FAITH IS “INCLUSIVE” NOT “EXCLUSIVE”

by Archpriest Antony Gabriel

 

Taken from the Latin root “religio”, religion implies the notion of one who is “bound to something. Of course, the sense of the supernatural is also associated with someone who is typically religious. Anyone who is cognizant of “religious follies” in the 20th century also knows that this designation can carry with it a certain exclusivity or even fanaticism.

The various movements that have emerged in the media have given us a very stark picture of what religion or the seemingly so-called religious people can do to one another. Misinterpreted or politicized, religion can convey the opposite which is intended, that is man’s inhumanity to man. It does not take much to stretch the imagination when the various media portray wars, upheavals and brutal killings that take place in the name of religion.

Like Ivan Dostoevsky’s Brothers Kararmov, “if this is religion, I too give back ‘my penny’ to God.”

Thankfully, I believe this is a distortion of the basic fundamental impetus behind the revelatory acts of God in history.

I much prefer to believe that it is not religion as such that attaches men and women of good will to the divine. It is rather “faith” in a merciful and loving God who is the moving and dynamic personal force in history — and who transcends all divisions.

We are called not to be religious as such as we are called to be faithful — not to be “bound-up” but rather to be opened to God and one another.

Faith is “inclusive” not “exclusive”. Faith is the impetus to the evolution of the human spirit under the guidance of the Spirit of God to create a true humanism where there is equality and dignity of the human person.

Christians, Jews and Muslims of every stripe who carry the banner of “particularism” betray the depth of faith. That does not preclude “roots” or the personal commitment to one’s spiritual heritage — but it seems to me, the return to fundamentalism or separateness can only lead to the disintegration of the community.

Differences need not he obliterated, but in fact can enrich and enhance the ultimate conveyance to all that is best in men and women of faith.

In Victor Hugo’s famous work, Les Miserables, we hear the telling line “when one loves another person, one sees the face of God.”

Is this not the essence or “heart” of faith — and if one insists, of religion?

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