchase power wisely.

      • Greg says:

        She is a better advocate than I am sometimes. It is always nice when your children make good decisions (without our immediate input)

  5. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Greg,
    Great analogy with the buffet of religion. I had a youth in my group a few years ago who grew up in a very normal Christian home, good parents who loved him and taught him their faith. When he graduated he decided he was an atheist, he then decided two years later that he was now agnostic, that led to him becoming Buddhist, and he then settled on Bahai. I had heard he had started looking at Judaism recently. It seems his smorgasbord of choices led him in any direction he choose but he has never felt complete with whatever he chose. It is an interesting look into culture.

    Jason

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