For me, there is but one God, and there are a million different ways to connect with that one God. Our society has long been dominated by the idea that only Jesus offers salvation because Jesus is a direct link to God. If that were true, the story of Jesus wouldn’t begin years after humanity was formed. Jesus does offer salvation; Jesus is a direct link to God… for those who follow him. The scripture verse that is most often used to exclude any other religion from God is the ever popular John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This verse is written to Christians. It is intended as encouragement. In Jesus, Christians will know good things – the glory of God – and they won’t succumb to the evils that surround them in this world. Other religious writings speak similar words to their followers, for example, Buddhists find hope in the life and work of Buddha. Hindus (which is actually a way of living, not necessarily a religion) have many leaders (Ganesha, Vishnu, etc.) that have paved the way to knowing great glory in an otherwise traumatized world.
Also, I strongly believe that faith is personal, it speaks to the individual. I cannot tell another person that they must believe exactly as I do or that they must use the same spiritual practices that I prefer, because each and every one of us is different. We are uniquely composed from a variety of genetics. Not one of us is alike. How my spirit gains contentment is not true for someone else. In all honesty, I’m rather grateful that God connects with each of us on an individual basis. There would be nothing to learn, no way to grow or engage our spirits if it were not true, and we’d therefore never experience transformation.
All of that aside, I support religions other than my own because I am American. We often forget that explorers found America by accident. There is a lot of history to it, and it includes several lands, but ultimately, the explorers set sail from Spain in search of gold in Asia. But their directions were wrong and they ended up on American soil instead. Thinking the land was vacant, they decided to stay (I’ll discuss the treatment of American Natives in another article). When word of this discovery got back to Europe, Pilgrims and Puritans left England to travel there. One of the reasons they wanted a new land was for religious freedom. When England broke with the Catholic Church they formed The Church of England and everyone was made to join. The Constitution of the United States was therefore established upon religious liberty. People were free to follow whatever religion they desired. While several of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were Christian, America was never established as a Christian nation. In fact, our Pledge of Allegiance says “one nation under God,” not one nation under Christ. I find it counterproductive that Christianity spread, becoming the majority, and then did exactly what they hoped to leave behind – religious persecution. Just because 70% of Americans identified themselves by some sort of Christianity, doesn’t mean that 70% gets to forgo the constitution of religious freedom and dominate the other 30%. I support other religions because I love my country and the principles of which it was founded.
There are a lot of people in this world, which means there are a lot of needs, perspectives, opinions, and desires. Perhaps as the majority, we should look beyond ourselves and consider the wisdom on which we were founded. The quest for domination has only afforded a myriad of strife and divisiveness – I can’t help but believe that our world was meant for something much better.
The Rev. Kimbrel Johnson is the Head of Staff Pastor at Community Presbyterian Church of Grand Rapids, Minn. You can submit questions for consideration at firstname.lastname@example.org