An old woman from Ohio once told me, “There are many roads to heaven.” I like that way of putting it. It stands in contrast to the popular, rigid reading of John 14:6, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” While I certainly understand an interpretation of this passage that claims Christianity to be the one truth faith, that’s not how I read it. Right after he says this, Jesus tries in vain to explain to his disciples that he and God are one in the same. The Jesus of John’s gospel sees man and creator as a single thing. Therefore if you know one, you know the other.
This is how I read 14:6. If you know truth, you know Jesus. It is not so much that you have to be a card-carrying member of the church of Jesus, it’s that you must be following truth. The idea is that in life there is a Way, a Good Way, and those who follow it will reach the Father. Jesus is a handy option for finding that way, but I don’t think he’ll be mad if you find it through something else.
I happen to be a fairly privileged white woman raised in the Episcopal church. My denomination is well-suited to my upbringing. It makes sense to me. I get it. Well crafted, written prayers are more inspirational to me than extemporaneous ones. I love a good hymn. I like a little pomp and circumstance in my worship … but not too much. That’s how I was raised and it’s who I am. And so I’m grateful that God saw fit to ensure there was a subset of the Christian faith that would cater to me.
Were I born in another place, in another time, to different parents or with different interests, I might feel differently. I might find religious dress to be centering, or liturgical dance to be liberating. I might adore praying several times a day or I might prefer my priest in a suit instead of a robe. And fortunately, there would still be something out there for me.
God does not need religion, people do. People need to find concrete ways to approach the divine. We need ritual and tradition and rules. We’ve always needed that, whether we’re talking about God or government or romance. We all want something to grasp onto. And so we have a thousand ways to experience grace. Included in these ways is not believing in any particular God at all, and finding wonder in political action or science or the universe itself. We all need something different to help us through this life, to help us find the version of that Good Way that is our own. I get there through my faith, manifest in my life with the Episcopal Church. Your need may be different, and that’s fine. Just because it’s not mine doesn’t make it wrong.
What a wonderful world it would be if more people thought this way!