Flying Horses

David Hayward’s latest cartoon illustrates an important point about interreligious dialogue, as well as about cross-cultural interactions. It is easy to see the oddness in the beliefs and customs of another, and very difficult to see how equally odd our own seem to others. Decking a status with flowers may seem bizarre and pagan, while pulling a dead tree (or stranger still, an imitation of a dead tree) into one’s house and decking it with garlands seems perfectly normal.

I believe that the Golden Rule should guide interreligious dialogue for Christians. Treat others’ religion and customs the way you would like them to treat yours. And conversely, why not start by examining your own religion the way you might hope that people of other religions would examine theirs?

  • Joshua Smith

    I’ve wondered about this a lot, particularly with regard to those who argue for a literal, historical ascension of Jesus into heaven. Would they not also be forced to consider the historicity of Mohammad’s ascension?

    • beau_quilter

      There is much more they would be forced to consider. In James’ last post he references an article by Matthew Ferguson:

      http://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/ancient-historical-writing-compared-to-the-gospels-of-the-new-testament/

      (Thanks James! A great read!)

      Ferguson points out that the historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Deo all independently corroborate that the emperor Vespasian could miraculously heal the blind and crippled. (Only one of many examples of nonChristian miracles attested by nonChristian historians). Whereas the gospel miracle records are merely copied from each other in loose narratives, the Roman historians cite specific independent sources.

      If one is of a mind to accept ancient miracle “histories” at face value, the evidence for Vespasian’s miracles is far more weighty than the evidence for Jesus’s miracles.

  • Christopher John Sissons

    I’ve been a Christian since 1978 and an ecumenist working nationally in the UK, I’m also a local preacher. Never in all that time or from any source whatsoever have I heard anyone express the idea that Jesus is going to return from heaven on a flying horse. Am I missing something here? Where has this story come from?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      There are those who view the rider on a white horse in Revelation as Jesus. I assume that is what the reference is to.

      • Christopher John Sissons

        I thought if it were anywhere it would be in Revelation. Do you have the verse because I don’t have any memory of a flying horse. Also I’ve been under the impression that Mohammed’s horse was winged, like Pegasus. I may be mistaken. I’ve never seen pictures of winged horses from Revelation, I suppose they must be flying if they come from heaven. The cartoon doesn’t work for me on many levels. I don’t think it compares like with like. I suppose it comes as a bit of a shock to discover I’ve believed in flying horses since 1978.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Revelation 19:11-16.

          • Jack Collins

            Well, it doesn’t say _flying_. Just a horse. From heaven. Could be a falling horse. Or a really good jumper.

            The real challenge to a literal reading of that passage is that Jesus shoots a sword out of his mouth.

            • Christopher John Sissons

              I discussed it with some friends today and we looked at the passage. I think the cartoon is targeted at those Christians who have a fundamentalist reading of the text. It is frustrating that these readings are now taken as normative for all Christians when they are actually held by a historically small minority of Christians. For the cartoon to work for most Christians the second bubble needs to include something more central to the Christian faith. The best we could come up with today was walking on water.

              • Jack Collins

                The same could be said of the assumption that most Muslims adhere to a fundamentalist reading of the Quran and Hadith. Belief in Buraq the magic steed is hardly central to Islam (it isn’t even in the Quran, which only says God took Muhammad on the journey, not how…). So the parity of the cartoon is restored. It’s an indictment of the assumption that belief in ANY religion entails uncritical acceptance of every claim or practice associated with that religion.


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