I recognized when I referred in my sermon to a CBC radio podcast from the program Tapestry, that it would be good to provide a link to it, so that people could check it out for themselves.
Here is that link: http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/tapestry_20110109_43531.mp3
I was also aware as I worked with the podcast that each of the four people in the stories about “Road to Damascus” experiences moved from their former religious orientation to devotion to a form of Islam. ( It’s interesting that the CBC producers used a Christian, biblical reference in their title.) The choice to feature all these stories about conversion to Islam may reflect the reality that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. I note that as a statistical fact, not as something that I am particularly concerned about.
As a person of faith, a spiritual director, and a pastor, I have come to a place in my own spiritual journey at which I am not overly concerned with the “brand” of religion a person practices, as long as it is life giving, sane, and involves compassion to self and others.
I believe that a life lived with awareness of our relationship to God, (whatever we call that God,) is a better life. I don’t agree intellectually with the theological claims and arguments of many “fellow” Christians. That does not stand in the way of my seeing them as kind and good and faithful people.
The same is true of people who adhere to other religions. If their religion has helped form them as loving, and helpful, and peaceful people, I don’t feel the need to dissect their theology, or to argue that my “brand” of spiritual soap is a more effective cleanser of souls.
The other thing I did not have space to develop in Sunday’s sermon was that the two conversion stories I told, one about Saul the Pharisee, and the other about Charles, who becomes Abdullah, are both about movement into a new community of faith. Over the more than 30 years since my own religious conversion, I have tended to focus on conversion as a highly personal experience- God at work in my life, in my soul. This may be because my analysis of conversion has been influenced by the study of the psychology of religious conversion, and that the works I have read in this field have been mostly the products of North American culture, with its inherent individualism. Or it may be that I am finally waking up to the fact that none of us make the spiritual journey on our own.
Like Saul on the road, we need the help of travelling companions.