Seeing God, Face to Face

"Do all faiths really worship the same God?"

Seeing God, Face to Face

for Episcopal Life
by Victor H. Kazanjian Jr.

We walk side by side, fellow travelers on life's pathways. I speak of being awakened to the wonder and mystery of the world, using words that reflect my window to the Divine, the one whom I call my Lord and my God, Jesus, the Risen Christ. You too speak of being awakened to the wonder and mystery of the world, using words that reflect your window to the Divine through the teachings of the Buddha, of Baha'u'llah, of Lord Mahavir, of Muhammad, teachings from the Torah, the Guru Granth Sahib, and the Vedas. As I hear you speak and as I look into your eyes, I see God. I feel God. I experience God in you, not just a partial reflection of my Christian God, but the Creator, the Divine Spirit in whom we all live and move and have our being. How magnificent is this Divine force that it should appear across the earth like the flowers of a garden in so many different shapes and hues.

At Wellesley College, I am surrounded by people of a myriad of religious traditions who are living witnesses to the magnificence of the Divine. At first, as we worked to understand religious diversity as a resource rather than a barrier to creating community, I came face to face with the language of Christian exclusivism that had become so deeply ingrained within me. As my heart softened, these claims of exclusive ownership over truth began to peel away like scales before my eyes. Then, I not only discovered the unique beauty and truth that lies at the heart of other religious traditions, but I also discovered, in a much deeper way than I thought possible, the unique beauty and truth that is the Christian experience, free from the idolatrous bonds of exclusivism which have held it captive for so long. It is not simply so-called "religious fundamentalists" who practice this exclusivism. No, there is a kind of tolerance of difference preached by liberal church folk which still clings to a Christo-centric world view and becomes apparent when we proclaim our faith using language that devalues the faith of others.

There is no place for religious exclusivism in Christianity. It has been arguably the single greatest source of human misery during the past two millennia. It must be replaced by an understanding of the interwoveness of all life, of all religious traditions. For Christians to understand the magnificence of God, it is necessary for us to bask in the beauty of the many other manifestations of this one great Divine force by looking lovingly into the faces of people of other religious traditions and thereby glimpsing a more complete image of the one whom we now see as though through a glass darkly, but only then face to face.