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Open Christianity

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I am part of an endangered species in the developed and educated world. Although I attended Harvard and have enjoyed a successful business career, I base my worldview primarily on the Bible. In particular I am inspired by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Most of my generation of educated people has abandoned such beliefs.

I do not deny that I am embarrassed by the conduct of some Christian fundamentalists today. Like any intelligent person I abhor the evident cruelty of the Inquisition and the Crusades often under the banner of Christianity.

But nonetheless, I believe that true Christianity has been a singularly powerful force for the civilization of humanity and it has given me a wonderful life.

The issue that I address is particularly to my fellow Christians, but it is also relevant to people of all religions, ideologies and persuasions. How can we live together in peace and harmony when we hold such fundamentally different viewpoints?

In the first instance, I believe Christians should respect everyone who shares our basic belief in God, in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Although this should be self-evident, in fact different denominations have been at war over small differences for far too long.

Secondly, Christians need to be open and accepting of people who are not Christian and who may not share most of their beliefs. I have learned much from atheistic and agnostic scholars, both philosophically and practically. For instance, I have gladly eaten curry and practiced Yoga, which were developed in a Hindu context.

Does that mean that my Christian beliefs are not vitally important to me? Absolutely not.

However, when I study the life of Jesus (and other scriptures) I find every reason to be open and loving towards people with other beliefs.

There is a well-known story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan who demonstrated true love for his neighbor. When the Priest and the Levite, who considered themselves to be "people of God" saw a victim of violent crime lying beside the road, they moved to the far side of the road to avoid him. However, the Samaritan, who was not considered part of the "Chosen People," showed the deep compassion that Jesus so admired.

Showing love has no boundaries. Jesus told this story to demonstrate that we will be surprised by who is actually part of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In a shrinking world, no citizen of this planet can afford to reject and ostracize those believe differently from us.

Whether we are environmentalists, business people, scientists, or members of any religion or denomination, we need to show equal compassion and respect to all people that we meet.

Does that mean that we cannot oppose evil? Of course not.

We may well disagree on what is evil. However a vast majority of the world agrees on fundamental morality. Most of us oppose murder, deceit, corruption, exploitation of the vulnerable, and the destruction of our natural environment.

Conversely, most of us value compassion, kindness, generosity, courage, patience and perseverance. We believe in education, good government, humane business practices, and social programs for the aged and handicapped.

Obviously, there are many areas where we do not agree. But could we perhaps discuss these matters with more respect?

Although I grew up in a Christian family, as a youth I rejected it. I tried many other beliefs and worldviews, from Atheism to Eastern religions. However, then I rediscovered a noble strain of Christian thought which has never indulged in the reprehensible conduct of some "Christians".

I would never try to compel my neighbors to adopt my beliefs and lifestyle. However, if they find my thoughts of any value, I am delighted. But I am equally eager to learn new things from everyone I meet.

Jesus epitomized openness and lack of prejudice. He showed love and compassion for the whole world.

From St. Francis, William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, to Mother Theresa, there have been countless heroic Christians whose standard of conduct (modeled after Jesus) is an example to the whole world. Obviously, not every "Christian" is a good copy of Jesus, but if even a small percentage achieves this, how can the ideal model be discounted?