It was 2 a.m, I was doing a 150 km an hour on the North South Highway. I was passing through the tunnel near Jelapang heading North back to Paradise Island. The radio was playingGeorge Benson’s Nothings Gonna Change My Love for You. This is a special song for me, not only because it is a love song i would dedicate to the florist, but also because of a few lines of its lyrics.
“Nothing’s going to change my love for you. You ought to know by now how much I love you. One thing you can be sure of, I’ll never ask for more than your love.”
Once I had a dream, Jesus Christ (the commonly accepted image by Roman Catholics) said that to me (no, he didn’t sing that, he said that in a divine like voice). Well those were times when I used to immerse myself reading the Bible. The book of Job, and Job himself is my favorite character from the bible and mind you also from the Quran. Oh yes, Job… i envy his steadfast faith in God, i wish i had such patience, damned i am for i have cursed God in times of tribulations. My other favorite character from the bible would be Jonah son of Amittai, i like Jonah because he seeks the truth only, and not forgiveness which is pretty much like me.
What attracted me to Christianity? It wasn’t the miracles, or the promise of paradise, or the threat of hell but simply the love of Christ. To me Jesus was divine not because of his miraculous birth, not because he performed miracles, but simply because he loved humanity with all his heart. Ironically, the more I learned about Christianity the more it lead me out of it. However, I learned how to love God from Christianity, I learned that Christianity was fundamentally a religion of love.
It was Wednesday, on the April of 2000; I was sitting in the prayer hall of St. Anne’s Church Bukit Mertajam. I was alone, I had light some candles and I was having a conversation with myself. I asked myself, why am I here? Because I have come to a point where Christianity is no longer relevant to me. Do I care if I go to heaven or hell? No, God can send me where ever HE fancies. Do I love Jesus Christ? Yes, I love Jesus Christ, His message of love, and His selflessness. Have I found God in Christianity? No, I only found the love of God. Is that sufficient for me? No, that is not sufficient it leaves many questions unanswered.
What did Christianity teach me? Christianity thought me how to love God. You see, it is very difficult to love God per say. It is much easier to love a man who selflessly loved all of mankind. However, this is very similar to what I found in Vaishnavism. It was difficult for me to see them apart. In geek language, it was almost like the two religions were built upon the same kernel. Their architectures are fundamentally similar to a large extend, one was like the Mac Os X closed source and the other was like Linux open source, but both built upon Unix. However, that is for another day.
30th November 2005, the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, declared that whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith. Personally, the declaration was irrelevant to me, but it was a development that reaffirmed the love and mercy of God. I was happy with the declaration; simply because it was consistent with my personal believe in God. I believe God is infinite, thus if we were truly honest with ourselves, God is just too great to be found in scriptures or even religion.
Empathy, kindness, charity, mercy and, and compassion is what the good news is all about. It is these universal values that make a Christian, not proselytizing. I think Christians should stand up and preach these values to everybody, including the Muslims without fear or prejudice. Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross not just for Christians, he died for humanity. Have faith that your Lord is not selfish and His love and mercy knows no boundary. The King of Jews was non violent, but he was no coward, He stood up for the poor against the wicked, but He loved them none the less.
Now, I know for sure that there is a lot of proselytizing efforts being carried out by Christians. In fact, Christianity and Islam are the only religions in Malaysia that proselytize. Clause 4 of Article 11 of The Federal Constitution was specifically engineered to serve the insecurities of the Malay Muslims in Malaysia against Christianity. You Christians are the only non Muslims that practice proselytism. Realistically Article 11 clause 1, limb two which reads “subject to Clause (4), to propagate it” is only relevant to Christianity because no other religion would be interested to do so.
The Indian religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism are largely pluralistic in nature. Hinduism places faith in a proclamation which states that “Truth is One, though the sages know it by many names”. Religion for a Hindu is merely a path to a universal destination. One is free to choose any religion, follow any practice and worship any god in a manner they deem fit. Ethnocentrism according to Buddhist thought is rooted in self-grasping and reified thought which is the cause of misery itself.
The current Dalai Lama has repeatedly argued that any attempt to convert individuals from their beliefs is not only non-Buddhist, but abusive. The idea that Buddhism is the only true path is likewise false for Buddhists. Sikhism bans proselytism out of the belief that each person has a fundamental right to practice their religion freely. Although Sikhs freely share their faith with others, offending other religions is against the tenets of Sikhism.
The son of Mary was taken to the Sanhedrin, a Jewish judicial body. He was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire. He was mocked and beaten and condemned for making claims of being the Son of God. But the Lord said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself”.
The story of Jesus, was the story of a man who fought against an Empire, and till this very day His divine love inspires us. Do not belittle your Lord, for His grace stands not just for those who believe in Him, but also for those who have condemned Him. Verily He has not and will never abandon any of us, regardless of our faith or political beliefs. Religious ethnocentrism is the culture of fools, it is the way of the wicked and the damned.
My cell phone went off, “Welcome to the fallout, welcome to resistance, the tension is here, tension is here. Between whom you are and who you could be, between how it is and how it should be.” It was the Florist, I looked at the time before picking up, and it was 3:15. I paused for a moment and smiled as i recalled 3:15 “That whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “Darling! Good morning, you there yet?” said the Florist. “Oh yes dear, im there allright.” I said as I put down the car’s window for the morning breeze of Paradise Island. Haa~ blissful is the Pearl of Orient.
First Published at LoYarBuRoK