I love learning about different religions. I’ve always been fascinated by faith and non-faith, from the colourful polytheism of Hinduism to the strict monotheism of Islam, right down to the secular humanism that rejects both. R.E was one of my favourite subjects at school and I distinctly remember one of my best grades was a project I had to do on Judaism in year 9. I remember working particularly hard on it simply because I found Jewish culture fascinating – maybe even attractive. I admired their pride in their cultural traditions, I loved the beauty of the language of the Torah and the Talmud, and I so badly wanted to experience Shabbat at a synagogue.(It’s still on my bucket list).
I would never date a Jewish man.
Strange? While I love learning about different faiths, I am adamant that the faith I believe in is the truth. Arrogant,some would say. But not only do I assert that what i believe is the truth, I fully expect other people who have different faith backgrounds to assert the same thing, and I have no problem with that. After all, what is the point of faith if it is half hearted? How can something shape the entire fabric of your life, right down to the clothes you wear and the food you eat, and be a ambiguous wandering in the direction of a possible certainty. No one’s giving up bacon based on a vague inkling. And I’m certainly not refraining from sex before marriage because of a hunch I got a few years ago that it could possibly be a good idea, sorta, depending on what cereal I ate yesterday. Erm, no. There’s got to be certainty on that one.
There are some truths that can co-exist. The sky can be blue and the grass can be green at the same time. A woman can look fabulous with a weave and with an afro. Popcorn can be both sweet and savoury.
Some truths can’t though. You cannot have refined taste buds AND like avocados. Water can’t be both cold and hot. And the Bible and the Qu’ran can’t both be 100% true. They just can’t – because they blatantly contradict each other.
The question is not, how much does truth matter? Because we all know that truth matters. A lot. It matters whether the diagnosis the doctor gave your Mum last week is the truth. It maters whether the exam grade you received yesterday is the truth. It matters whether the directions that that random lady gave you to that sports massage clinic that you paid more money than could possibly be ethical for someone to just lay hands on you, and you were already running late, were the truth. No, we all know truth matters.
The question is, what do you ACTUALLY believe to be true?
My faith makes some pretty bold claims about a lot of things in the world. It claims that there is only one way for man to fully access God. It claims that the decision to follow this deity is a life or death decision, and that those who make it should be prepared to give up their whole life, everything that is important to them, to live for this truth. These are ludicrous and outlandish claims to anyone who does not believe as I do.
But if I really believe that these are life or death decisions, how can I be comfortable linking my entire life, my hopes, dreams and aspirations with someone who is not willing to shape his whole life around this cause in the way that I am? How can I be comfortable with him telling my children that this faith, that I believe is a matter of life and death, may not exist at all, or that the faith he believes in is as good, as viable an alternative?
If I am comfortable with this, it’s a clear indicator that I do not believe what I claim to believe. It’s not that I don’t believe truth matters, it’s that what I say I believe to be true and what I ACTUALLY believe to be true must be two entirely different things.
Some Christian (specifically Adventist) parents chastise and guilt their children for marrying outside of their faith, without realising that it wasn’t really their faith at all. Christians who are very comfortable marrying Hindus have made a quite obvious statement that they don’t really believe in the claims of Christianity. That’s entirely their prerogative, but it makes sense to own it rather than calling it an inter-faith marriage. I can’t speak for other religions, but I believe that in Christianity there is no such thing as an inter faith marriage. By making the decision to marry outside of the faith, at the time of that act, you have essentially denied the faith. That’s not to say that that marriage is doomed to failure, the person in question is cut off forever, or that God cannot bring beautiful things out of what (I believe)is a mistake. But it does mean that at the time, you are making a very clear personal statement of your faith (or non-faith).
More specifically, within Christianity there are several different denominations. Some of them have a very basic set of beliefs and some of them make very specific claims about quite a few things. Mine is one of them. If you’re a Seventh Day Adventist who marries a Baptist – again, that’s your prerogative, but you clearly didn’t really believe in the specificities of Adventism at the time you decided to get married. If that continues, can you with integrity call yourself an Adventist?
I’m a big believer in live and let live when it comes to faith. One of my fondest memories was being in Chad and hearing the Muslim call to prayer. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard. I don’t believe in Islam, but I want Muslims to have the freedom to believe what they believe, and I want us to be able to live alongside each other and treat each other with mutual respect. At the same time, I believe that the faith that I found is the best thing to ever happen to me. It gives me joy and peace and of course I naturally want to share that with others if they allow me to (and only if they allow me to). If Christianity doesn’t inspire that in you, then I would politely question whether you’ve truly experienced it.
I certainly don’t want to be in the awkward situation where my significant other feels that I am waiting, Bible in hand, to convert them to my faith. I would hate to be on the receiving end of that and I refuse to inflict that on anyone else.
Truth matters. What matters more is what you believe is the truth.
What do you guys think? Close minded or common sense?