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In a message dated 12/28/00 5:30:53 PM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

> I have many
>  personal preferences, none of which I consider necesary religiously; but I
>  do hold that it was historically true that Jesus of Nazareth showed all the
>  signs necessary to prove His claim to be the very son of the God of Israel
>  and that therefore all that follows from His teaching is true; and that
>  therefore all who are in anyway deficient by that reckoning are potential
>  candidates for my concern and personal intercession. That's part of what
>  charity means for a Christian; and since Christianity is true, it is also a
>  love that will bear eternal fruits for both parties.

I'm very concerned about the excess enthusiasm of the true believer, although
certainly one finds it in both testaments. It's the gospel of "My beliefs are
better than your beliefs, because my beliefs are true, and your best or only
hope is to admit this and to conform your beliefs to mine." I don't know if
we should refer to this all-too-familiar manifesto as the gospel of hubris.
Regretably, it  reinterprets faith as a power struggle, and "charity" becomes
a patronizing caricature of itself. Worse, the gospel of "my beliefs are
better than your beliefs..." is couched in the very rhetoric of enmity,
expressing what  William James called the natural pugnaciousness of human
beings.

If it were in my power, I'd revise the curricula of all seminaries of all
faiths, so that greater emphasis would be given to the study of comparative
religion.  The immediate aim would be to ensure that anyone called to a
religious vocation acquires an in-depth knowledge of many religions, and not
just his own faith. Maybe this would encourage the further understanding that
we live in an existential world. "The truth," as any individual understands
it, has to be only a partial and imperfect version of the truth, constrained
to the limitations of that particular individual. Dante goes so far as to say
that even the blessed in heaven don't fully understand the mind of God. How
could they, if, piously, God is perfect and man is not  perfect? I believe it
was Thucydides who said that the truth can only be the whole truth, and none
of us can know or tell the entire truth--therefore no historian tells the
truth in any absolute or objective sense. Each historian offers his limited
personal perspective, and maybe Dante would have wanted to add that it isn't
given to any human being to know the whole truth, that only God knows the
whole truth.

As we human beings seem to be incorrigible truth-seekers, I'm not minimizing
the thrill of feeling that one understands, that one knows the truth. Too
often, one looks back, years later, to realize that one didn't actually
understand as fully as one thought one understood at the time.  The truly
humble people might be those who notice the still, small voice that says not
to get too carried away, that one's understanding may very well be  far more
limited than one thinks it is.

pat sloane