I was introduced to many other religions, not intentionally, but more by accident. My father was a minister, but my mother was a travel agent and tour leader. When I was just a child, she began leading tours and taking groups to Europe and the Middle East, the Scandinavian countries, even to the Far East, including Russia and China. My two brothers and I were the lucky beneficiaries of being raised by parents who took us on vacations to exotic, sometimes strange, but always faraway places. By the time I was just a teenager, for example, I had been to Europe two or three times and to the Middle East and Far East at least twice. To say the least, I have a privileged and remarkable childhood and adolescence.

I don't think it ever occurred to my parents what impact these experiences would have on me or my brothers. I visited countries and witnessed cultures where the Christian faith is anything but the primary religious tradition. For instance, I met scores of people who were devoted practitioners of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. While most of their spiritual practices were foreign to me, even weird at times, the one question that haunted me on many occasions was this: If my religion is right-Christianity-and their religion is false or, at best, incomplete or misguided-which is precisely what most Christians still believe today-why has it taken them thousands of years to discover their error? Furthermore, if their religious practices were not rewarding them with a life-changing experience of the Divine, why would they keep doing them for centuries? Are they just slow to learn? What's the problem here?

So, I made it my practice, not only to know the efficacy of my own faith tradition, but to study and know what other religions teach, too.

Here are a couple of conclusions to which I've come. There has only ever been one spiritual truth. It is known, experienced, and expressed in multiple languages and through a variety of cultures and traditions.

The other is this: There is far more that all religions share in common than there has ever been that distinguishes or separates them. The future of humanity is at stake and the Dalai Lama is so correct in saying, "Until there is peace among the religions, there will be no peace in the world." We are at a crucial time in human history. Many thinkers and visionaries do not believe humanity will survive if the religions of this world do not share together their similar commitments and work together to bring harmony between people and nations.

What many Christians do not realize is that the world views much of their message as a conflagration of contradiction. For example, Christians say the gospel they preach is powerful enough to change the world. Yet, in recent years, there's been an enormous interest among Christians in what they call the Rapture or Return of Jesus Christ. Many of them are even praying for it. One of the most popular and money-making fictional series in the history of Christian publishing has been the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Their entire storyline is based on this hugely complex system of the Rapture-of how the world will come to an end. What many Christians seem to have forgotten is the one caveat Jesus gave as to when he would NOT return-that's when everyone was expecting it. Jesus said that his return would be as a thief in the night, when everyone was least expecting it. Since the majority of Christians are looking for his imminent return, they would do well to recognize they're just as likely responsible for his delay.

Of course, I say all of this with tongue-in-cheek. I no longer subscribe to any of these apocalyptic views of the culmination of human history. Had God wanted us to understand how the world would end, he'd have sobered up Saint John long enough to write something a little more intelligible than the Revelation he gave us. What Jesus did give us, around which there is no confusion, is the clear admonition, "Take no thought of tomorrow." Words do not get much clearer than this. Yet, most Christians seem interested in talking more about tomorrow than in how they're living today.

I've put up an entire post on my blog about this (and written a whole book about this and other matters related to the spiritual life), and I'd love to share some of the things I've learned with you. To get started, visit my blog at http://www.stevemcswain.com.

Author's Bio: 

For more than a decade, community leaders, corporate executives, politicians, priests, pastors, and other religious leaders, have heard Dr. McSwain’s passionate call to philanthropy, generosity, and a spirituality that reaches beyond the customary divides, one respectful of all religious traditions. Whether a congregational setting or a corporate event, Dr. McSwain connects with audiences everywhere. His message is candid, but respectful, humorous and always uplifting. Each year, he speaks in Roman Catholic parishes, mainline Protestant churches, and Evangelical congregations all over America. In workshops, seminars, conferences, and corporate events, Dr. McSwain inspires people to achieve their highest purpose and to enjoy the spiritually-connected life. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including generosity, inter-faith dialogue, spirituality and spiritual formation, ethics, ecology, and social justice.