Thing On These Things: Living in a pluralistic society

Although Jesus prayed for a oneness of his people (John 17) we certainly have not tried to foster unity

Over the years I have mulled over the sad results of divisions within churches. That is a rather important topic for me as a Christian minister/pastor, and you would expect that I address that issue. Although Jesus prayed for a oneness of his people (John 17) we certainly have not tried to foster unity.

With an influx of immigrants coming to Canada with other religious backgrounds, a new issue arises for churches and our broader society. Other religions have been here for many years.  Native spirituality is deeply rooted in First Nations culture. Sikhism, Bahai and Buddhism, along with other faiths, have long been a part of the B.C. religious fabric. Up until now Christian faith was predominant even though these other faiths were present.

What has changed is a weakening of Christianity, and an influx of highly visible Islamic immigrants. The TV sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” finds humor in the situation. I detest the way in which the clergyman is portrayed in the show, but that is for another discussion. Otherwise it is a good show.

It seems to me that there are a lot of Canadians with no concept of world religions. Although historically we have been Christian, the fragmented Church scene has been hard for those unfamiliar with church history to understand. Add to that problem the differences in other world religions, and many misunderstandings surface.

As a Christian I do have firm convictions based on Biblical teachings, and I would love to have everyone around me share those beliefs. That is not happening. Our society is now pluralistic. All sorts of religious expressions are practiced, and a lot of people reject such expression altogether. Some sort of conflict is bound to occur.

I think that two things need to happen if conflict is to be avoided.

First, people with faith need to know each other.  Knowledge encourages understanding. A willingness to study other religions is essential. I feel that I can more than adequately defend my Christian faith, and I don’t feel threatened by other religions. That doesn’t free me or other believers from the responsibility of studying to understand and respect the faith of others even when we seek to win them to our position. That responsibility goes the other way, also.

Secondly, those people who are atheists or just non-religious need to hone their knowledge of religions. Much of what is said against religious convictions is wrong. This is particularly true when speaking of churches. Although most Canadian Christian churches are losing ground, other religions are growing, mainly through immigration. Those who ignore this do so at their own peril. Once again, knowledge will foster respect. The disrespect shown by the “New Atheist” writers is unfortunate.

 

Wars are still being fought over religion, which means that religious convictions are a force to reckon with. Just think about the heartache caused by the 9/11 radicals. At the same time, such convictions can be doing much good. Study and investigate with an open heart and mind.

– Lloyd Strickland, Clearwater Christian Church