Lost in translation

Today, in the American Christian tradition, is Pentecost. According to the Bible, it is the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, they each perceived the message from the heavens in the language of their birth, and each was instructed to take the message to the world. For most who follow Christian tradition, it’s the end of yet another Easter season; for others, it’s instructions about how to worship.

I say it’s more. Much more. Besides, who says what is the correct way to worship? Or that formalized, programmed worship is the only way to go?

If you would, shelve your personal religious practice for about 30 seconds and follow along with me. (You’ll get your practice back…I promise!)

What are the main messages of each faith tradition?  According to The Harmony Institute, the top ten messages are:

  1. There is one “God” (substitute whatever name you prefer)
  2. God is everywhere
  3. We each have a soul
  4. God is inside us
  5. We are all capable of understanding spiritual knowledge
  6. God has a name (again, whatever you prefer to call it…some traditions hold that many names exist for the same being)
  7. We should be respectful and compassionate of each other
  8. Morals are important
  9. We are all connected
  10. Peace and nonviolence are the goals

There are other messages, to be sure, but I agree this list comprises the commonalities. What we get hung up on are the details of the religious practice because of the way that our practices have been translated, filtered, and passed down through time. Differences in language, culture, emphasis, and translator bias has resulted in a bunch of people who are divided over the meaning of the same thing.

The very same thing.

I think that the message of Pentecost is a reminder of number 9 of the above list: We are all connected. By missing this part of the message and focusing on the “speaking in their own language” part, we have not– we can not — achieve number 10. We are simply disconnected people who periodically descend into exclusion, further division, and violence.

And with that, the lasting message of God (or Buddha, the Creator, the Goddess, etc.) is lost in translation.


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