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“Is there a common thread that runs through all religions? Where can Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists find a common ground that unites rather than divides them?”

Question: “Is there a common thread that runs through all religions? Where can Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists find a common ground that unites rather than divides them?”

This issue has been an ongoing debate for centuries. The Dalai Lama insists that the common thread is “compassion”, while others say there is no common thread at all. So let’s look at what we do know—Jews, Christians and Muslims share a monotheistic heritage (that means all three faiths believe in one God, the merciful Creator and judge of the world). Jews, Christians and Muslims share a common ancestor, Abraham, who made a covenant with God. We may believe different things about Abraham’s God, but it is still the one God of Abraham.

To extend beyond the Abrahamic faiths we might turn to what is commonly referred to as the “Golden Rule” which instructs us to treat others the way you want to be treated. This ethical code has been expressed in ancient wisdom texts and stories in Chinese, Egyptian and Greek cultures and can be found  in nearly all of the world’s religions.

Another line of thought on this issue is expressed in the philosophy of seeking unity in diversity. This idea is that it is through the knowledge of, and appreciation for the commitment of others in living out their unique faith that we may unite. In this way the differences of others are not to be brushed aside but celebrated and respected as part of the diversity of creation. In the United Church of Christ we lean on a phrase from our tradition (in fact it was the motto at Eden Seminary) that says “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” We can learn to appreciate and even celebrate the differences among us when we seek to see what is “of God” in one another. This idea can speak to our efforts at religious tolerance and embrace of interfaith cooperation; it can also speak to our struggles to be in community with those of the same faith with whom we may not always agree. We seek out those essentials in which we must unite, we embrace the diversity which makes us unique, and in all that we do we seek the well-being and wholeness of all.

“Got Questions” is a monthly column written by the pastor which seeks to answer various questions church members may have about the Bible, church history, and church/spiritual practices.