Even if the Qu’ran contains 109 verses that appear to call Muslims to go to war against infidels, it is clear that, the vast majority of Muslims, no longer practice or incite violence as a fundamental tenet of their faith. They must read their sacred texts in a way that enables them to continue to revere the words while understanding their implications in ways that do not demand taking up arms.

In all faiths, the ancient texts upon which beliefs are based must be interpreted and re-applied in the context of the radically altered circumstances in which a contemporary reader is reading.

When today I read the New Testament instruction recorded in Matthew 5:29,30, I must understand that a particular type of hyperbolic metaphor is being used for its shock value. This may be a less effective device in a modern western literalistic context than it was 2,000 years ago. It could create grave problems to apply literally the words attributed to Jesus who is said to have taught,

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

In the same way, in order to read Luke 16:18 responsibly, it is necessary to understand the difference between divorce as practiced in the ancient world and divorce today. It necessary to understand our different cultural settings when I read Jesus’ statement that,

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Contexts change. The way we apply our sacred texts must adapt to changed contexts. It would be tragic to lose the profound wisdom of ancient texts simply because they contain verses that, in our situation today appear objectionable.

Qu'ranIt would be sad to lose the Qu’ranic wisdom of the unity of all humankind because there are verses that reflect a more violent and intolerant time. 5:33 in the Qu’ran clearly aims to restrain violence and affirm the unity of the human community, when the prophet claims,

the taking of one innocent life is like taking all of Mankind… and the saving of one life is like saving all of Mankind.

We are one human family. We need to respect and honour each others’ sacred texts and try together to understand them in ways that are coherent with what we all believe to be the highest human values.

Islam may have a violent past. There may be violence in Islam’s sacred texts. The ancient world, like parts of the world today, was desperately violent. The sword was the dominant force for navigating the brutality of the world.

Historically Christians have participated in unthinkable violence. There is certainly violence in the sacred texts upon which Christianity bases its faith.

The presence of violence in our sacred texts, or in our history does not mean that either Islam or Christianity is inherently violent.

It is not religions that are violent. Muslims are not blowing up western civilians simply because we disagree on the nature of God. Westerners are not being killed because they believe in the Trinity (which most of them probably do not) and Muslims believe in the absolute oneness of God and

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like Him.” Qu’ran (112:1-4)

Religion may be misused in the service of violence, but is not the source of violence. The source of violence lies deep in the human heart. It is ignited by poverty, oppression, fear, envy, greed, misunderstanding, ignorance, tribalism, hatred, and prejudice.

Until we look honestly at the causes of violence and seek openly the commonality in our different belief systems, it is unlikely the tide of violence will be curbed.

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here’s a voice worth listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrA14ChCQ10

and here are many voices speaking for Islam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWx3Ckh_F4o – listen to 4:14: “I believe that I am living proof that people can come along together, being that I’m originally Iraqi and my Mon’s Filipino and my entire family is Christian and my Dad’s a Muslim. I was born UAE and I’m a Canadian citizen.” Like it or not, this is the world in which we now live.

nb: any discussion of violence by a Christian must be honest about the strain of violence that runs through our own sacred texts. Tomorrow I will post a few of the more vicious parts of those texts Christians have always held to be the fountainhead of our own belief system.

 

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