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Saturday Sermon: The Gospel according to Tom Clancy

July 29, 2011 at 2:29 a.m.

David King

By David King

Years ago, I started reading Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears." I finally had to put it down because when I turned on the news, I expected to see Peter Jennings report about what I had just read. What makes Clancy so great is that everything he writes might not be true, but it could come true. Honestly, he scares the dickens out of me.

His latest book, "Against All Enemies," likewise scares me. The premise is the Taliban and a Mexican drug cartel join forces, each to exploit the weaknesses of America for their own purposes. They are taking to heart the old adage, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Could Tom Clancy imagine (can we imagine) the good that could be done in the world, if our various religious groups could respect our differences and combine forces and resources to combat the evil influence of gangs and drugs, to heal the childhood diseases or combat hunger and illiteracy. What would it take to unite the people of good conscience whatever their faith orientation around a common cause for good?

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington almost 50 years ago, there were Christians and Jews, whites and blacks, marching together for a common good. When Mohandas Gandhi, who inspired Dr. King, led the movement for an independent India, he united Hindus, Muslims and Christians in a common purpose for human dignity.

How can we get beyond our religious divisions and find a way to unite for the good of humanity? A little man named E. Stanley Jones, who was a Methodist missionary and preacher in India and a friend of Gandhi's, may have hit upon the answer. One day, he asked Gandhi point blank: "How can we make Christianity naturalized in India, not a foreign thing, identified with a foreign government and a foreign people, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India's uplift? What would you, as one of the Hindu leaders of India, tell me, a Christian, to do in order to make this possible?"

Gandhi's response was direct and honest. He said, first, that all Christians must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity.

Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people.

If Tom Clancy can imagine two evil and destructive organizations combining forces and resources to do unthinkable acts of violence and terror, I wonder if he could imagine the various faith traditions collaborating for peace and for good? Can we?

The Rev. David King is pastor at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Victoria.

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