I come from a family deeply influenced by two very different cultural traditions. My parents were born and grew up in India just recently independent of centuries of British rule. My father came to North America in 1962 to advance his medical education, and when he went back to India to get married in 1966, he brought my mother back to live with him in Canada.
We are Sikhs by birth but my mother was schooled by British Catholic nuns because that was considered, at the time, the best education by her parents. I followed somewhat a similar path as I went to Catholic school for all my elementary schooling.
My father grew up with a huge passion for the sport of cricket but, in Canada, the passion changed to focus on the sport of ice hockey.
I share these few anecdotes to underline the large worldview which I was born into - and now cherish.
I don't talk a lot about religion. I, like a lot of people I guess, am not keen to find myself in a contest whose unattainable goal is to determine who has the better God. I consider myself a spiritual person who tries to be good in his life. But, I don't actively participate in any organized religious group.
A short time ago, though, I was having lunch with a friend of mine, Tim Schindel. Tim is a pastor at the Gateway City Church in Kamloops. And, at this lunch, we did talk about religion. I have got to credit Tim with making me feel more comfortable than I have ever been with broaching this topic. Tim is trying to be an "unchurchy" Church leader. He feels approachable - the first time I saw him, he gave a invocation at a dinner that felt like a motivational speech. I think he might just understand what it might take to re-earn the levels of participation that organized religion once enjoyed.
So, I told Tim that my big problem with Christianity is that one of the basic tenets is that there is only one way to God. Having come from where I come from, I just can't accept that. How is every Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Sikh (just to name a few billion people) wrong?
Tim told me he struggles with this and he measures part of his success by how well he can also appeal to the many people who believe what I do. He still believes his chosen way is THE WAY. I am not sure how my good friend will come to terms with this struggle.
Is there a big enough tent in Christianity to truly respect other religions? Will Tim be successful in getting me to go to an Alpha Course? Are there Alpha type courses available for those wishing to explore Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and other religions?