Syncretism Deconstructed (Hapax Legomenon part 2)

Continuing on in the same vein as yesterday, one of the complaints leveled at Christianity is that it's exclusionary. Exclusionary, in spite of Jesus declaring "come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, emphasis mine)?

Joseph Campbell was born in 1904 in New York City. He was raised Catholic but rejected organized religion in his late teens. His scholarly as well as sports-related travels to Europe in the 1920s opened him up to a broader culture than he found at home in America. And he returned with eyes wide open. After spending time on the Monterey Coast, he settled in upstate New York teaching Literature at Sarah Lawrence College. His first love is mythology; having denounced Christianity, yet still clinging to his belief in the spiritual or numinous, he spent his life elucidating the parallels he felt were inherent to all myths and religions. It would seem he was unable to draw his belief down into absolute atheism and then seek to substantiate the lack of anything spiritual by appealing to the corporeal only. He accepted the prayers of a young Catholic priest while on his deathbed. The first time he'd even approached belief in some trace glimmer of Christianity in sixty-plus years. He passed away in 1987.

What Mr. Campbell sought to explain was the syncretism of all of religious belief and the symbols inherent therein. I reference him as he is one figure (of many) who saw a pattern and sought to explain it from the ground up. It's dry and a bit of a struggle but read sometime his magnum opus The Hero With A Thousand Faces. If the odd title Mythologist could apply to anyone, it'd be him.

So where do we go from here?

Any ancient religious practitioner, when they decided to travel and teach abroad—becoming itinerant—inevitably brought their deities with them (Literally? Figuratively? Ideologically?). This simplified explanation is what any semi-learned religious scholar will point to when referring to the similarity of most of the world's religions. Christianity included. This is called "syncretism". One established religion mixes with another through contact, the doctrines melding into something new. It makes sense on one level but denies anything spiritual.

Jesus says that He is "the way, the truth and the life, no [one] cometh to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). This simple (though not simplistic) declaration negates the doctrine of syncretism among world religions. In other words, not all paths arrive at the God whom Jesus revealed. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9), says Jesus. He is "the express image of His person." (Hebrew 1:3)

Without being argumentative, or polemical (the root word of which refers to war), I would like to say that, fundamentally, all religions—except for Christianity—when referring to salvation purport that salvation, or enlightenment, or whatever, comes from within. You must save yourself. Peter says that "neither is there salvation in any other" than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We must be careful when dealing with friends and neighbors who believe differently than we do (I'm speaking to Christians). I have friends, Buddhist, Atheist, Islamic as well as friends Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and Catholic that I might disagree with from the top down, doctrinally, but love and respect as human beings with the same needs and desires as me. The writer of Hebrews says to "follow peace with all men (and women), and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14, emphasis mine). Not all paths (based on scripture and in my opinion) lead to God. But I shouldn't be leading someone away from God through an argumentative and hostile spirit. Any argument or attack leveled at a person based on their belief system is ad hominem (purely personal) and illogical. And therefore has no place in religious debate.

And whereas Christianity proffers salvation through Jesus Christ—a recreation of the human spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit—any other religion, or lack thereof (atheism, secular humanism), says that we ourselves, through our own efforts only are the only ones able to provide a means of escape from the stain of negativity, guilt, sin and hell.

Looking at it from this perspective, any other religion is syncretistic towards the god of self, which is pride, deified.

"For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5b)

My Oneiric Development—and Yours

What Phoresy Means For You