The One True Story

While it is inherently racist for a person to claim membership of the best race, it is no bad thing for a religious person to claim membership of the one true religion. That is the very point of religious belief. That is what religious people do.

Vilification laws fuel disharmony

I once heard that Tolkien and CS Lewis had a conversation about why certain stories seem to have more power than others. Some stories seem to ‘ring true’ to something deep in our psyche; we identify with them. Others are just “interesting”. What is it that grips us?
Apparently Tolkien proposed that mythic stories have the power of truth because they are reflections of “the one true story”. He would say that the great stories that connect with us, whether they be the Anzac story of Gallipoli, the Greek Myths, the Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, move us because they reflect a larger story that is inherently and deeply true.

I wonder, thinking about multiple religions, whether we could think of each having “one true story”, but each a reflection of “the one true story”.

Suppose an object I am looking at appears to me as a square. Suppose that square represents the Christian story. As a Christian I relate to this story. It has the “ring of truth” for me. I grow up accepting what’s in the square, including claims of exclusive truth, as being true, within the context of the square. What isn’t in the square is “other” and those claims to truth are often excluded out of hand as being untrue.

But what if I change my perspective and see that the object I am looking at is a box? The Christian square is one side of the box, the Muslim square another side and so on? Each sees itself being “true” from its own perspective. What we call “God”, or “the one true story” is multidimensional.

Changing perspective doesn’t mean I cease being a Christian, cease valuing the Christian story for what it is, cease connecting me to “the one true story”. It means I respect other stories for what they are, true stories that connect others to “the one true story”.

Nor does it mean that I synthesise what I think is the best from each of the other stories into my own “one true story”. That would be some kind of idolatory.

And I’m not sure that I see much value, myself, in story competitions. Others may find this productive, but I don’t.

Being chaplain in a university has made me change my perspective. I have come to accept the reality of a multi-religious world, and I am learning to respect each religion for what it is, having its own integrity. Maybe my role is to be on the edges of the Christian square, connecting to the other squares, engaging with each for the common good.

The Kingdom of God is like a box…

I’d value your thoughts.

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