I met a guy named Pasha tonight. He’s a fellow grad-student, and he was studying for Law School while I read for my Master’s in Theology at the cafe that I think he owns. After I asked him what he was reading, he asked me about my reading, at which point I told him I was studying for my MA in Theology.
Pasha said, “Theology. That has something to do with God, right?” I told him that it technically is the study of God. Then he asked me if I believe in God, and again I answered in the affirmative. He said it was refreshing to meet someone who still believes in God.
Then he asked me what I make of all of the religions. Are they all man-made, or are they from God? I told Pasha that I believe all religions are seeking to speak of the mysteries of God in particular ways. I said that they are different because they are seeking to answer different questions, and the problems between religions is that we have difficulty in embracing the similarities because of these different framing questions.
Seemingly intrigued, Pasha then asked me if I believe in the miracles of the prophets. He asked me if I believe that Moses parted the Red Sea. I told Pasha that the question isn’t a matter of whether the Red Sea was actually parted, but whether it tells us something true about God. That’s the power of a myth. Myths are stories that aren’t necessarily factually true, but tell us something true nonetheless. The reality is that, if the Red Sea parted, Moses didn’t do it, but God did. In this instance, the myth (which may or may not be true) tells us that God is about redemption and about setting the relationship back to rights between Godself and this particular people. In this way, I can say that I believe that Moses parted the Red Sea because I believe that the story behind that story is true to my experience and my desire for the way I hope life really may be – that God is indeed a God that redeems us.
I went on from there, to tell Pasha why I believe the Bible is the truest of the stories, explaining about the two trees in the creation story (myth, text, narrative). Because Adam and Eve broke the relationship that they had with God, God showed mercy towards them by protecting them from eternal life in this broken state by kicking them out of the mythical garden and keeping them from eating of the Tree of Life. I told Pasha that the interesting thing about the story of the Bible is that the Tree of Life shows up in the ending too. And, in the end, after God has finally put everything back to rights, the Tree of Life is for the healing of the nations, that we will live forever in right relationship with the Creator in the end. I said that I believe that is the best story to live by.
Pasha then said that he thinks that, if we had miracles today, we would see more people believing in God. I disagreed, and told him the parable/myth of Lazarus and the ‘rich man’ that Jesus tells. Ultimately, Abraham tells the rich man that, if his brothers didn’t understand and believe Moses, sending Lazarus back from the dead to warn them of impending judgment would be of no use. They won’t believe in that sign either. Then I showed him how this was exemplified in Jesus’ own life. Jesus feeds 5000 people with a few loaves and some fish, and the next event in the book of John is that the people ask Jesus to give them a sign. Then Jesus cryptically calls himself true bread, and makes himself sound like a vampire-diet promoter, after which all of the people desert him. Jesus asks his disciples if they too will desert him, and Peter says, “Where would we go, for you have the words that bring life”. I told Pasha that the point of this story is that true faith doesn’t demand a sign, but believes the words because they bring life to the hearer.
Pasha told me that he had never heard answers like the ones that I gave him, and that he had always wondered about these things. He said that I gave him something to think about, and that I should write a book. I told him that there are plenty of books.
He told me about how he has been hurt by Christians personally in the past, and how he has become disillusioned with religion altogether, being a Muslim (but not a practicing one). All of this, seemingly, because I asked him what he was studying, and he reciprocated. We often miss these chances at truly important, meaningful, life-giving, mutual, conversations (I know I do) because we don’t take the chance at even having a conversation in the first place. I’m glad that, tonight, I paid attention.
I left Pasha with this benediction, which I leave to you as well: May Truth find you as you also search for Truth. And when Truth finds you, may you recognize it and embrace it.