Religions are like languages: ways of speaking of and to the world. Just as no language is true or false, so no religion is true or false. And just as some languages are better at some things than others, so some religions are better at some things than others.
English, for example, is better at science than is Persian, while Persian is better at mystical poetry than is English. And Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism are better at exploring the many layers of consciousness than is Judaism, which is better at speaking to issues of justice. In the wake of the recent mass murders in Connecticut, the language we need is Christianity.
Christianity is best at dealing with heartbreak. True, some Christian dialects (denominations) do this better than others, but on the whole Christianity is the language for horrors such as this. This shouldn’t be surprising.
What religion is better equipped to speak to parents of a murdered child then Christianity whose Father suffers the same agony? What religion is better suited to speak to the profound brokenness of the world than one whose God is broken on the Cross? What religion is better prepared to deal with terrible heartbreak than one that makes of heartbreak the key to love?
Sitting on my desk at the moment is a stain glass rendition of Jesus, his chest cut, his heart exposed, and the light of divine love streaming out into the world. And off to my right is a Pieta with Mother Mary cradling her dead son. These two images speak to the totality of this tragedy: the death of a child and the weeping of a mother, and the healing power that comes when we cultivate true compassion—sharing (com) the suffering (passion) of all living things.
Speaking the language of Christianity no more makes me a Christian than speaking Cantonese makes me Chinese. But it does give me a way of navigating the horror of this world in a way that calls me to use my brokenness for the good. So as we all prepare for Christmas—as either participants or observers—I invite you to open yourself to the language of Christianity and see if you can find some healing wisdom in the birth of this baby—holy as all babies are holy—whose adult devotion to justice and compassion destines him to die on the cross of arrogance, cruelty, and evil.
To all of you who read this blog—Christian and otherwise—I wish you a blessed Christmas, and hope that the shallow merriment of the mall doesn’t rob you of the deeper meaning of this man and his message.