Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011.09.21 No Peaceful Religion

Watching the old movie called The Message about the history and development of Islam I saw how similar the themes and patterns of development are in all religions.

All of them start in violence and often resort to it, to defend the God they love who counsels otherwise. Is this a guy thing?

Why do we fight over that which we most value? Sad and crazy.

There are no peaceful religions although all of them preach peace till they’re blue or die trying.

There are no peaceful religions only passionate religions, petri dishes for zealotry for a God who wants love and faithfulness, not death and war. Often in the Bible violence is put into God’s own mouth and onto God’s will. There are two strands of tradition at work as theology evolves: the warlike vengeful God and the One whose steadfast love and mercy abounds.

Christianity, and other religions too, tried to choose the latter but then human “ingenuity” crucified it. And we still do.

How ironic that God’s name is taken in vain to defend God. But God through new voices calls us back to the way of compassion for all.

We have a choice about our own interpretations and theologies. That’s why I love midrash, the Jewish ongoing process of interpreting and re-interpreting the Word of God for each generation.

I do not take scripture literally. Sometimes it re-creates God in our own image. But it is part of our ongoing struggle to understand the mystery we can not.

My favorite midrashic reframe is on the story of the Exodus. The Israelites have crossed the miraculously parted Red Sea and are ecstatically safe on the other side as the sea waters close over the enemy Egyptian army. They all drown. As the Israelites thank God and cheer about their own freedom they spot an angel weeping by the shore. Revealing the enormity of their spiritual naivetĂ©, they ask the angel, “Your people are free, so why do you weep? The angel of God answers: “Because some of my people are dead at the bottom of the sea.”

You see how mixed it all is. But I choose to believe the God whose Word keeps speaking to correct our errant thinking and reinstate Divine Love.