Another headline was ripped from my novel, Torn Asunder, last weekend and this one is more unsettling than any of the others — by far.
The United Arab Emirates unveiled plans for an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi that will unite a church, a synagogue and a mosque.
Looking at a photograph of an architect’s rendering in the news story — at https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/uae-plans-interfaith-complex-abrahamic-family-house — I was astounded at the resemblance to the Church Universal that appears as the headquarters in Torn Asunder.
The announcement of the Abrahamic Family House follows Pope Francis’ February visit when the pope and the grand imam of al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a declaration to form an interfaith council called The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.
This lofty Higher Committee had its inaugural meeting at the Vatican earlier this month and met again in New York City Saturday, Aug. 15.
Combine this with the Trump Administration’s historic Abrahamic Accord peace agreement, which appears to be the missing link the Vatican needed to launch the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative.
Keep in mind the Muslim faith declares “God has no Son and Mohammed is His prophet.”
Keep in mind Mohammed said, “The Last Hour will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them to the extent that the Jews will hide behind a rock or a tree and the rock or the tree will say: O’ Muslim, the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him…”
It seems difficult to reconcile these sentiments with Christianity and the Jewish faith.
A truncated version of my reporters’ interview with His Excellence Howard Alphonse Bliss, general secretary of the Church Universal in his headquarters (in a building much like that one they’re building in UAE), goes like this:
Reporter: “Why create Church Universal in the first place?”
Bliss: “Centuries of disharmony…. Enough is enough. A major barrier among religions is for each to think, ‘I am right.’ This is an old trick of Satan that we first read about in the Garden of Eden. And killing each other in the name of God and ‘what we think is right’ is absurd. I’m sure God would have none of it. And we found that there were a number of us—from all religions—who felt the same way. Peace is a universal word, a universal concept, and, we think, the basis for a universal religion.”
Reporter: “How do you get around the fact that these various religions have, for millennia, worshipped very different gods?”
Bliss: “Whatever gods they have worshipped are enshrouded in myths, fairy tales and stories written by men and, thus, with man’s errors. We feel we can’t truly know God, or the gods if there are more than one, because of our limited minds as compared to the great Mind that created the universe. And if we can’t know Him, how can we define Him? It’s best, we feel, to simply agree on the concept. There is a God, or gods, and He or they want peace for mankind.”
Reporter: “How do you marry that concept with the Allah of the Muslims ordering the destruction of people of all other religions unless they relent and worship him?”
Bliss: “I don’t have to reconcile it. I don’t have to reconcile anything any of the religions lays claim to. Truly, I don’t care to debate any point of any religion. My belief—and, yes, my life—are based solely on the idea of peaceful co-existence. A loving God would want nothing less.”
Reporter: “What of the remark by Jesus that ‘no one could get to the Father except through him’?”
Bliss: “As I said, I care not to debate any particular scripture of any particular religion. What we have created here is a universal religion, one that all mankind can believe in and follow without any of the trappings of the existing belief systems.”
Reporter: “I’m reminded of the old saying, ‘If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. How do you expect Christians and Jews to turn away from the teachings they believe came from the mouth of God—or Muslims, Hindus and others who believe in their gods—when the leaders of Church Universal are mere men?”
Bliss: “Mere men, but, we believe, ordained and anointed by God to the task at hand. But, to your point, we believe in unity of cause even if there is not total unity in faith. Unity in cause is central to our duty as the Church Universal. And, again, that cause is peace. Ask any Christian if they want peace. Ask any Muslim.”
Reporter: “The Muslim might answer ‘yes’ with their lips while firing a bullet into a Jew with the rifle in their hand. Isn’t this ‘cause of unity’ too simple for such complex theological, and political, disagreements?”
First, Bliss listed those who signed onto the United Religions Initiative in 1996— including Mother Theresa, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Bishop Edwin Swing, the Dalai Lama, the Sankaracharya of Kancheepuram, and Islam’s Grand Mufti in Cairo—then continued:
“The same God who made the hands of a Jew, made the feet of a Christian, the eyes of a Hindu, the heart of a Muslim, and the brain of a Buddhist. The Bible even says that, in God, there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile. We in Church Universal believe we are all brothers and sisters in God, created by the same Father (or fathers, or even father and mother, if you prefer).”
Reporter: “How on earth can you have a religion, Church Universal, without a specific theology?”
Bliss: “I do have a personal theology that guides my own life. But Church Universal is just that: universal. We can’t take sides and nit-pick about the particulars, or the semantics, of any single religion. Because of that, though I may have a personal belief on all sorts of topics, I won’t get involved in debates on any of them.
“But I want to emphasize that religious tolerance is not religious indifference. Tolerance values the right of another person to hold beliefs that you think are wrong. We are, above all else, tolerant.”
That sums up the fictional interview. Sounds like reality where “tolerance outweighs truth.” That’s the case, both in Torn Asunder and among those “higher minds” in the Higher Committee.
Kick-started by the Abrahamic Accord peace agreement, the Abrahamic Family House, set to be completed on 2022, is the first initiative by the Higher Committee.
God forbid whatever their next plans might be.
By the way, to score a copy of Torn Asunder or any of my other books, skip on over to Amazon.com and search for Mark Alan Leslie.