Religious diversity and respect

“Although people in various countries on various continents have a wide variety of natures, the underlying principal nature is one—only the secondary characteristics are of great variety…Therefore, the idea of God of various people, although basically similar, will differ in the details…This gives rise to variety in the mode of worship of God. Considering the matter objectively, there is no harm in secondary differences. If there is agreement concerning the essential nature of God and His worship, there should be no obstacle in attaining the same result.” (p 8)

It is this kind of broadness of spirit that allowed me to function in New Age, Sufi, Christian, and other faith traditions without having to change my basic beliefs.

When I was still a relatively new member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), I asked our interim pastor Ross Knotts, who was an old United Methodist minister, how I could be a Christian when John 14:6 says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I told him I was a devotee of Krishna and that Swamiji used to say, “Christ, Christos, Krishna, what’s the difference?” Ross replied, “If Christ equals love and Krishna equals love, then Christ equals Krishna.” And so, love is the way by any name you call it. Krishna, Jesus, Chaitanya, all taught love of God according to time and circumstance and the ability of the people to understand and accept.

When I joined the church, my pastor said I just needed to agree with the spirit of the Statement of Faith. I didn’t need to agree with each and every specific detail. There was no dogma or creed. We were all free to believe as the spirit lead us.

“The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of the faith…It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God…In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential.”

These kind of beliefs allowed four denominations to come together as one. These kind of beliefs allowed me to function within the church as ordained clergy and still be devoted to Radha Krishna within my heart. I think Thakurji would agree with these principles and his followers would benefit by following an adapted version of them also. The number of splinter groups among his followers, even on this island, are many. I feel alienated from them all by differences over disciplic succession and style of devotion. It would be nice if we could be more unified in an independent, decentralized, non-hierarchical way that respects the beliefs of all.

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