Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bishop Jake's Message

Dear Friends in Christ,

Violent protests across the Muslim world have dominated the news in the past week. Responding to a video ridiculing Mohammed, Muslims in the Middle East and beyond have taken to the streets, threatened American embassies, hurled rocks and insults, and killed and wounded diplomatic personnel.

These are stark reminders to us that we live in a multicultural, religiously pluralistic world. Perhaps even more challenging, people of many cultures and a variety of religious traditions call the United States home.

One of the great strengths of our nation–and of our Anglican heritage–is our persistent commitment to religious tolerance. We insist on acknowledging and respecting religious beliefs different from our own. Even while we deplore the violence by mobs composed of Muslim individuals, we show due respect for individual Muslims and for their faith tradition.

But note that tolerance assumes difference. A common error in our attempts to exercise tolerance involves confusing tolerance with relativism and subjectivism.

Relativism says that all religions are equally true. They are all partial perspectives on the great whole that is God. Now the problem with relativism is twofold. First, consider the person who says that religious belief is relative. He or she must see the greater whole in order to say that religious believers are unwittingly seeing only slices of the whole. In other words, relativists make a claim to see a total picture and at the same time says no one else sees the total picture. This is at once condescending and contradictory. Second, to say that all religions are equally true is actually to say that none of them is true in any genuine sense.

Subjectivism is an extreme case of relativism. This point of view is summed up in the oft heard phrase, “It’s true for me.” In other words, a subjective approach to religion reduces every faith to the whims and fancies of each individual and surrenders any claim to describing a larger spiritual reality. Usually, subjectivists end up admitting that they live according to a comforting and comfortable fiction. They do not know God. They cling to a practical, reassuring fable.

Followers of Jesus do not claim a perfect knowledge of the mind of God. We claim friendship with Jesus because he has claimed us as friends. We are committed to following him, with the humble awareness that we will always do so imperfectly. Our commitment to Jesus does not make us morally superior and gives us no room for condescension toward or condemnation of anyone else.

Jesus followers are tolerant because we are humble. We do not relinquish the truth of Jesus’ saving love when we acknowledge that others have chosen to take a different path in life. Tolerance does not require that we agree with those who are different. That just makes us the same. In fact, tolerance calls us to continue to love those who are different. As spiritual challenges go, that seems essentially Christian. Our Friend and Lord has called us to love even our enemies.

And now for some news.

Last Sunday’s sermon is entitled “Speaking of God.” As usual, here’s where to find the text and the audio:

On Thursday we will celebrate the new era of ministry at Redeemer, Ruston, with the Institution of the Rev. Bill Easterling as Rector at 6:00 p.m. Our color is red.

This Wednesday I will be present for a book signing at St. Michael’s in Pineville at 6:00 p.m. Everyone is invited. Books will be available as a premium for donations to outreach. My next signing will be at Diocesan Convention. Just email me if you would like for me to come to your congregation for a brief talk and book signing. I would love to come!

For photos of my recent visits, check out my Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, send me a friend request. I would love to keep up with you and help you to stay connected to our Diocesan family.
Remember how much Jesus loves you. It is such an honor and a joy to be your bishop! I love you with Christ’s own love.

In Christ’s Love,

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309-2031