|Western Seminary basks in the sunset|
A young man, a bit older than the rest, stood in their midst, speaking. I listened as I passed through.
"... it's about who you follow," he said. He held his hands before him, palms to the fading sky. He spoke earnestly. He spoke honestly. To the west, the sun painted the horizon pink. "If you choose to follow Jesus, you become part of a family," he said. "You're automatically just as important as anyone else."
I found it impossible not to like the kids. All of them. Who can resist the innocence and oblivious beauty of youth? Especially youth motivated by the desire to do good, to be good, to contribute to society in a positive way?
But, of course, being the angst-ridden hair-splitter that I am, I was troubled by the young man's statement.
Not the bit about being part of a family when you follow Christ. That is one of the aspects of religion that I admire most: the way that it encourages and promotes community, the way that it brings people together, the way it encourages a morality that, frankly, elevates us above brute existence.
But the youth's second sentence: "[If you are Christian] you're automatically just as important as anyone else." I found that troubling.
Why? Because there is an implication that, if you are not Christian, you may not be as important as anyone else. Or, putting it another way: The only way to be sure you are as important as anyone else is to be a Christian.
As the husband of a devout Muslim, of course, this is going to chafe. But, to the extent that I understand Christian dogma, isn't it contradictory? After all, didn't Christ say: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. Love others as well as you love yourself”?
Or this: "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble"?
Or this: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another"?
That well-intentioned young man on the path in Mount Tabor, I am sure, had no inkling of the un-Christ-like implications of the second part of his statement. A glance at his sincere expression revealed as much.
But, if I could have done so without intruding, I might have said to him: "Son, no one is any more important than anyone else. I can't say I'm a Christian, but I've always believed that. And, you know, I think that may be what Christ preached."