This week at class, we were talking about religious pluralism, and one topic came up that I thought worthy of mention.
Hell. Don’t forget about Hell. Don’t make it the focus of your life, but don’t forget that it is there in the corner of the room, staring back at you. Don’t forget that we are tasked not just with saving our own souls, but the souls of the entire world.
Now I’m not going to go fire and brimstone on you, but somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten what is at stake here.
You see, there has been this blossoming idea that all religions are the same, or at least, are equal in some spiritual fashion. This is insulting not only to the Catholic faith, but also to any other religion. We believe what we believe because we think it to be more true than anything else we have encountered, not because it is just as good as everything else. This is not to say that we think that no other faith has merits, it is merely saying that if they are all equal, then there is no point of believing any of them.
To be a Catholic is to believe that God Himself founded our faith, and that by its very nature makes what we believe more true than anything created by man. Now someone in another faith may feel that Jesus was not God, and that would call into question our entire understanding of the world, but we DO believe, and that is what makes us who and what we are.
So when we look at people of other faiths, what is our response? Are we called to say that they are fine, and we should leave them alone, or do we have a responsibility of some kind to share our faith with them?
Somehow, we have forgotten what is at stake here. In our culture of “I’m OK, You’re OK!” we have forgotten that things are not okay at all. There is a very real war being fought, and that war is for our very souls. There is an end to this life, and there are only two ways it can go. It is important to keep that reality in mind.
Now let me be really clear. I am not saying that anyone who is not Catholic is consigned to go to hell. I believe in the mercy of God, and I pray for the souls of both those without faith at all, and those of different faiths every day. There is however a very real value to the Church that cannot be forgotten.
You see, we have the surest path to Heaven. I’m not saying that all Catholics follow it, but it is clearly the best road to get there. Why can I say that? Because we did not build the road, Christ built it. If our beliefs were something we just made up in order to reach ever closer to the divine, then our path would have no more value than any other faith. But because God Himself took the time to create this way of life for His children, and commanded us to share this truth with the entire world, there must be some great merit for the souls of the world.
In other words, The Church is God’s idea, not ours. God desperately wants to save every child ever born from their own limitations, and created the ideal vehicle to make that happen. I’m not saying that all Catholics follow this road perfectly, but as God created it, there is simply more to the Church than anything else out there.
So to stand with the Church that Christ founded, means we can never forget that Hell is a real possibility, not only for us, but for every soul on the planet. God has given us the task of sharing the surest way to avoid that calamitous end, and we need to take that task very seriously. It is not that other faiths do not have great value, they do. The value of the Church though is not value given her by man, but by God. We need to do our best, in love and charity, to make this available to every soul on the planet.
I like to think of this as the spiritual toolbox theory. Buddhists may have a saw, and they may use that saw really well, but they lack a hammer. Muslims may have a great hammer, but they lack a drill. Hindus may have a powerful drill, but they lack a screwdriver. Now they all have merits, and they may even use some of these tools better than Catholics. I am called to think of the constant call to daily prayer for Muslims. When was the last time you stopped in the middle of the day to get down on your knees before God? Yea, I thought so. How about deep meditation? Spent any time on that recently? I bet the Buddhists have. How good was you penance this Lent? I bet it didn’t match the Hindu.
You see, they have some tools, and they may even use those tools better than we do. But only the Church has ALL the tools. We are the only ones with a full toolbox. We may not use any one tool better than another faith does, but the fact that God has given all the tools to the Church, bar none, is of extreme value. The greatest loss though, is there is one tool every other faith is missing. That tool is the True Presence of the Carpenter Himself. That tool is the single most important, and we need to do our best to make sure it is available to anyone trying to build their spiritual house.
So we are called to share His toolbox. We have very great need to do so, there is a a choice that is rather imminent. We want to give every man to opportunity to build his house well, and on the rock, not the sand.