Romping on Rome's Interfaith Elephant
Jesus just lost his job. The saviour of the world has been sacked, laid off and put on the wallaby track. Why saddle yourself with a megalomaniac who claims He is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to get to God, when you can hotfoot it with a Higher Committee of Human Fraternity who whistle their way to world peace and a hippie heaven without the need for a saviour?
Rome has spoken. We definitely prefer a cuddly, roly-poly interfaith elephant swinging its trunk to the Beatles' "All you need is love" and the chummy Abu Dhabi Declaration to a prickly orthodox Catholic porcupine who believes in sticking to St. Paul's slogan: "There is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved."
Who needs an exclusive gospel when you can walk into a supermarket and choose from 48 varieties of yogurt — none of them claiming to be the only true yogurt?
So, inspired by last year's love letter signed by Pope Francis and his compadre the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb and sealed by a holy kiss, the Vatican has issued a statement on behalf of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity to "dear fellow believers in God, the All-Creator, our brothers and sisters in humanity everywhere."
First, don't look for Jesus in this document. You won't find Him even if you use a magnifying glass. He's been given the pink slip, remember?
Tolerance is the Vatican's new mantra, and a ginormous interfaith elephant squatting in St. Peter's Square is its new mascot.
Second, anyone who knows diddly-squat about the major world religions will wince at this very first statement in the Vatican's pompous pronouncement, which — assuming anyone gives a toss — is addressed to "all peoples around the world."
A monist Hindu will cringe, because Advaita Hinduism doesn't believe in a Creator God. Actually, creation, according to many schools of Hinduism is an illusion — maya. Says the Yoga Vashista, "The world is nothing but a mere vibration of consciousness in space." And God isn't creator: How can God create since God isn't even a person? The Hindu god Brahman (not to be confused with the highest caste Brahmin) is a principle.
Creation comes about because of a delusion. The moment I realise I'm not who I am, but I am god, my atman (spirit) becomes one with the great consciousness Brahman and I attain salvation (moksha).
This, needless to say, is a dork's guide to Hinduism. Philosophically, Hinduism is as complex as two millepedes dancing the rumba. But if this is "creation as illusion" is Hinduism's credo, the followers of Hinduism and their Buddhist and Jain cousins aren't going to go gaga over Pope Francis' narrative of God the All-Creator or the post-Vatican II tosh from progressive pulpits of all religions leading to the "same God."
The epistle from the Higher Committee (Is there a Lower Committee?) goes on to belch out more theological hot air appealing to "peoples around the world to do good deeds, observe fast, pray and make devout supplications to God Almighty to end this pandemic."
"Each one from wherever they are and according to the teachings of their religion, faith or sect, should implore God to lift this pandemic off us and the entire world, to rescue us all from this adversity, to inspire scientists to find a cure that can turn back this disease and to save the whole world from the health, economic and human repercussions of this serious pandemic," it pontificates.
But if the whole world and the pandemic is an illusion and if Brahman is a principle, how in blazes do the interfaith commissars at the Vatican living off Peter's Pence expect 1.1 billion Hindus to respond to this pig-ignorant plea?
And how would Buddhists who are simply non-theists, or Buddhists who believe that the gods themselves are helpless and need to be enlightened, respond to the Vatican's theological swashbuckling?
At best, the Vatican's virtue signalling makes it look like the village oaf in the eyes of billions of adherents of other religions around the world, never mind patronising and insulting them.
At worst, such invertebrate attempts at "building bridges" only confirms what most devotees of other religions already believe — since the Church is so supine, their religion must be inherently superior and the only way to Ultimate Reality (as defined by their particular religion).
Philosophically, Hinduism is as complex as two millepedes dancing the rumba.
Ironically, for all its claims to pluralism, Hinduism remains tolerant only as long as it is permitted to exist as the all-encompassing umbrella under which all other religions can seek shelter.
So a Hindu from a non-classical Hindu tradition is comfortable affirming Jesus as god, as long as Jesus is one of the polytheistic pantheon of 33 million gods (who, incidentally, have deluded themselves in thinking they are separate from the principle of Brahman).
But tolerance is the Vatican's new mantra, and a ginormous interfaith elephant squatting in St. Peter's Square is its new mascot.
Rome has jettisoned the Great Commission of Jesus to preach the gospel to all nations and has adopted the ancient Indian parable of the six blind men and the elephant which claims that our knowledge of God is like six blind men who each feel a different part of an elephant.
One grabs the tusk and says, "An elephant is like a spear!" Another feels the trunk and says, "An elephant is like a snake!" The blind man hugging the leg thinks, "An elephant is like a tree!" The one holding the tail claims, "An elephant is like a rope!" Another feeling the ear believes, "An elephant is like a fan!" The last blind man leaning on the elephant's side exclaims, "An elephant is like a wall!"
Almost daily, Pope Francis harangues against Catholics "proselytising" (never properly defining the slippery word and never exhorting us to preach the gospel and convert non-Christians to faith in Christ lest they go to Hell) and uncritically affirming all religions, faiths and sects.
This is eloquent testimony of his belief in the parable of the elephant's presupposition, i.e., we are all blind, or partially sighted, and each religion only has an inadequate grasp of the greater truth.
There is, however, a problem. Most people who tell this story (and I've heard countless liberal Catholic priests parrot it) forget to mention that in the original version of the parable, the most important character in the story is the king.
The king isn't blind. The king alone can clearly see what the whole elephant really looks like! The king gathers the six blind men and allows them to make fools of themselves. This is the only reason why the story is able to conclude that the blind men have only a partial grasp of the truth.
It is the king who makes the claim to seeing the full truth. Christianity makes the outrageous claim that Jesus sees God as God really is because Jesus is God. "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known," writes St. John. We, in turn, see the whole truth only because Jesus has revealed Himself as God's full and final revelation.
When Pope Francis gives Jesus the heave-ho and replaces him with a Higher Committee of Human Fraternity the pontiff demotes Jesus from King of Kings to one of the blind men feeling his way around the elephant.