As a final of three areas of bridge building conversation between those whom I have had a conversation with who might be identified as “deChurched”, I wanted to turn to a rather ‘hot topic’ for many people: religious pluralism
I do not know what it was like to grow up in Christendom. What I mean is I do not know what it is like to be a member of the Church when the Christian Church was the only religion on the block. I never have known a monoculture (and I would be willing to be you may not have either if you look deep enough). It is clear to me that my situation is becoming, or perhaps already is, the norm for my peers and those younger than me. This might be why there is so much resistance and tension when my peers and I begin to talk about religious pluralism because it is native to our world and perhaps others are migrants into this world. I do not know, but I hear many conversations of people in and out of the Church who share something like, “I don’t say it out loud, but I just cannot understand or believe that Jesus is the only way to God” or “You cannot tell me that Gandhi and Mother Teresa are not with God” or “Why do Christians put so much emphasis on believing when the parable of the sheep and the goats placed no such emphasis on belief but on action?”.
If you want to engage your young adult who might be leaving the Church, the area of pluralism might be one of the most "bridge building" areas because the young adult has so much they can teach us. They know more about other religions in the world than previous generations in part because of the internet but also because they actually know practicing Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. So in an effort to engage conversation strike up a conversation about the areas of these different religions they find interesting. As the conversation moves along you can begin to see what it is your young adult is drawn to so you might be able to share with them the same/similar practices in Christianity.
For instance, few Protestants ever have engaged a labyrinth, Tazie worship, the hours of the day, worship art walks, Christian mantra, fasting, adoration, confession, journaling, or other disciplines which are often of interest of young adults. Engaging in a conversation and expressing how many of the things which are "spiritual" in other religions are very much alive and well in the Christian faith.
When asked with the question, "Do you think Christianity/Jesus is the only way to God?" I do not know the answer to that question, but I do think that Jesus is the way that I experience God and I know that many others can find God through Jesus. My bias is rooted not only in my conviction for Jesus but also, I must admit, my ignorance in other religions. Perhaps I can find a way to God though Hinduism or perhaps the teachings of the Tao, I do not know. I can honestly say that for me, Jesus is the way to God.
The boundary setting Christianity (that is using the Bible to decide who is "in and out") is often the Christianity I hear being rejected by young adults. I have found great success with engaging in conversation which exposes a personal conviction rather than a universal claim. For instance, rather than telling people who Jesus is, I have found much greater success in conversation by telling people who Jesus is to me. This removes the universal claims which keeps the boundaries from being set so early and thus shutting off conversation but also this focus makes me a little vulnerable.
When we share about Jesus through the Creeds and Scripture and do not share Jesus through our own lives it is easy to keep Jesus at a distance as though Faith is an academic endeavor. Rather if we begin to share with people who Jesus is to us, Faith is not focused on the head but the heart. Caution to the Christian: when you share about Jesus in your life it is a vulnerable position - you are exposed and you can feel uncomfortable. But these are the same things which encourage honesty and authentic conversations. We have to be willing to share our own story if we expect others to share theirs.
So I ask you, without using creeds or scripture (which by the way deChurched do not put any authority in those things but they do put authority in relationships) - who is Jesus to you?
Great, take that answer and share it.