What Might a Distinctly Christian Faith Look Like? part 1
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Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

What Might a Distinctly Christian Faith Look Like? part 1 

Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces discusses the structure of universal myths about heroes found in religions throughout the world. Characteristically, the hero leaves the community, goes into the wilderness, overcomes great obstacles, and then returns to the community with new wisdom. Often, heroes go on to perform miracles and to have their divinity confirmed by being resurrected (in some form) after dying. The biblical story of Jesus’ 40 days in the dessert accords with the classic hero story.
In addition to great wisdom, religious heroes often display great compassion, and their teachings typically involve some variation of the Golden Rule. Contrary to what might be inferred from laissez-faire capitalism, the Golden Rule is not “The one with the gold rules.” Rather, as Katherine Perlo notes in her excellent book Kinship and Killing, doing to others as you would like others to do to you, is a common theme among religions. Similar to other religious leaders, Jesus taught this message, and also similar to other religious leaders he maintained that the way to salvation was to believe certain tenets about God and to abide by certain religious codes of action.
These aspects of Jesus’ story and teachings have inspired many people, but they are not particularly distinctive compared to the stories and teachings of other religions. This is an observation – not a criticism or an endorsement of Christianity. Whether or not a particular religion has distinctive features does not indicate whether or not that religion has truth or merit. Yet, in the common quest to identify ways in which one religion is better than others, people often seek to identify ways in which their religion is distinctive and, by implication, better. In my opinion, one of the principle ways that Christianity is admirable, and possibly quite distinctive, is its rejection of scapegoating.
Next essay, I will turn to how Christianity rejects scapegoating and why this is important. 

Go on to: What Might a Distinctly Christian Faith Look Like? part 2: Rejection of Scapegoating
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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