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
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
we agree with those who are different. That just makes us the
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.
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
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
Remember how much Jesus
loves you. It is such an honor and a joy to be your bishop! I love you
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