I may be a Christian, born and baptized into this Family of Faith, but I have a bachelor’s degree in non-Christian Religious Studies. For two years I immersed myself in the theologies, doctrines, and practices of Families of other Faiths. I discovered the strong covenantal identity of Judaism, the faith with an outward and visible practice of Islam, the all encompassing life of Hinduism, and the peaceful, reflective nature of Buddhism. I journeyed into the origins of all these World Religions through the study of Shamanism, ancestor veneration, naturalistic religions, and the pursuit of the deepest possible meaning of human existence. What I found was that we have more in common at our core than we might think, and there is a pervasive beauty that surpasses our differences.
I have come to believe that the God I know, love, and serve is omnilinguistic. God knows and can fluently speak all languages, every human tongue, even those that are nonverbal. Perhaps what is most amazing is that this omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) God is willing to speak to us as we need to hear. Not only does God translate meanings for our benefit, but God translates God’s self through culture and practice. I know that I am a Christian, and meant to be so. This is the path, the practice, and the liturgical (of or relating to worship) language God speaks to me and that I best understand. God spoke to me as Christ Jesus, and my spirit immediately knew this was my only means of knowing my God. As much as I appreciate and adore other religions, I cannot be anything but Christian. Christ is the unique dialect that I speak, the language I have mastered. That is why I have a masters degree in divinity, a Christian religious degree.
Never having been able to truly learn another language other than English, I have always been so impressed by and admired people who speak multiple languages. Despite all my attempts otherwise, language remains my intellectual Achilles heel. I have had enough collegiate level Spanish courses that I should speak it fluently, but I pretty much can only ask where the bathroom is, order tacos on Tuesdays, and get a beer. This has led me to see other religious practitioners with the same awe and reverence for their mastery of their liturgical language, the faith they speak with their lives. I can admire and appreciate without wavering in my dedication and mastery of my own faith language. Christianity has taught me that it is all right, perhaps even a good and joyful thing, to be happy for another and celebrate with them without compromising my faith. I can earnestly hope my Judaic siblings in faith have a blessed Passover, and that my Muslim siblings in faith have a transformative Ramadan without losing my unparalleled joy for Easter. If anything, I find myself praying that they discover the same love of God in their language and through their faith journey that I have in Christianity. Should they not find that same resonance, then I would joyfully help them learn to speak the language of Christ.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to understanding religion as language is that I can love and appreciate those who have mastered their liturgical language without it impacting my own liturgical mastery. I have often read the sacred texts of other religions and marveled at their yearning for peace and charity, which led me to lift up prayers of gratitude that Christ has taught and required the same from me. I witness the worship of other religions and always feel the impulse to go back to my sacred House of Worship and commune with God in the midst of the Body of Christ. By rejecting the desire to destroy what is not mine or me, and seeking greater understanding of the other, I have discovered a deeper more profound appreciation for what I have. Just maybe the greatest language a human being can speak is the universal love God speaks into every person. The very best religions speak this truth in their liturgical language always and everywhere. I am eternally grateful that Christ speaks this language with clarity beyond anything I have ever encountered in my religious studies, because Christ speaks about love for others woven with the offering of grace to remove all obstacles, i.e. human sin, to receiving and reveling in that love. That is why I am and shall ever be a Christian.
May God speak to you this day in the language you most readily hear and understand, speaking the truth of love and grace into the depths of your being.