These days, people in the western world don’t put much stock in sacred texts. Since we’ve evolved beyond all that quaint mythology and hocus pocus, we prefer not to acknowledge the the very real forces of spiritual contention that strive beneath our tragic history.
As literate as we are, we have not yet figured out that probably half of the world, myself included, is still bound up in the traditions of ancient religions. Most of the devout folk who derive their morality from these diverse streams of human spirituality congregate in their respective synagogues, mosques, churches and temples. By gathering together, believers reinforce their faith, multiply it, and extend it.
The educated members of our species eschew the old associations, and view them as divisive.
Certainly, human history reveals that religions are divisive. But the cold, hard, inconvenient truth is that if we weren’t killing ourselves over religion, we’d be whacking each other over something else, like oil, food, real estate, or each other’s spouses.
As a believer, I find myself here, September 11, 2010, on the tail end of the Judeo/Christian tradition. That particular stream of faith documents, among other events, many historic disputes that have arisen among various luminaries of the faith, most notably these two: Jacob/Esau, Isaac/Ishma’il.
But hey, the most recent offshoot of the Abrahamic tradition is, alas, Islam. Read em’ and weep, all ye Christians and Jews. Torah/Bible says God ordered the patriarch to go up on the mountain to sacrifice his son, Isaac, whereas the Q’uran identifies the prospective sacrifice as the other son, Isma’il. Islamic tradition says that Mohammed was taken up by Allah at the rock, which is now within the Dome of the Rock. Christian revelation specifies the next ridge over, the Mt. of Olives, as the location for Christ’s second coming. The Jews, meanwhile, are down at the wall wailing and crying for Messiah to show his face.
Among modern readers of these texts, people who are literate beyond religion tend to allegorize, or reject altogether, the spiritual truths that have been brought forth. Among literal-minded readers, however, steadfast faith leads to scriptural doctrines that can prove to be quite dogmatic.
When a fundamentalist of one sect burns, or threatens to burn, the sacred texts of another, swords–these days guns and bombs– come out of the sheaths. The cool-headed members of our species consign such stunts to vain sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nevertheless, most of the religious folk of our world are still taking sides on these issues.
Excuse me, but I am one of those dreaded religious relics of the human race who favor faith over diversity. Although I’ll try to tolerate anyone who doesn’t want to explode me, I’ll not concede that anything goes in the universe of truth.
Therefore, even as coolly objective as my secular, multiculturalized rose-colored-glasses-wearing better-angels would like to persuade me to be, I nevertheless take my place on the great mandala by sharing this song, which I laid down a few years ago with some friends of mine in David Browne’s studio.
We’ve got a song to sing.