Can you picture a situation whereby factory premises in Nairobi’s Industrial Area are engulfed in flames?
Fire, heat and smoke are so widespread that Nairobi County firefighters cannot gain access from the front or sides of the premises and firefighters are trying to gain entrance through the back. Two guys are trapped inside the house, but looking for a way to escape. One of them notices that there is just one window that is still open. It’s in a back room, but the path to it is swiftly narrowing because of flames and smoke. The person who sees the window points to it and tells the other person that it is the only way to safety; that if they don’t run to that window and get out fast they both will be incinerated kingdom come.
We could say that the person pointing to the only viable escape route is being “exclusive”, but in that case what they are saying is true. There is no other way out. The person who is pointing to the back window is excluding other windows and doors in the building; not because there are no other windows, doors, or exits in the building but because trying to use those other windows and doors will lead them to their deaths. Only one window will lead them to life. Though it might sound “exclusive” to make the ‘one-window-escape’ claim, it’s true .. because it’s true.
Our culture is more convenient with the blind men and the elephant analogy – in which each religion depicts a blind man feeling a separate part of an elephant, never having the entire picture. This analogy places those who take the pluralist view as having the complete picture of the elephant. Paradoxically, this position results in its own truth claims. It is quite interesting that the viewpoint espoused in pluralism is in itself drenched in the same bigotry and exclusivity that it loathes and rebuffs. “We know the truth…and it is found in a tiny portion of every religion: Include it and live it.”
Truth and exclusivity are not mutually exclusive. Truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false. That is Christianity. Exclusive claims of Jesus of Nazareth leaves us with no alternative. However, it is always good to remember that Truth is always best served with a side of grace.