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“In The Name Of God”: If You Preach Religious Peace And Tolerance, Then Practice Them

The narrative of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel has retained its power beyond the realm of believers because it renders one of the most peaceful moments in all of scripture: a gathering of angels and shepherds celebrating the “good news” and “great joy” of the birth of a baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Although my favorite Christmas song will always be “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” it is “Silent Night” that may be truest to the spirit of Luke’s account. There are no rumors of war, no clashing armies, only a bright and blessed calm.

This will not be the first or the last Christmas when the world mocks the day’s promise and when religion finds itself a source of violence, hatred and, among many not inclined toward either, a dangerous mutual incomprehension.

Killing in the name of God is not a new thing in history, and nothing does more to discredit faith. Believers regularly argue that religion is often invoked as a cover to justify violence carried out for reasons of politics, economics and power that have nothing to do with God. There is truth to this — and also to the idea that in the 20th century, secular forms of totalitarianism unleashed mass murder on an unprecedented scale.

Nonetheless, as Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi in Britain, argues in his remarkable book “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” believers must face the painful facts.

“Too often in the history of religion,” Sacks writes, “people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.”

We are now focused on the thoroughly ungodly violence of the Islamic State, but Sacks is careful to document that wars of religion are not unique to Islam. He believes that to persuade religious people of the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — arguments against religious violence must be rooted in theology, not in secular ideas alone. These have to do with the nature of God. “When religion turns men into murderers,” he insists, “God weeps.”

Sacks argues for a separation of religion from power because religion and politics “are inherently different activities.” This is tricky, since many of the genuinely ethical norms that religious people bring to public life are rooted in their faith. Nonetheless, he is surely right that religion “is at its best when it relies on the strength of argument and example. It is at its worst when it seeks to impose truth by force.”

And the strength of example must mean that those who preach religious peace and toleration should practice them. This is why the rank prejudice being shown against Muslims, usually for political reasons, is so destructive, as Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, argued in a powerful column this month in his diocesan newspaper.

“One of the most pernicious effects of terrorism is that it can instill prejudices and group hatred in people’s hearts and minds,” O’Malley wrote. “All of us are horrified by the evil perpetrated by radical terrorists, but we must not let their inhumanity rob us of our humanity.”

He also issued a warning that could usefully be repeated week after week during next year’s presidential campaign: “Fear can cause us to do terrible and stupid things.”

And there is an important lesson in the Christmas story that, God willing, will be heard from many pulpits. “As we mull over the debate about refugees, let us remember the doors that were closed in the face of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem,” O’Malley said. “We must ask our leaders to be vigilant and protect our citizens, but at the same time we cannot turn our back on so many innocent people who are hungry, homeless, and without a country.”

Muslims are constantly called upon to condemn violence. One who has done so consistently is Eboo Patel, an American whose argument in his book “Acts of Faith” parallels the lessons from Rabbi Sacks and Cardinal O’Malley.

“To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism,” Patel writes. “We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.”

This idea is worthy of the good news in Luke where an angel tells us: “Do not be afraid.”

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 - Posted by | Faith, God, Religion | , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Christ Centered Teaching: You quoted the bible ” It is from the Biblical
    concept in Genesis that mankind was created “in God’s image” that we get
    “that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain
    unalienable rights, the right to freedom” being the first mentioned.”
    You are contradicting everything you just wrote! YOU are saying ” God has
    not given the Muslim “the right to freedom” and YOU are also saying
    that “ALL MEN” are not created equal! You are spouting blasphemy!

    Like

    Comment by lrfalstad | December 27, 2015 | Reply

    • I don’t interpret the article as you say. Disagree that it is blasphemy.

      Like

      Comment by raemd95 | December 27, 2015 | Reply

      • This is not the article I was making a comment on. It was for the article by “Christ Centered Teaching” that was posted. I can’t seem to find it now. Anyhow, yes, I agree with this article.

        Like

        Comment by lrfalstad | December 30, 2015

      • Got it. Your point is well taken!

        Like

        Comment by raemd95 | December 30, 2015

  2. We need to reevaluate the question behind the bracelets and bumper stickers of WWJD. The letters seem to have lost their value.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | December 26, 2015 | Reply

  3. Chritianity and Islam cannot be compared on the equal plane because they are so different.
    For instance,
    The number 1 objective of Islam is found in the daily repetitive prayer of Islam and in the Quran. 
    “No other God but Allah and no other religions but Islam.”
    Islam is not inclusive, but is called to violence and forcing submission.

    Our current dilemma flys in the face of what is considered common sense, and reveals a potential for darkness so evil that most will not have the courage to see it for what it is, but will look away.
    Here are the facts with supporting evidence.

    Islam forbids any criticism of Allah Muhammad or the Quran. It is considered blasphemy and unforgivable.
    Of such is the definition of tyranny.

    The only unforgivable sin in the Bible is to attribute a miracle of God to Satan.

    The Quran calls for theocracy, there is no seperation of church and state in the Quran, and in fact it commands universal unconditional submission by any means. Regardless of what the moderates say and think it is the devout religious rulers that impose these beliefs on the masses. This is why Muslim refugees are fleeing Muslims.
    There is a stark duality in Islam.

    Islam is antithetical to democracy and commands the use of violence, deception, lies, all without  qualifications. Islam is not a religion of peace since the Quran commands otherwise, and it does to the extreme. I believe many Muslims are simply unaware of their own religion just as many Christians appear to be. But in the end, each religion’s leaders will follow the writings of their religion. This behooves the wise to be well informed.
    The difference between violence in the name of Islam and violence in the name of Christianity is doctrine. The examples you can name are violations of Christian belief, but the letter-of-the-law in Islam.

    Concerning slavery, consider the Black female Christian professor at Wheaton College who was put on leave for donning a Muslim head scarf and saying she and Islam worship the same God. Being a black Christian professor, she really, really ought to know the difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam enslaves women and children, encourages regular wife beating, (look it up in the Quran, I’m not making this up) even children born to a Islamic father have no choice but to follow Islam or the parents are shamed into “honor killing” their own children. Great Britain has seen a very large number of “honor killing” ,which is Islamic sanctioned murder. This is tyranny. Islam enslaves. In contrast, Christ spoke of freedom, “If the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed.” It is from the Biblical concept in Genesis that mankind was created “in God’s image” that we get “that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to freedom” being the first mentioned. No other religions would give us these freedoms. Islam does not grant you autonomy. Even Hinduism is a cast system. The abolitionists in America and Great Britain were all influenced by Christians. William Wilberforce in Britain.

    Like

    Comment by Christ Centered Teaching | December 26, 2015 | Reply


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