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Editorial: Religious definitions always open for interpretation

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 31, 2000
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A column printed in the Arizona Daily Wildcat on Jan. 24 regarding the Southern Baptist Convention, written by Moniqua Lane, has prompted a slew of letters to the editor regarding the nuances of the Christian and Mormon faiths.

Some readers claimed that Mormons are not true Christians because they do not believe in tenets such as the Holy Trinity, and that they believe God is, in fact, a physical being.

Other readers wrote that the Mormon faith is a Christian faith, that they still believe in Jesus Christ and are therefore rightfully Christian.

While this healthy exchange of ideas regarding religion is welcomed by the Wildcat, the unique opinions presented in each letter seem to prove that religion is in fact defined on an individual basis.

Religions are always open to interpretation, and none can truly be categorized as representing only one faith or another. Many religions overlap in their claims about what or who God actually is, and most are molded and fashioned to fit individual belief systems.

Some claim that if a person claims to be a Christian, she cannot believe in evolution or any theory of creation except the biblical definition of creationism. But in reality, many individuals raised as Christians do see evolution as a viable explanation for how life came about.

Are these people not true Christians? Who has the right to decide?

It is natural for people to feel pride in their faiths and to become defensive when they feel their faith has been misrepresented. But in reality, no faith can truly be misrepresented because religion is defined on an individual basis.

Jacob Lauser, an electrical engineering sophomore, wrote about the Mormon faith, "Their idea of heaven is being gods over their own planet, ruling with their husband/wife and having sex for all eternity to populate it. That's more science fiction than Star Trek!"

What Lauser forgets to mention is that biblical Christianity believes in the tale of Adam and Eve in which Eve is born from Adam's rib - a very rational idea.

All religions have mythological elements to them that make no sense. Therefore, debating the semantics of each religion and deciding which is most irrational is silly, given that they are all somewhat irrational.

But one element that all faiths, Christian or non-Christian, polytheistic or monotheistic, seem to have in common is that they can be very positive influences on the lives of the faithful. They can provide direction and hope for those who need it, and they have historically been excellent forces for charitable causes.

Music education freshman Katy Ewing summed up this argument when she wrote, "Too often, it seems that the true definition of 'Christian' is overlooked by people blinded by denomination."

Too often, it also seems that the term "religion" is used to divide people whose faiths are in fact very similar. Instead of pointing out their differences, the faithful ought to recognize that all religions, Christian, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim, can be a force for good.

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