The beauty of difference is contrast. Without it who would we be?
Yet, did you know that there are 600 million Pentecostals in the world! I feel that is a serious figure to reflect on. Having been exposed to the Pentecostal experience with parents who were practicing Pentecostals, my father being a born-again priest working for Archbishop Tutu, I can speak from very personal experience.
I know that when I left home and all that I ever knew, to follow my yearning to dig deeper into the well of my own choosing, that my father “disowned” me. He was horrified that I had refused the gift of certainty he was sure would give me what I needed, and when I chose a different path, seeking a monastic life as a Hindu Monk (Ramakrishna Math & Mission, India) this was for him a tragedy beyond bearing. As a monk after 14 years training accepting his final initiation as a lifelong monastic I had to mentally prepare to perform the burial ceremony for the pre-monastic person that I was and for any family associated with that previous life.
Yet the truth is that when I left the monastery life to return to civvie street he claimed me back as his son – on condition that I went to my brother’s Pentecostal church and took Jesus as my one and only savior, where I was to promise to burn all my Hindu books and to be born anew with the laying on of hands by 7 church elders to be able to claim myself a member of the worldwide Pentecostal family. On that occasion, I spoke to God (as I understood It to be) and said, even as I “took” Jesus Christ as my “only” Lord and savior – “Lord, you know that I am doing this for my family and have no intention of forsaking my own path!”
My parents were weeping, moved at my “conversion”.
I never returned to any Pentecostal church except as an observer. I could not deny my own position as a Vedantist where no belief or path is contradicted by accepting that the divine is inherent in all expressions of life, not conditional on any belief point of view.
So, on recently meeting a wonderful man whose life was intimately intertwined with the creation of the cultural identity and further shaping of the city of Los Angeles, whose personal faith was the promotion and celebration of the Pentecostal surge, I was challenged not to characterize him as a member of a group of fundamentalists I judged as people unable to accept the possibility of needing to move into spiritual adolescence.
In spite of this, the overwhelming fact is that the appearance of the “fundamentalists” as opposed to the “spiritually enlightened” is simply the same undivided eternal perfection misnamed “God” appearing as this or that. So my acknowledgment is that despite the Lord convincingly acting the part of the fierce fundamentalist as well as the “spiritually enlightened” it is still the Lord, fully Itself, Himself, Herself appearing as all that appears to be different but is secretly the same. The world of appearance can never contradict the Reality that lends its eternal truth to the seeming reality of the world of the waking dream where I, me, them, us, and you appear to be so different.
I celebrate the fact that we are challenged each day to either act “believing” appearance or in contrast to knowing Reality. We choose each moment to either lend credence to the false self as appearance or to honor the “secret Self” of all that cannot be hidden by the Eternal Joy that reveals Itself “hidden in plain sight!”
Why not love which is the Real Self, above everything else?