Salivation Salvation

Charismatic PreacherLast Thursday I went to dinner with an acquaintence – a Palestinian Christian (talk about two words that just don’t seem to fit together!) – who described the historical aspects of the Palestinian conflict in great detail:  Its beginnings as a sort of partitioned British experiment, the growth of fundamentalist Islam, its use as a pawn by neighboring Arab states, and the mess that it’s in today.  It was a fascinating discussion.

One comment that stuck with me related the current Middle East Arab-Islamic fundamentalism to 15th century Christian fundamentalism.  He felt that’s about where many radical Muslims are today, set in their absolute belief that Islam is the only true faith, that all others are demonic and must be eliminated.  My dinner guest pointed out that neighbors who have been friends for years will attack each other if the local Imam decrees that they should because “It’s in the Koran”.  His experience, and his reason for leaving the Middle East, was that no one could be trusted not to turn on you tomorrow.

It got me thinking about how many times I’ve heard some Christian fundamentalist say basically the same thing – “It’s in the Bible” – without regard to asking even the simplest of questions:  Does that belief have any foundation in reality?  Is it subject to interpretation?  Is it supported by other theologians?  Does it do more harm than good? 

I am an advocate for those with strong faith who act genuinely on their beliefs, but acting in the name of God has also produced such recent heroes as James Kopp, David Koresh and even Ernest Ainsley, all of whom preyed (pun intended) in one way or another on the ignorant.  

For far too many it is easier to muster acceptance of a charismatic charlatan than to put the effort into finding truth. 

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6 Responses to Salivation Salvation

  1. David says:

    I have felt much the same way for years. Comparing Catholic Inquisitions, Holy Wars fought in the name of “Jesus” and the thousand year reign of total domination the church imposed upon Medieval Europe for hundreds of years has a lot of parallels in present Islamic terrorism. A big difference being, Terrorism is not condoned by the majority of Islamic Nations (unlike the Catholic Pope of Rome). Islam itself has been “hijacked by a small vocal extremist group. Muhammad or Jesus taught love and tolerance, not what we see now in either Christian history or current media events.

  2. David says:

    Sorry, In the above I was referring to the Medieval Pope. Now, many churches seem to be addressing issues of disunity. There is a new awareness. People are learning to think on a global perspective. I believe parochialism in all its forms as we know it, will eventually become a thing of the past. It its place will emerge an ever-advancing world civilization.

  3. Paul says:

    Thank you for your comments.

    The evolution of religious tolerance will also require political will. It is not by chance that (present U.S. Administration excepted) Western democracy and political tolerance grew up with religious tolerance. Both were caused by an enlightened populace, and so long as education reigns over ignorance, we should continue to evolve toward a global society that embraces our differences.

    BBD

  4. Interesting post. The real question, it seems, is what is truth. Is the Bible, as it says, the actual words of God spoken to man and written down?

    I would encourage you to study that because you would see some very interesting things about the Bible. I don’t know everything about the Bible but I am surprised by some of the things that support being what it says it is – THE WORD OF GOD.

    If it is what it says, then yes, I think that the things written in it are good and to be followed as “Scripture”.

  5. Truth or Truthiness? says:

    It is not by chance that (present U.S. Administration excepted) Western democracy and political tolerance grew up with religious tolerance.

    Are there any facts or direct quotes you can cite to back up an accusation the present U.S. administration is not religiously tolerant? Or is that just “truthiness” from your gut?

    Here’s a few examples of tolerance from the year or so following 9/11:

    “Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace.”
    Remarks by the President on Eid Al-Fitr
    The Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
    December 5, 2002

    “Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity. Muslims worldwide have stretched out a hand of mercy to those in need. Charity tables at which the poor can break their fast line the streets of cities and towns. And gifts of food and clothing and money are distributed to ensure that all share in God’s abundance. Muslims often invite members of other families to their evening iftar meals, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance.”
    Remarks by the President on Eid Al-Fitr
    The Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
    December 5, 2002

    “Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.”
    President’s Eid al-Fitr Greeting to Muslims around the World
    December 4, 2002

    “Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.”
    Remarks by President George W. Bush in a statement to reporters during a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
    The Oval Office, Washington, DC
    November 13, 2002

    “We see in Islam a religion that traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. We share your belief in God’s justice, and your insistence on man’s moral responsibility. We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror. Nations that are often victims of terror, themselves.”
    President Hosts Iftaar Dinner
    Remarks by the President at Iftaar Dinner
    State Dining Room

    “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”
    Remarks by President George W. Bush on U.S. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan
    Presidential Hall, Dwight David Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.
    October 11, 2002

    “Islam is a faith that brings comfort to people. It inspires them to lead lives based on honesty, and justice, and compassion.”
    Remarks by President George W. Bush on U.S. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan
    Presidential Hall, Dwight David Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.
    October 11, 2002

    “All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith — face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It’s a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate.”
    President George W. Bush Holds Roundtable with Arab and Muslim-American Leaders
    Afghanistan Embassy, Washington, D.C.
    September 10, 2002

    “America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country. Race and color should not divide us, because America is one country.”
    President George W. Bush Promotes Compassionate Conservatism
    Parkside Hall, San Jose, California
    April 30, 2002

    “Eid is a time of joy, after a season of fasting and prayer and reflection. Each year, the end of Ramadan means celebration and thanksgiving for millions of Americans. And your joy during this season enriches the life of our great country. This year, Eid is celebrated at the same time as Hanukkah and Advent. So it’s a good time for people of these great faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, to remember how much we have in common: devotion to family, a commitment to care for those in need, a belief in God and His justice, and the hope for peace on earth.”
    Remarks by the President in Honor of Eid Al-Fitr
    The Diplomatic Reception Room
    December 17, 2001

    “According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur’an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science. All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements.”
    Remarks by the President George W. Bush At Iftaar Dinner
    The State Dining Room, Washington, D.C.
    November 19, 2001

    “The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur’an. It teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace.”
    President George W. Bush’s Message for Ramadan
    November 15, 2001

    “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
    Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
    Washington, D.C.
    September 17, 2001

  6. Paul says:

    T or T,

    This is a great comment and I’m in complete agreement with you, but you missed my point. The current Administration has shown tremendous tolerance toward religions of all types, in some cases, I think, in contrast to its neo-conservative Christian base – which at least stereotypically comes off as being religiously tolerant so long as your religion is Christian. The Bush Administration got off to a rough start after 9/11, using sound bites like “Islamic terrorists” and “cowards” way too frequently, but backed off after being chastised for such knee-jerk comments and narrow-minded thinking. On the religious tolerance front I give them plenty of credit and I too believe that this Administration has not only shown religious tolerance but embraced it, and frequently broadcasts it to the masses. That’s a good thing.

    My point was about the OTHER side of that equation: The U.S. has successfully backslid Jeffersonian Democracy and democracy promotion in the world view; my first reference below is a very interesting read on this. The most obvious examples have to do with the U.S.’s failed attempts using military intervention to foist democracy on two Middle-Eastern countries – and by “democracy” the Administration repeatedly equated the terms “freedom” and “right to vote”. Democracy is much more than this (the “rule of law” comes to mind), and, based on its history since the Magna Carta, is not something that springs up overnight in a region that’s never had it before. This Administration – more generally, the Executive Branch – has done plenty in this regard to excuse itself from the rule of law and as such, has looked just a bit hypocritical in its choice of idealistic words versus its realistic actions. Religious tolerance and Western democracy are moving in opposite directions as our country’s political values are being questioned.

    Other examples that have led to a backslide in democracy promotion include the rather bizarre (imho as well as the Supreme Court) use of the term enemy combatant in order to avoid habeas corpus, the record use of Presidential signing statements, warrantless domestic spying and wiretapping (in violation of both Congressional law and the Fourth Amendment), the redefinition of torture as well as the disregard for the Geneva Conventions with respect to terrorists of unknown national affiliation, ignoring Congressional subpoenas (under the claim of Executive privilege), and foreign policy favoring non-democratic states like Pakistan and most oil-rich countries out of convenience rather than conviction about Democracy – an obvious backburnering of Administration Democracy rhetoric for economic, security and nation-building beliefs.

    I also really liked the Administration’s creativity when deciding that the Administration had not violated any laws regarding classified information (the Libby leak of prewar intelligence – Saddam Hussein’s nuclear plans) because they had the right to declassify any information that they wanted to, and therefore did so in order to leak the information without violating any laws. And their policy toward Hamas – a democratically elected government! – of isolation rather than engagement – is a keeper.

    All of these moves have led to a negative impact on democracy promotion; indeed, the past few years have seen both reversals in liberalization and democratization in China, Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and several other countries, due at least in part to the U.S.’s inability to engage them constructively (that is, without hypocrisy) on issues of freedom and democracy.

    Some of my references on this include
    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/democracy_promotion_after_bush_final.pdf
    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19549&prog=zgp&proj=zdrl
    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/bush_challenges_hundreds_of_laws/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21643059/
    http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2006/0209nj1.htm
    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/events/index.cfm?fa=eventDetail&id=885&&prog=zgp&proj=zdrl,zme

    Regards,

    BBD

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