I spend much of my time participating in interfaith gatherings where the vast majority of participants accept the premise presented in the Hindu Rig Veda: “Truth is one. Different people call it by different names.” Most of us understand that religions and the gods they cherish are human inventions seeking to articulate what is at heart ineffable.
As the Tao te Ching reminds us, “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” Any god you can institutionalize, any god you can theologize about, any god you can sell to your neighbor, just isn’t God. The true God is found in silence, stillness, and compassion. This doesn’t mean that religions have nothing to offer. On the contrary, our lives would be much poorer without them. It only means that they should realize their own limitations and be humble.
Of course this never happens. No matter how much we learn about the nature of religion, religion never seems to grow up. Case in point: the new push by Catholics to bring the Good News of Christ to the Bad News Brahmins of India.
Fifteen hundred Catholics attended the Indian Mission Congress in Mumbai last week to fire themselves up about sharing the light of Christ in the dark land of Krishna. Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio to India, said that Christians have an obligation to spread the Gospel in India as that nation falls ever more deeply into the depravity of illicit sexuality, drug abuse, poverty, and violence.
When I read this I thought, “Finally, someone is going to clean up the moral cesspool that is India! And who better to do it than Catholics?” I mean the Catholic Church is all about goodness, and ending poverty and violence. Just look at the lives of people in predominately Catholic countries such as Mexico (95% Catholic) and Columbia (91.90% Catholic). These good people under the guidance of the Catholic Church all live peaceful lives of financial sobriety and security, free from violence, drugs, and sexual perversion. And who could possibly suspect the Church and its priests of sexual immorality?
So I say, “Go get ‘em, Jesus!” This is exactly what India and the world needs, more religious strife.
Not that Catholicism doesn’t have much to offer the world; it does. But if the Church wants to share its light the best way to do it would be to create ideal societies in the countries that are already Catholic. Show us how it’s done, Papa. This is hard work, of course. It is much easier to go out and convert others to your faith than it is to actually live that faith yourselves.
Here is my best-case scenario for the Catholic Mission in India. First, they offer such a clear alternative to the caste system that Hindus worldwide finally free themselves of that oppressive idea. Second, they discover that Jesus was an incarnation of Vishnu, and realize that Hindus, too, are speaking the Truth, they are just doing so using their own names. I doubt either of these things will happen, of course. But I can dream, can’t I?