Friday, August 8, 2008

Religious Butterflies

There are few scenes in nature with the colorful splendor of a monarch butterfly casually floating about a meadow of wildflowers in full bloom. We’re all familiar with the flying patterns of butterflies as they navigate the air, floating and touching down with abandon.

Rev. Tom Reese of Georgetown University compares people to butterflies: “Some people are like butterflies that go from flower to flower, going from religion to religion – and frankly they don’t get that deep into any of them.”

The growing pluralistic tolerance that is sweeping our country would seem to reinforce the butterfly analogy. A recent survey of 35,000 adults revealed some startling results. 70% of Americans with a religious affiliation believe that many religions can led to eternal life. Among this group are 57% of evangelical Christians who agree with this pluralistic assessment despite the clear teachings of their faith to the contrary. Perhaps even more surprising is the finding that 21% of self-identified atheists admit they actually believe in God or a universal spirit.

Such statistics lead Prof. D. Michael Lindsay of Rice University to conclude that “religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep.”

Some observes praise these findings as indicating “increased religious security” causing people to be more comfortable with other faith traditions. A more realistic assessment, however, reveals that such open-mindedness grows out of a basic ignorance of the teachings’ of one’s faith.

No Christian who takes the Bible seriously can conclude that there are many ways to find peace with God. Jesus unambiguously declared an exclusive message: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Distorting those words to conclude that Jesus is simply one of many ways to find eternal life does irreparable damage to the integrity of Jesus’ message. Such a perspective is not open-minded Christianity; it is not Christianity at all.

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