One of the things I love most about the church I serve is its openness to other religions.
Some people think that being Christian is about closing everything else out and walking a very narrow path. We hear many Christians espouse that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ and his atoning death. However, that's not the only Christian perspective. Unfortunately, it is the one with the loudest voice.
And perhaps with good reason. If you believe that those who don't believe in Jesus Christ as the only Lord and savior are going to hell, then of course you'd do everything in your power to save your friends, your family and everyone you meet!
I don't believe that, so I'm freed from having to try to convert everyone around me. Instead, I believe that Christianity is one path of many. Sometimes it is a narrow path, a very difficult one — the road to the cross is not easy — but it is not threatened by other paths.
Actually, I think it is enhanced.
I believe that Jesus taught that each of us is a child of God. He daringly included foreigners (and thus, those of other traditions) into his circle. Instead of condemning, he healed. When challenged by the leaders in his own faith tradition, he questioned but never threatened to take his toys and start a new religion. Instead, he simply saw God as bigger than his own religious institution. And I believe he wanted his followers to do the same.
Therefore, to follow in Jesus' radical ministry of openness and inclusion, Fairview Community Church has begun an Interfaith Dialogue Day. Is this really such a radical concept — to learn and appreciate another faith and to potentially enhance your own faith while doing it? I think it is right in line with what Jesus would want for us: to question and grow, build bridges and push our faith.
As a pluralist, I can appreciate other traditions. I can even practice them! And I'm not worried about my fate. God is manifested in countless ways in our world. How wonderful it is to experience more ways than just my own!
This Sunday we're inviting a Hindu leader and professor, Santosh Tandon, into our worship service at Fairview Community Church. We'll be engaging in a sacred dialogue on Hinduism and Christianity! Who knows — we might just find out we have a lot more in common than we ever imagined!
Whether you're Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh, I challenge you to explore another faith tradition. Embrace the freedom to grow and learn and be open to God's mystery wherever you might find it!
THE REV. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.