In rereading Victor Hugo's collected works , I was struck by the ire the author held against the church. Victor Hugo had no issue with the divine but rather with the bureaucrats with “large mitres” who built institutions to “administrate” the sacred. Today, we are made to feel small in the modern church . If we haven’t brought in new “pelts” to the pews, we haven’t lived up to Jesus’ great commission.
I recently had the privilege of spending time with Knox Thames, Director of Policy and Research at the United States Commission at the U.S. Department of State. Yes, he is Christian who works under Obama. Knox revealed to me the harrowing levels of persecution that is going on in the rest of the world to Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists – and of course, in most cases, these are Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists doing violence to one another. I am not a Universalist. I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Way. But in the face of the violence that is happening, it seems that the first order of business is to aspire to charity and kindness toward the other religions.
As Knox Thames, so eloquently put it, we need to look at Jesus’ example of loving. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed the half dying man who had been beaten and robbed on the road. It was the Samaritan, the lowest of the low in that society, who stopped. The Samaritan ministered to the fellow in the road, and carried him into town. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus instructed his followers. Perhaps we should be more focused on loving our neighbor before we start judging or converting them.
As Victor Hugo said, “What a grander thing still, to love!”
(Painting by Vincent Van Gogh)