Mon | Jul 23, 2018

Where is the Truth?

Published:Saturday | January 13, 2018 | 12:17 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer

Over the past three years, I spent much time researching and writing about various religions and Christian denominations. The intention was to give readers an opportunity to learn about the many religious perspectives that people have.

It was also a personal endeavour to see whether there is any convincing evidence of a connection with or to the God whom most religious people worship.

Apart from mainstream Christianity, I have explored Islam, Judaism, African spirituality, Revivalism, Myalism, Rastafarianism, and the Baha'i faith. Within Christianity, I looked at the Moravians, the Methodists, the Pentecostal movement in Jamaica, and some of the less popular denominations that are established here, such as The Quakers, Israel United, the Mennonites, the Mormons, and the Jamaica Chinese Christians who say they are not a religious denomination.

The most controversial to me was Israel United in Christ (IUIC). It was founded in 2003 by American Natanyel Ben Israel, who was born in the 1960s, because he wanted "to resurrect the Twelve Tribes of Israel". It is to be noted that though the IUIC uses the Bible as its authority and believes in the commandments of Jesus Christ, IUIC soldiers do not call themselves Christians.

In its literature, IUIC has given biblical and historical references to a Black Christ. It argues that the Apostle John and the Prophet Daniel described Jesus Christ as a black man with woolly hair. But it is not only Jesus Christ who had a black face. Many noted historical and biblical personalities were said to be black.

 

BROKEN COMMANDMENTS

 

Another controversial issue that Family & Religion discussed with IUIC was that Negroes, Hispanics, Indians, et al, were enslaved by the white man because they had broken all of God's commandments. The IUIC has cited 1st Kings 8:46 and Deuteronomy 28:25 to support its claim, which some people have rejected as a major misinter-pretation of the scripture.

And while biblical scripture is what many claim to be the basis of their teachings, there are those who did not believe the Bible is always right. A case in point is the Quakers. The movement evolved out of George Fox's confusion over the incongruities between the beliefs and actions of some Christians, and by the time he was 19, he was an activist searching for the 'Truth'.

Fox and his followers got the moniker, 'Seekers', because of their search for this Truth at the time, the 1650s. He claimed he heard a voice saying to him, "There is not one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition". He formed what was known as the 'Children of Light', or 'Society of Friends' or the 'Friends of Truth'.

The group had public meetings to espouse their new perspective on God and the Church, which was significantly different from the established beliefs. For instance, while traditional Christians believe God lives in Heaven, Friends believe that God dwells within all of us, and if we listen we will hear the voice of God from within, and obey it.

 

DISAGREEMENT WITH CATHOLICISM

 

Like George Fox, Menno Simons, who lived from 1496 to 1561 in Friesland, in the Netherlands, had a very different perspective on how to attain oneness with God. He was a Catholic priest who did not agree with some of the teachings of Catholicism, especially the baptism of babies, who did not understand what was happening to them.

He is widely regarded as the founder of the original Mennonite Church in the Netherlands in the mid-1540s. Two of the major beliefs of the church are anabaptism (the baptism of adults who were already baptised, as babies) and pacifism (non-violent approach to the solution of the world's problems).

All these perspectives, according to Joseph Smith Jr, are unworthy. He is said to have founded the Mormon Church in New York, USA in the 1920s during a religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Smith, it is said, was confused about which Christian denomination he should become a part of, so he prayed to God to find the answer. In the spring of 1820, he said he got a vision, in which God instructed him to join none of the existing denominations because they were all unworthy.

Thus, what I found so far is that every major religion and denomination was perpetrated by someone who had a different perspective on his existence, his relationship with a godhead, and his hereafter. Not one was started by a godhead whose founder has a direct and irrefutable connection to that godhead.

The search continues this year, and who knows what we might come up with. The Truth of all truths?

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com