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DEEDS, CREEDS AND MOTHER TERESA'S DESPAIR

 

 

By Berit Kjos

September 30, 2007

NewsWithViews.com

”We all belong to the same family. Hindus, Muslims and all peoples are our brothers and sisters. They too are the children of God."[1, p.35] Mother Teresa

"We are supposed to preach without preaching not by words, but by our example, by our actions."[1, p.72] Mother Teresa

"The first Reformation... was about creeds; this one's going to be about our deeds. The first one divided the church; this time it will unify the church."[2] Rick Warren

"What do I labor for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true."[3] One of Teresa's many agonizing prayers.

It seems so good! Who could question such sacrificial love? From the world's perspective, few have deserved the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize more than Mother Teresa. Ministering to the "poorest of the poor," she and her "sisters" -- the devoted Missionaries of Charity -- renounced all Western comforts to give themselves fully to the poor, sick and dying.

Yet Mother Teresa's amazing ministry brings a sobering warning, for it illustrates the Church's growing tolerance -- even appreciation -- for interfaith compromise. Her compassionate pluralism fits both the "emerging church" movement and the UN vision for spiritual oneness. In fact, her work provides a perfect model for UNESCO's 1994 Declaration on the Role of Religion. Compare its standards with today's drive for deeds rather than creeds:

  • "We must… cultivate a spirituality which manifests itself in action..."
  • "Religions must be a source of helpful energy."
  • "We will promote dialogue and harmony between and within religions....
  • "...listen to the cries of the victims….
  • We call upon the different religious and cultural traditions to join hands… and to cooperate with us."[4]

The true Gospel clashes with this world system. That's why Chinese and Burmese Christians are persecuted for their faith. That's why Pakistani and Indian converts may reap torture or death -- never a Nobel Peace Price -- for their loving service to the poor! We are fast approaching a time when caring Christian missions will be equated with "intolerance" and "hate."

A new ecumenical project to create a "common code for religious conversions" would speed this transformation. The World Evangelical Alliance, the Vatican, and the World Council of Churches have joined together to establish a code of conduct that would "ease tensions with Muslims, Hindus and other religious groups that fear losing adherents...." Some participating leaders call for “dialogical evangelism” and want "preachers... to be told that no religion has a monopoly on the truth... there are many ways to find salvation.”[5]

Would obedience to such a code pacify Hindu and Muslim radicals? Would it end the persecution of faithful Christians? Not unless these collaborating church leaders could muzzle missionaries, modify the gospel, and follow Mother Teresa's guidelines:

"We never try to convert those who receive [our aid] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God's presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men -- simply better -- we will be satisfied."[6]

GOOD DEEDS

Unlike evangelism, humanitarian service (good deeds without Christian creeds) is welcome everywhere. "Christians, Muslims, Hindus, believers and nonbelievers have the opportunity with us to do works of love," wrote Mother Teresa in "Words to Love By." Thus "Hindus become better Hindus...." [1, p. 359]

Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia in 1910. At eighteen, she joined the Loreto nuns in Ireland. A year later she was sent to India for her novitiate. For the next two decades, she taught at a Catholic school in Calcutta. Then, she "heard the call to give up all," she wrote, "and to follow him into the slums and to serve among the poorest of the poor." The introduction to "Words to Love By" describes the start of her selfless ministry:

"In 1952 she came across an abandoned woman, dying in the street and being consumed by rats and ants. She picked the woman up and took her to a hospital, but the hospital couldn’t help.... A health official took her to a building located next to a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. ... He offered her the use of it....

"Over the years she expanded her work... providing shelter and finding homes for orphans, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, running family-planning clinics and mobile dispensaries, and caring for thousands of lepers. She founded the Missionaries of Charity which now has more than 3000 members working in 52 countries....

"'Do what you do with a happy heart,' she admonishes. The dying man in the gutter is Jesus in distressing disguise. 'Whenever you meet Jesus, smile at him.'"[1]

UNIVERSAL CREEDS

In 1978, Mother Teresa wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai. It included this strange reference to an interfaith deity:

"Are you not afraid of God? You call him Ishwar, some call him Allah, some simply God, but we all have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and to be loved. Who are we to prevent our people from finding this God who has made them — who loves them — to whom they have to return?"[7 p. 155-156]

Did Teresa really believe that Ishwar -- a Hindu term for a universal "God" (incorporating Brahman, Shiva, bloodthirsty Kali, Divine Mother...) -- could be linked to our holy God? Was Allah simply another name for our Lord to her?

One of Teresa's biographers, Kathryn Spink, mentioned an ashram established "on the banks of the sacred Cauvery River" by Dom Bede Griffiths, a close friend of C. S. Lewis. In its temple...

"Christian worship was expressed in forms and symbols meaningful to the Indian culture and potentially enriching to Christianity itself. The ashram had become a centre of prayer and meditation to many who sought the universal and eternal truth at the heart of all religions. Mother Teresa sometimes sent her sisters there for brief retreats."[7 p. 154]

It's not surprising that Teresa would recommend such a retreat. Her writings are peppered with unbiblical references to universalism, pantheism, monism, and salvation by human effort rather than through the cross:

"There is only one God and He is God to all. I've always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim...."[8]

"God is not separate from the Church as He is everywhere and in everything and we are all His children -- Hindu, Muslim, or Christians."[8]

"Every religion has got eternity.... We live... so that they may go home according to what is written in the book, be it written according to Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or Catholic, or Protestant or any other belief."[9]

Another biographer, Naveen Chawla, asked her bluntly, “Do you convert?”

“Of course I convert," she replied. "I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant.”[10]

That's not what Jesus taught us. He said,

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" John 14:6

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:9-10

But Mother Teresa apparently didn't see Jesus as the only "door" to God's Kingdom. Nor did she acknowledge the need for the cross or the gospel. Their own religions were adequate. Her own efforts could do the rest:

"We ask those who are about to die in the Home for the Dying if they want a blessing by which their sins will be forgiven and they will see God [Ishwar]. If they say yes, we give them the blessing. We help them all die in peace with God. And everybody knows that we give them a ticket for St. Peter."[1, p.70]

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

In 1979, Mother Teresa traveled to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. A recent Time Magazine article compares her joyful acceptance speech with her inner darkness:

"...she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world 'that radiating joy is real' because Christ is everywhere — 'Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.'

"Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant... she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. '...the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see. Listen and do not hear...'"[3]

This disturbing contrast was exposed through a book titled "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light." It consists of letters between Teresa and her confessors. As the editor indicated, she felt no presence of God whatsoever, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist." Time magazine explains,

"That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain.... She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God.

"She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. 'The smile,' she writes, is 'a mask' or 'a cloak that covers everything.' Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. 'I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,' she remarks to an adviser. 'If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'"[3]

While her ministry grew, "Teresa progressed from confessor to confessor the way some patients move through their psychoanalysts." One confessor encouraged her to explore her despair by addressing Jesus in prayer. She wrote:

"Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? ... I call, I cling, I want and there is no One to answer.... Where is my Faith... there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness... I have no Faith. I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me. [I am] afraid to uncover them because of the blasphemy. If there be God — please forgive me.... I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."[3]

Teresa had heard "God" back in 1946. "Come," he supposedly said during a train ride from Calcutta to a Catholic retreat in the Himalayan foothills. "Come be My light."

She had visions. She conversed with Christ on the Cross. And one of her early confessors assured her that these "mystical experiences were genuine." Soon after that, she started her ministry to the poor, and "Jesus took himself away...."

"Why did Teresa's communication with Jesus... evaporate so suddenly?" asks Time. One of it's hollow answers comes from the atheist Christopher Hitchens. He simply denied the reality of God.

Could Teresa's heart-breaking emptiness be the tragic result of trusting forbidden "gods." Remember, our Biblical God allows no pluralistic compromise. As the first commandment tells us, "You shall have no other gods...." Exodus 20:3.

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God calls us to love and surrender to Him alone. Then, by His life in us, we can serve each other -- giving Him all the credit! Such service includes sharing the gospel, for without God's saving Word there can't be lasting fruit.

SO SEND I YOU to take to souls in bondage
the Word of Truth that sets the captives free,
to break the bonds of sin, to loose death’s fetters,
So send I you to bring the lost to me.


Footnotes:

1, Mother Teresa, Words to Live By (Ave Maria Press, 1983).
2, Ken Camp, "Second Reformation' will unify church, Warren tells Dallas GDOP," 2005.
3, David Van Biema, "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith," Time, August 23, 2007.
4, Declaration on the Role of Religion in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace
5, "Christian code of conduct on religious conversion wins broader backing," WWC, 8-15-07.
6, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations, and Prayers, pp. 81-82
7, Kathryn Spink, Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography ( Harper/Collins, 1997), page 155-156.
8, Simple Path (Ballantine Books, 1995), pages 31, 59. Compiled by Lucinda Yardey.
9, Desmond Doig, Mother Teresa: Her people and Her Work (Fount Paperbacks, 1978, pages 140-141.
10, Mother Teresa Touched other Faiths,” Associated Press, Sept. 7, 1997.

© 2007 Berit Kjos - All Rights Reserved

 

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Berit Kjos is a widely respected researcher, writer and conference speaker. A frequent guest on national radio and television programs, Kjos has been interviewed on Point of View (Marlin Maddoux), The 700 Club, Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on "Talk Back Live" (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks.  Her last two books are A Twist of Faith and Brave New Schools. Kjos Ministries Web Site: http://www.crossroad.to/index.html


 

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Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia in 1910. At eighteen, she joined the Loreto nuns in Ireland. A year later she was sent to India for her novitiate. For the next two decades, she taught at a Catholic school in Calcutta.