MODELS IN RELIGIOUS RELATIONSHIP
The focus of this paper is to set out types of relationships within religions, as bodies, and to set same in some kind of figurative configuration. The relationships can exist as “inter” within the bodies, people and separate components of a religion or as with bodies of different religions.
The paper therefore defines religion, model and relationship. It then identifies the models as conflict, tolerance and acceptance. The paper makes bold to conclude that acceptance is the only choice of model that can stand the global required dimension.
Definition of Religion:
Religion is the human quest for God. It is the search for, or response to God, god, Gods, gods, GOD, GODS by man. The content, form and practice of the quest (called religion) is designed, directed, delivered, diverted and derailed by man himself.1
The exercise of listing all the possible definitions of religion is not the goal of this paper. The exercise has been done by too many writer the world over.2 It could be said here that religion includes reverence, piety, the personal commitment to and serving of God, god, gods, Gods, GOD and/or GODS with worshipful devotion. It includes conduct in accord with divine commands. It also includes a system or systems of faith and worship in its many faces like the spiritual, organizational and financial. It is a personal awareness or conviction of the existence of a supreme being or of supreme beings or of supernatural powers or influence controlling one's humanity and nature of destiny. Religion is a cause, principle or system of tenets held with adoration, devotion, conscientiousness and faith. It is a value of supreme importance in life, death and beyond.3
It must be stated that many people in the practice of religion are just religionary; that is, their vocation is religion while others are religioner or religionist. The religionist is earnestly devoted and attached to religion. In a sense the religionist could almost be regarded as a zealot or a fanatic. In another way, some people can be called “religiouse” excessively, obstructively or sentimentally religious.4
The effect here is to attempt a definition of religion as to cover the possible spectrum of religious exposure and experiences. I have attempted to sum it up thus: religion means a three point issue or phenomenon A, B and C, where A is related to C through B. A is a person or being, B is a form of relation like belief, conduct, faith, trust etc. and C is a supper being, God or god.
Figure 1: Defining Religion in Configuration.
In other words Religion is A function B to C.5 The signs used are of no full geometric identity. Having defined religion, an attempt can now be made at model.
Definition of Models:
Models are miniature representatives and patterns that could be used to show-case principles, objects, events or phenomena of much greater worth, magnitude, dimension or significance. Models are persons, principles, figures and scenarios employed by artists, writers, professional to pose and show of clothes, designs, problems and photo-types such as to create vivid presentations of what the actual objects, events or phenomena were, are or could be in the future. Models – be it physically concrete, graphic or pictorial – are therefore very important and influential in driving home points that may be very difficult, if not totally impossible, to see.6
Configuration that perfectly represent historical, religious and literary issues and writings in general are often very difficult to find. The difficulty however, should not repel people from the attempt as a simple configuration in any miniature, shape or cartoon may replace long winded verbal descriptions of many pages in just few lines and still drive the intended message home in very pungent, succinct yet apt way.
In this paper, two types of models have been used. One is the verbal description which is long winded and the second is the use of symbol configuration. This is to bring about the enormous gravity and dimensions of the relationships and interactions that exist between religions.
Definition of Relationships:
Relationships are connections between things, people, qualities, principles, positions, conditions and phenomena that could be by blood, marriage, overlap, contact, interaction, conflict or financial and other transactions. In this paper three major types of relationships are discussed as commonly found among religions. These are conflict, tolerance and acceptance. The three relationships are the models from which religion could be appraised for all times – past, present or future. Now, the effort is to consider the three relational models in detail.
Conflict as Model:
Religious inter-face has been marked with much conflict in all the history of religion. Conflict as struggle, as trial of strength, as variance, as clash, and even as war beclouded what ought to be a pretty face of religion. Conflict of opinions and sentiments are manifested in proliferations within religion. Doctrinal questions have stirred much conflict within religion.
Renwick7 while writing about the Great Councils said:in the fifth century, in particular, it was not uncommon for opposing
parties to seek victory by physical force, and shameful fights
ensued. Many unworthy things were said and done; yet, out
of all the strife, there emerged declarations of faith which were
of priceless value for succeeding generations.8
Renwick’s description is a very good representation of the conflict in religion.
Religious issues that have been found to enhance conflict relationships include the following: hatred, condemnation, aggressiveness, rivalry, over-riding, taking advantage of, enslavement, bureaucracy, subtle mind of ego conversion, and superiority. Other issues in the religious contemporary scene that have promoted conflict relationships are particularity in religion, condemnations in theology, internal envy and competitions – be it for money, members, fame, power, domination or what-ever.9
It will suffice therefore to say here that the conflict model illustrates a relationship of misunderstanding, mistrust, disagreement of some kind and to a large extent, rejection – one of the other person’s religious person or position. The conflict model could therefore be a state of confusion and total separation on one hand as the only means of avoiding war and even blood shed. Thus the conflict relationship is represented by total avoidance in the broad spectrum of religious interactions within the bodies in the religious settings.
If a big envelope in the shape of a rectangle is arbitrarily chosen as the religious background and two different objects – bodies represented by A as triangle and by B as circle are chosen, the configuration of conflict model will look as shown.
Figure 2: Model of conflict.Here, for the fear of dangerous sparking, A and B must be kept away from each other. Total separation of bodies has proved impossible at all times and this has always been the weakness and even death to the model called conflict. Next therefore is the model of tolerance.
Tolerance as Model:
Tolerance is a relational situation where one body is just putting up with another body. It is just a fair, moderate, bearable habitation. It is not that one is really happy with the other. No one is inclined to interfere with the other. It is a trial of forbearing and broad-mindedness.10
Tolerance has a very short limit however. Tolerance is not deep rooted in the heart of the relational operators. What tolerance really says is that if I have my way, I would rather do without you. Since I do not, and may not, or really can not have my way, then, I have to bear you. This is an unfortunate, unpleasant but unavoidable relationship. It is the situation between rival parties where both are competing for the same object. In religious parlance, it is the relationship between many denominational Christians to other denominational Christians and mainly between Muslims and Christians in general.
Toleration, it must be noted, is not agreement. It is largely a forced co-existence. Tolerance is not love, rather it is some kind of vague recognition and co-habitation. This is why it breaks down, many times, very violently, on virtually very insignificant issues, and at the slightest opportunity.
The Nigerian situation on religious crises exemplifies the fragile nature of tolerance as a relational model. The many crises in the Northern Nigeria over religious matters – Within the Muslim sectors – Matasines and other Muslims and with Muslims versus Christians, as witnessed in many recent years with resultant loss of abundant human life and property – are demonstrations of the breaking points of tolerance as a model.
Tolerance breaks down completely at the point of theological particularity of salvation, evangelism and judgement. Any religion that believes in its theological core that is the only one saved, others are surely condemned and possibly going to some kind of destruction – be it hell fire or hades - can not really tolerate others. Any toleration subscribed to by such a body is only a lip-service. The lip-service attitude explains the lack of peace within the religious domain of much of our present world. Tracing the failure of tolerance as a relational model in our world is like attempting to sum up all the world’s religious encounter in a word - intolerance.
It will suffice to say here that this is what most of the world - subscribe to – In other word, it is religious tolerance that is proclaimed across the world today even though it is much of lip-service. The many religious wars in the world today nailed the coffin of failure if tolerance as model. However, what then can be used as a sketching configuration of tolerance?
Model for Tolerance:
Again if two bodies A and B agree to tolerate each other with the religious background, it implies that there is an area of partial overlap with A and B, even if very superficial, while there are suppressed or untold views. Periodic outburst of conflict or horror accrues when the areas of overlap are more than the desired. The configuration could therefore be:
Figure 3: Model of ToleranceThe allowing of the overlap is what is called Tolerance. Any attempt to increase the overlap or for one religion to swallow, absorb or subsume the other leads to intolerance, hence, a break down of tolerance. That tolerance had always broken down make the need for a different model unavoidable.
The Acceptance Model:
According to Webster's Dictionary11, acceptance is to be treated with favour, to be given favourable reception. It is the quality or state of being received with approval. It is an agreement either expressly or by conduct to the act or offer of another so that a contract is concluded and the parties become legally bound. Acceptance to a point is meeting of minds.12
In other words, acceptance involves receiving something with consent, giving assent to receipt and giving admittance to the other. Acceptance includes taking without protest the other person’s position or view, enduring and tolerating with patience a different position, regarding as proper, suitable or normal to them the position of others and giving acknowledgement, recognition as appropriate, permissible or inevitable the personal claims and beliefs of others. Acceptance is to agree to, to regard and hold as true and to grant a position of belief that is claimed to the claimant. It is to make an affirmative response to a different belief position. It is to undertake the responsibility of the other person honestly as the person’s.
Acceptance is to allow onto a particular section of a line under local control. Even as in sexual terms, acceptance is to be sexually responsible as to allow to mount and copulate as in female domestic mammals.13 Acceptance could thus be said to be the receiving of something offered favourably.
Applying all the meanings of acceptance above to religious relationship is possible and interesting but the desired length for this paper, it has not be done here fully. It will suffice to say however that all the levels of definition are suitable, and really fit in to the concept of acceptance model here propagated. When a religious position, A, accepts another position B, the first, A, gives to the other, B, all the rights to the claims for B as long as it affects B only. The acceptance here does not permit A or B to impose any belief on the other overtly, covertly or in any other clandestine way. The right to be wrong in matters of believe and faith must be granted and admitted to all others. Condemnation of any by the other is therefore not permissible within acceptance. Confrontation will be anti-thesis to acceptance while particularity will be incompatible with acceptance.
It is this kind of acceptance that Christianity idealized in the eternal ethics of “Love your enemy, do good to those that despitefully use you…”14 but the Christian practice of particularity, segregation based on tenets and conditions of salvation, and holier than thou attitudes based on theological misrepresentations make the noble ethics a deceit to reality of living. Really it is only in African life and culture that the practice of acceptance is so found. The Akodi is a succinct exemplification of the “Love your enemy” ethics, as the akodi is the case of the survival of the community is the survival of the one, and it is we either all live together or we all die together.
In other words, Christianity preaches the acceptance in glowing terms without living it to any appreciable standard while African community life and religions practice it on day to day bases. It is this acceptance, as preached by the Christians, and as lived by the African religionist, that is here recommended as a religious relational model for the world.
Attempting a configuration for the acceptance relational model is far from easy as acceptance implies full right of existence and to existence for all. It implies an unchallengeable right to doctrines that do not castigate others in any way and it implies no cross condemnation of the other person's position or belief. The configuration could therefore be:
Figure 4: Model of Acceptance.
If this present world is to know true peace, religious relationship must be patterned in a universal manner that will produced no endangered species. This paper has put out that there are at least religious relational models – conflict, tolerance and acceptance. It will suffice to say that the final thrust of the paper is that acceptance is the worth-while, recommended, religious, relational model for global consideration in the space ship earth.
NOTES OF REFERENCES1. Popoola A & Co. (Ed) Ondo State in Perspective, Ondo State Government, 1996. p 110-117. Text of a lecture delivered at Cultural centre, Akure, on 24th January, 1996, by Jemiriye T.F., Religions and Development of Ondo State. P 110.
2. Berry, C.G., Religions of the World. Barnes and Noble Inc. N.Y. 1964, Idowu, B. African Traditional Religion: A Definition, SCM Press Ltd., London, 1976 and Awolalu J.O. Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites, Longman, London, 1979 are some of the many books that have relevant sections on definitions of religion.
3. Gove, P.B. (Ed), Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, G & C Merriam Company, Springfield, U.S.A. 1971, Vol. II, P. 1918b.
4. Adelowo, E. Dada. Homo religious: A Man who Holds his own in all circumstances, text of the Second Inaugural Lecture, Ondo State University, Centre for Research and Development, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria. 1995, P. 3.
5. This is Jemiriye’s definition that attempts to simplify the many long winded expressions called definition of religion.
6. Gove, P.B. (Ed), Op. Cit. Model, Vol. II P. 1451 a and b.
7. Renwick A.M. The story of the Church, London, Inter-varsity Fellowship, 1963.
8. Ibid P. 53.
9. All these issues could have been discussed in full but the focus of this paper will not permit same here. These are discussed in another paper titled Acceptance or Tolerance: The challenge of Traditional religion (unpublished). The issues are largely self evident, however, as the relationship face-off or contacts of religions.
10. Collins, New Gem Dictionary, London, Glasgow, 1968, Tolerate, P. 540.
11. Gove P.B. (Ed). Op. Cit., Acceptance Vol. 1, P. 11
14. Mathew 5:44 and Luke 6:27, 35.
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