I just got back from church. It’s early afternoon but I was lucky enough to play in the band this morning so I stayed for both services. We go to East Lake Community Church in Irmo, SC. It is a smallish church by local standards. All the services are contemporary, meaning there is pretty much a rock band leading praise and worship. And today it rocked.
Then I logged onto the computer and checked out Nicholas Kristof’s latest op-ed piece about how ignorant most of us are about the world’s religions. We know about people ‘s faiths who are different than us basically through sound bites and news about religious extremists of all religions who present a negative, even violent view. We hear about suicide bombings, stonings, walls being built, missiles being fired, women who must be completely covered in public, death threats, preachers claiming to know the will of God so clearly that they can designate deaths from natural disasters are HIS just punishments, supposed men of God who want to make a public show of burning another religion’s holy book.
2. Which holy text declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”? a. Koran b. Gospel of Matthew c. Letter of Paul to the Romans
3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion? a. Islam b. Christianity c. Hinduism
4. "Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son.” This verse is from: a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians b. The Book of Revelation c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale
5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery? a. Old Testament b. New Testament c. Koran
6. In the New Testament, Jesus’ views of homosexuality are: a. strongly condemnatory b. forgiving c. never mentioned
7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: “repel the evil deed with one which is better.” a. Gospel of Luke b. Book of Isaiah c. Koran
8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands? a. Muhammad b. Amos c. Jesus
9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist? a. Jacob b. King David c. Muhammad
10. What characterizes Muhammad’s behavior toward the Jews of his time? a. He killed them. b. He married one. c. He praised them as a chosen people.
11. Which holy scripture urges that the "little ones" of the enemy be dashed against the stones? a. Book of Psalms b. Koran c. Leviticus
12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave? a. Koran b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians c. Book of Judges
13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services? a. The first Dalai Lama b. St. Paul c. Muhammad
Answers: 1. b. Deuteronomy 22:21.
2. a. Koran, 2:256. But other sections of the Koran do describe coercion.
3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.
4. c. Hadith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet to be revered.
5. All of the above.
6. c. Other parts of the New and Old Testaments object to homosexuality, but there’s no indication of Jesus’ views.
7. c. Koran, 41:34. Jesus says much the same thing in different words.
8. b. Amos 9:7
9. all of them
10. all of these. Muhammad’s Jewish wife was seized in battle, which undermines the spirit of the gesture. By some accounts he had a second Jewish wife as well.
11. a. Psalm 137
12. a. Koran 4:34
13. b. St. Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, but many scholars believe that neither section was actually written by Paul.
I guess my point is that we are all too eager to condemn others whom we know very little about. There is so much goodness in all major religions. And there are major discrepancies as well. There is this crazy guy here in SC named Maurice Bessinger. He owns a chain of BBQ restaurants and sells BBQ sauce. There are booklets in his restaurants available that say that the Bible was totally OK with slavery. Scripture is quoted to back up his point. The same Bible in which Jesus stated,
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV, John 13:34-35)
Let me apologize in advance
For the way my friend behaves
He'll pick a fight and take a holy stance
He's so proud that he's so saved
I hope you don't judge Jesus
By the things my friend will say
He holds a bible like a dagger
And he twists it just that way
He just loves conversation - like a cat loves a bird
I guess he's always been a good man - in the worst sense of the word
The good knights went out to save the day
In the age of the crusades
A sharp sword on a tortured soul
They were sure the point was made
Any tool can be a weapon
If it's used with that intent
The devil's great at quoting scripture
And confusing what it meant
So all the evils done for Jesus - it is a history so absurd
But there will always be a good man - in the worst sense of the word
They 'jacked a plane to make a sneak attack
They were trained to die in flames
Their last words were to God above
Just to praise His holy name
For all the terror and destruction
They felt no sense of shame
You gotta wonder why religion
Can make people so insane
But their devotion was unquestioned - follow straight and never swerve
The devil always needs a good man - in the worst sense of the word
We make it all so complex. My book is the word, yours heresy. My code is the only correct one. My Lord. My God. My Holy days. I am saved. You are condemned.
When creating our Rules for Living and Learning with my 2nd grade class this year, one child said that we should simply follow our conscience. If there is a God (and I DO believe), then God gave us a conscience to guide our behavior. All too often, we set aside what our heart says is right so we can focus on differences and find reasons to hate and condemn. Is it trite to say, “Listen to the children”?