Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on Religious Intolerance

How do you think Jesus would treat Moses, Mohammed, and the Buddha?

In the vein of the old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” [insert]  Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed crossing the road. Before looking for a punch line, just for fun try to imagine the scene: Four of history’s greatest religious leaders … not fighting, not arguing, not damning and condemning one another, not launching crusades or jihads, but walking together.

Doesn’t that already reverse some of our expectations? And doesn’t that reversal expose our unspoken expectation – that religions are inherently and unchangeably incompatible, disharmonious, fractious, and hostile toward one another?

The image of the four men crossing a road also surprises and interests us because it puts the four in a similar situation … perhaps even rendering them companions rather than competitors. That possibility makes claim on all of us who follow them.

If you’re a Christian like me, of whatever sort, … if you love Jesus, if you know and have confidence in him as Lord, Savior, Son of God … let me ask you to seriously consider this: How do you think Jesus would treat Moses, Mohammed, and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) if they came to a crosswalk together?

Would Jesus push Moses aside and demand to cross first, claiming that his ancestor’s failed religion had been forever superseded by his own? Would he trade insults with Mohammed, claiming his crusaders could whup Mohammed’s jihadists any day of the week, demanding that Mohammed cross behind, not beside him? Would Jesus demand the Buddha kneel at his feet and demonstrate submission before letting him cross?

Or would he walk with them and, once on the other side, welcome each to a table of fellowship, not demanding any special status or privileges, maybe even taking the role of a servant—hanging up their coats, getting them something to eat and drink, making sure each felt welcome, safe, and at home?

If his three counterparts reached out their hands in friendship, it’s pretty hard to imagine that “the friend of sinners” would cross his arms or turn his back, refusing to reciprocate? It’s much more likely he would embrace them with open arms and without hesitation, proving himself over time to be the best friend they ever had. It’s pretty hard to imagine Jesus cursing or “smiting” them, but entirely natural to imagine him blessing them and “doing unto others” as he would have them do for him. I have no doubt that Jesus would actually practice the neighborliness he preached rather than following [Christianity’s] example of religious supremacy, hostility, fear, isolation, misinformation, exclusion, or demonization.

After all, according to the Four Gospels, Jesus had extraordinary insight into human character. He saw value where others saw only flaws. He saw the love of a sinful woman who anointed his feet with tears at a banquet, the spiritual thirst of an often-married woman at a well in Samaria, the big seed of hope in a little chap named Zacchaeus, the undeniable faith of a Syrophoenician mother, the flinty strength of loudmouth Peter, and the deep and spunky wisdom of Mary of Bethany. With that track record in mind, we can only imagine what he would see in Mohammed, Moses, or the Buddha.

It seems ridiculous to imagine that Jesus would be insecure among them, consider them his rivals, or that he would find it necessary to extract from them explicit agreement on fundamental doctrines before condescending to cross the road with them. It’s unthinkable, if one of them came to confer with him by night like Nicodemus, or in broad daylight like the rich young ruler, that he would intimidate them, threaten them, call down fire upon them, patronize them, or humiliate them. Maybe his followers would pull out a sword and slash off their ears, or herd them and their followers into ghettos or concentration camps, or reservations where their influence could be limited.

But never Jesus. Never.

[Inspired by “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed cross the road?” by Brian D. McLaren]

Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on Religious Intolerance