Who is God? As a clergyperson, that question or some variation of it is one that is asked of me often. I can answer the question in many ways but one of them seems particularly relevant in the wake of the Festival of Faiths held at Xavier University last Sunday. I believe that God is like a bright light on the other side of a prism. On this side, we see God refracted in the colors of the spectrum; ROYGBIV.
As a Christian, I believe that each of the four gospel writers in our Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – each tell essentially the same story of Jesus, but add their own unique perspective. Through their witness and proclamation, we see Jesus, the Son of God, in a unique color of the spectrum. Further, I believe that every Christian, in their life and faith experience, also sees a sliver of the spectrum.
I enjoy Bible study because in conversation we hear and can adhere to others’ experiences of Jesus and grow our “spectrum” or our understanding of God. I think most Christians would agree with me this far. But I also believe that each of the world religions see a color of the spectrum too. That is, they possess a true picture and understanding of God. The more that we engage adherents of other world religions, the more we can grow our understanding of God. While some Christians would say that this is syncretism, or watering down the Christian faith, I maintain that it deepens my faith and does not diminish my trust in Jesus one iota.
On September 8, 2019, in a glorious display of the spectrum of God’s colors, the Cincinnati faith community gathered together for worship, dialogue, education, and experiences, in an environment of mutual respect of each other. Human history witnesses regrettable carnage from asking the questions, “Whose God is strongest?” and “Who holds the exclusive truth?” We will all be better off when we realize that God gives us diversity as a gift and that God is far bigger than any one world religion.
Years ago, I got into a debate with a colleague who believed in exclusive salvation through Christ. I argued for universal salvation, including for people of other world religions. At the end of the conversation, he confessed, “Henry, I think that I am right, but I hope that you are right!” Having experienced the Festival of Faiths and engaged my brothers, sisters, and siblings of other world religions, knowing that they seek peace, fellowship, service, welcome of the marginalized, and love, I am even more certain that God’s grace, mercy, and salvation extend to all of God’s children.
The panacea to what ails our world and our nation was found inside the Cintas Center last Sunday. In this city, may we all live into being the family of God that is comprised of the entire spectrum of glorious color!
About the Author: Henry Zorn is co-pastor of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has a great passion for justice ministries like world hunger and the welcome of immigrants and refugees. In 2006 he began Anderson Churches for Racial Unity, an ecumenical organization that promotes education and awareness of racism. Pastor Zorn has been married to Cindy for 36 years and they have three adult daughters and three grandchildren. He enjoys sports and gardening and is an avid runner.
About the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths: The Cincinnati Festival of Faiths is organized by EquaSion. EquaSion is a non-partisan civic organization founded upon interfaith dialogue that works to develop educational and community service programming to foster greater understanding, respect, compassion, inclusion and engagement for all people and faith communities in Cincinnati and beyond. Its programs and activities are informed by an ongoing conversation among Cincinnati civic leaders of diverse faith traditions.