I heard from some of my Christian friends that people of other faiths won’t be saved and will be damned in hell forever. It really troubled me so much. As a kid, I had an affinity with other faiths, even if at the time I had not met a Buddhist or a Hindu and not even visited their temples or read their books. I had a chance talking to first Muslim I met in college, and we did not even talked about Islam. I grew up in a predominantly Catholic community and earned my diplomas from Catholic schools. I was virtually clueless of what other religions and their followers actually do and look like. But my respect for their humanity compelled me to discover them.
I could not just brush off the consequence that those people in the world, millions of them, would be eternally damned. I couldn’t help but ask God why he allows such reality. I knew deep inside that there is something wrong. Humanity is not just predestined to suffer because of such religious diversity. God is surely not to reject others. There is more to what he really means than most adamants of Christian doctrine have always claimed. God saves everyone in his Loving embrace. I was just sure of it. But I was not sure how I knew it.
I then explored Buddhism and Taoism. It hurt and confounded some of my valued Christian friends. They thought I was deviating from Christ’s teaching. For a brief period I had become self-righteous, thinking that my newfound faiths were much truer than Christianity. The Dharma, the Zen and the Tao teach concepts of essence and emptiness, and I had found no difficulty in accepting them as an escape from the words and meanings of my religious upbringing.
This Divinity in us, the perennial message of all ancient masters, is nothing else but Love.
Then I was startled that my detour was actually coming full circle: That Christ and Buddha and Lao Tzu were sages of different times and different nations, but arrived on the same wisdom and preached the same message. Religion is not anymore a question, but the rediscovery of the Divine in each of us, of which all humanity possesses. That is the message I wanted to tell every person who believes in God, and allow them to witness the profundity of this wisdom. I saw something very significant, something earth-shattering. This Divinity in us, the perennial message of all ancient masters, is nothing else but Love.
In the light of our characterization of God, Love has been touted as just one of his characters among a spectrum of variety. One Christian friend I met told me that God is not just of Love, but also of wrath and jealousy. God seeks retribution against his enemies, of which a multitude of them are human beings – beings in the image and likeness God, created by God and who are deemed and redeemed by God’s Love. Why is this idea of God so pervasive? I sought not to refute my friend’s thought nor defend my understanding. I simply saw that both of us are in the embrace of a Loving God, seeking to reconcile differences in ideas by seeing our human sameness. I feel deep inside this is the message of a God who includes all.
I first confirmed my insight through the late Brother Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic monk who saw the wisdom of Christ as a teaching of Love (see The Path to Agape). Regardless of diverse faiths, God, beyond our limited, capricious personification, is an inclusive deity who does not seek divisiveness and rejection. I found this very wisdom in the sacred, secular and scientific propositions of Deepak Chopra in his book How to Know God, whose premises include all faiths and see the human, not the doctrine in them. I was completely swept away by Neale Donald Walsch’s conversation series with a radical God that cuts through the illusions of a fear-inducing belief in God. I was amazed on how Pastor Brian McLaren revealed The Secret Message of Christ, and told the world a new face of God in line with Jesus’ mission and manifesto.
And recently, I was surprised to learn and read about one of the most influential preachers in America, Bishop Carlton Pearson, author of the book The Gospel of Inclusion. I am almost half way to the last page, yet I have been so much thrilled and deeply inspired by the confirmations I read about his stand on a God who includes everyone. Bishop Pearson asserts a God who sees sinners beyond misgivings, grave mistakes and unforgivable acts. He affirms a God who does not qualify anyone by gender choices or religious affiliations. He champions a God who is not judging but Loving everyone simply because they are all human beings. No hell, no retribution, no punishment, no second judgment – only Love. Because Love, in our shared understandings (even though Pearson does not even know me reading his book), is God’s true impulse in the breadth of our existence. Only an image of God who includes all can truly Love. In that image, we fulfill our purpose of ultimately Loving one another.