In her book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson describes a concept known as “group narcissism.”

Wilkerson writes:

We are accustomed to the concept of narcissism – a complex condition of self-aggrandizing entitlement and disregard of others, growing out of a hollow insecurity – as it applies to individuals. But some scholars apply it to he behavior of nations, tribes, and subgroups.

Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origin of our Discontent. NY: Random House, 269

Sadly, one of those “subgroups” is churches. Churches have too often been guilty of “self-aggrandizing entitlement and disregard of others.” Too much of what passes for Christian theology is thinly veiled narcissism. When we fall prey to any version of “Our truth is more true than your truth,” we are practicing narcissism.

Wilkerson warns,

History has shown that nations and groups will conquer, colonize, enslave, and kill to maintain the illusion of their primacy. Their investment in this illusion gives them as much of a stake in the inferiority of those deemed beneath them as in their own presumed superiority. Caste, 270.

In the church today, we may not go quite so far as to “conquer, colonize, enslave and kill;” but we are certainly not far from the kind of “embedded artificial hierarchies” that are characteristic of the “dominant caste.” And we need to be honest that, some of our cherished sacred texts can be used to support the “graded ranking of human value” that has bedevilled much of the hierarchies of human societies.

There are ways to read our scriptures so they do not support our “own presumed superiority.” But we need to read certain passages carefully so that they do not cause us to fall prey to the arrogant assumption of the superiority of our belief system over any other.

How do we hear the words attributed to Jesus in John 14:6:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Or, how are we to understand Peter’s words in Acts 4:12:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

Or the writer of I Timothy 2:5:

there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus.

It is not hard to see how such verses might be used to hold that Christianity alone is the superior religion and that all people must conform to the Christian manifestation of faith.

But, why would we want to announce to the world the presumed superiority of our belief system over any other?

Wilkerson offers an insightful answer to this question in her definition of narcissism which she defines as

a complex condition of self-aggrandizing entitlement and disregard of others, growing out of a hollow insecurity. (emphasis added)

It is the last part that is the most important. The determination to be part of a group that is superior to all other groups is not a demonstration of faith or deep conviction of truth; it demonstrates rather, “a hollow insecurity.” Faith does not need to be part of the winning group. Faith does not need to demonstrate the superiority of its belief system over all others.

Faith is willing to step into the land of uncertainty, to open to complexity and to embrace differences even when they seem threatening. Faith does not create hierarchies of truth but rejoices in the evidence truth wherever it might be found.

Jesus deconstructed the idea of the superiority of one belief system over another when he attacked the religious leaders of his day saying,

The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.

Mark 2:27

This has nothing to do with good, better, best. Truth is true because it serves the well-being and thriving of all humanity. Wherever truth is found, it will be affirmed and supported by those who see the truth they serve affirmed in whatever form it is manifest.