Religious Syncretism

When a woman asked Thich Nhat Hahn (the Buddhist monk Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) if she should convert from Christianity to Buddhism, he told her it probably wasn’t necessary. He pointed out that religions have two overlapping aspects. One is the wisdom and mystery of the spiritual lessons. The other is the culture, customs, and traditions that help define it. A Christian can learn about karma, meditation, or the 4 Noble Truths without becoming fully Buddhist. Similarly, a Buddhist may hear and appreciate the Sermon on the Mount or read about the fruit of the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean he or she has to observe Palm Sunday or learn Amazing Grace. 

Perhaps the religions of the world are all paths to the same place–a place of love, unity, wisdom, and peace. An individual can only walk on one path at a time. For me, it’s the Christian path, Baptist to be exact. But I’ve received a great deal of strength for my journey from books, talks, and first hand experiences in other spiritual traditions.

We must glean all the wisdom we can from around the world.

It is entirely possible that the people of India, Africa, and the Far East who have never been exposed to Jesus Christ still have a tight connection to their divine creator and sustainer. Christians know that teaching Muslims, Hindu, Yoruba, Taoist, and all other people about the essence of Christ will make them better. Similarly, Christians can learn something valuable from other religions’ essential teachings as well.

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