By Micah Furlong
I’d like to thank all of you who have expressed your support over the last week as I attempt to articulate my thoughts on the relationship between Christianity and Islam. There have been those who have applauded my efforts and have encouraged me to keep going. But the one person I would like to thank most is the anonymous email sent to me calling me a heretic.
As goes the meme, “You keep using that word, but I do not think you know what it means.”
Yes, I’ll confess. I am a heretic. In fact, attending Baylor University means that I’ve surrounded myself with other heretics.
In 1635, Roger Williams was pronounced guilty of spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions.” He stood up for the right of Native Americans to worship as they see fit, as well as a separation of church and state, and due to these radical beliefs, was tossed out of Massachusetts. Williams went on to establish this small denomination in America known as the Baptists, and well, you might know a little bit about them.
The biggest reason that Williams was removed was due to his belief in what would come to be called “soul liberty” (or “soul competency” in other circles). It was his firm belief that each man and woman is responsible only to God and their conscience as to how to practice their spiritual beliefs. This spat in the face of many contemporary denominations, especially those of which taught that their way was the only way to God. In fact, that is why Baylor has no creed to recite nor statement of faith to be found. The responsibility for that choice is up to you.
As you can imagine, this philosophy influenced the thinking of Baptists in radical ways. It opened up the possibility that perhaps their new church didn’t have all the answers. Even more dangerously, they suggested that Baptists, Methodists, and even – as scary as this might sound to a certain Baptist convention – Catholics would make it into Heaven. Perhaps this even lends itself to those people who might scare us outside of the title of “Christian.”
If we are to accept the Baptist tradition, it means we have to grab at its core the idea that God speaks to each one of us in our way. Our Father knows that He created a diverse group of weird people, who each go through different experiences in our life. And He loves us enough to guide us to Him.
For some, they have found God in a Baptist church. For me, I find Him when I practice Jewish rituals wrapped in a prayer shawl. And for others, God may be found in praying in a different tongue, or in burning incense, or meditation. In my own spiritual life, I have found each of these practices bring me closer to God.
If God is the God of love described in the letter of John, then I have no reason to suspect He will not call all of His beloved children into His arms at the end of time.
As for Roger Williams and me, I suppose, we’ll just stay heretics until then.
Resting in the Arms of God
– Micah Furlong
Phoenix, Ore., freshman