“The man who is following a path can never know truth. Truth is not something in the distance; there is no path to it, there is neither your path nor my path; there is no devotional path, there is no path of knowledge or path of action, because truth has no path to it. The moment you have a path to truth, you divide it, because the path is exclusive; and what is exclusive at the very beginning will end in exclusiveness. The man who is following a path can never know truth because he is living in exclusiveness; his means are exclusive, and the means are the end, are not separate from the end. If the means are exclusive, the end is also exclusive. So there is no path to truth, and there are not two truths. Truth is not of the past or the present, it is timeless; the man who quotes the truth of the Buddha, of Shankara, of Christ, or who merely repeats what I am saying, will not find truth, because repetition is not truth. Repetition is a lie.” Krishnamurti
I don’t read a lot of fiction. I’ve decided I do too much “heavy” reading on topics of politics, history, culture, religion etc. So I have made a conscious decision to read more novels as a form of entertainment… to just chill my mind out. I recently finished reading a Christian themed novel titled: “The Last Christian” by David Gregory. It’s the story set in 2088 of an American missionary who emerges from the jungles of Papua New Guinea after 34 years and returns to the U.S. to discover that Christianity has pretty much died out.
It was an easy read but I didn’t find it that captivating. There was one section of the novel though that had a profound impact on me. It was an explanation by a history professor of why Christianity had been practically eradicated from American society in the 21st century. There were 5 primary reasons given.
The first was scientific progress starting with Darwin’s theory of evolution, which resulted in the conclusion that no deity was needed to explain the creation and variety of life on earth. The second was the fallout from the culture wars where “conservative” republican politicians used Christianity to force their own moral agendas, on such issues as abortion and homosexuality, onto the public through the legislative process. The third was the backlash against all fundamentalist religious beliefs due to the atrocities and terrorist acts associated with Islamic fundamentalism. The fourth was the rise in the belief that there was neither absolute truth nor absolute morality. Truth and morality is seen as a social construct based on personal experience and/or one’s personal beliefs. The fifth and final reason was that although Christianity professed that once someone accepts Christ as their saviour, they would be transformed by the Holy Spirit into a “better” person, studies actually showed that there was no distinct difference in the behaviour and/or attitudes of Christians and non-Christians when it came to things such as sexual behaviour, divorce rates, opinions on honesty, etc. So American society concluded why adopt a belief system which causes no real change in anyone.
I think Gregory is on to something here and it became a “wake-up” call to me. There is a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on “Religion Among the Millennials”, which found that Americans born after 1980 are considerably less religious than older Americans. I didn’t find this surprising at all, mainly for the 5 reasons stated above. Plus Eurocentric religious dogma in an increasingly multi-cultural, multi-religious and secular society, will lose some, if not most of it’s influence in shaping the attitudes and mores of that society. This in itself is not a bad thing! However, I may not be sure about a lot of things, but there are 2 things I know for sure. One, my beloved Oakland Raiders will not win the Super Bowl this upcoming NFL season and two, Christianity will never die out in the U.S. , especially among African-Americans (another Pew study here).
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14.
What was impressed upon me most by that part of the novel, was that those who profess to be Christians must not only be cognizant of what we do and say, but even most importantly, what we believe. In a multi-cultural, multi-religious and secularized society, there is pressure to walk the “wide” path or submit to the theology of multiple paths, or else you are accused of being narrow-minded, close-minded, weak, ignorant, uneducated, intolerant, bigoted, right-wing or worst of all: “conservative”. As social creatures, we do have an innate fear of rejection, especially from whatever community or group we identify most with. Due to this, I see many Christians conforming their beliefs to the prevailing ideologies of our society, for societal and/or group acceptance as well as to be seen as intelligent, educated and enlightened. But here is the danger, little by little our beliefs become so diluted that the warning of Christ becomes a reality: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be made salty again? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
First, as Christians we must remember that we weren’t given a “spirit of fear” when we accepted Christ as our saviour. In fact, we were given “the spirit of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. I have no fear of being called names or seen as unintelligent or unenlightened because I believe Jesus is the way, the only “path” to salvation. Those who truly know me, truly accept me. They don’t have to believe what I believe for us to be friends. Second, we need to live our beliefs. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but our lives should be a testimony to the difference in behaviours and attitudes when compared to non-Christians. This doesn’t make us better (or worse), but we are “a peculiar people”. We are to be the salt and a light to the world. Third, always remind ourselves that we were given a spirit of love, not a spirit of judgment. When Jesus spoke about the gate and path being narrow in Matthew 7, he first speaks about not being judgmental. As Christians we must be respectful of other beliefs, whether they be religious, philosophical or unbelief and listen to these other perspectives without judgment. Then dialogue without fear, boldly and unashamedly sharing your belief. It’s not our responsibility, nor within our power, to convince or change someone’s opinions or beliefs. We are called only to share the gospel… point the way to the path of truth.
There have been many people throughout history who have predicted that religion, Christianity in particular, will die out. There are those such as Krishnamurti above who claim that there is no path to truth. They are 100% correct… only if we, Christians, fail to travel along that narrow path of truth and allow our lives to be a testimony to that belief.