Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Turkey, oh Turkey

May 30, 2015

Oh Türkey, O Türkey,

wherefore art thou Türkey?

You Osman of old, you

Ottoman so bold, who

rode upon the haunches of destiny,

in six centuries of Caliphate history,

astride the swiftly flowing Bosphoros

riding bright as phosphorous,

across our grand confluence of East and West.

Safe passage through your Dardanelles’, we do request,

if it please you, sir.

Do you concur?

You, oh Sultan of Sogüt,

insistent besieger of Byzantium,

IstanNight

you, Conqueror of Constantinople,

extinguisher of the Caliphate,

you, Ankara anchor of that ancient Anatolian

soul, born and raised up in Konye of old.

You, brash instigator of Young Türks!

What mischief lurks

behind your Izmir eyes,

that glisten now as stars arise

beneath a crescent moon,

to induce some dervish swoon?

Do you even comprehend

the golden-sashéd man who still yet stands,

with lampstands in his angels’ hands,

holding forth your seven stars,

between Patmos’ sands and Akhisar,

strung like bright’ning Pleides pearls,

as His ancient scroll unfurls?

 

Glass half-Full

Prayer for all Nations

April 11, 2015

I hope you will believe in God, if you don’t already. When the Son of God walked upon the earth, he visited the temple of his people, in Jerusalem. Jesus said many things at the temple. One thing he said was:

My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

Toward that end, I included this scene/portrait in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. From chapter 4:

Beneath a cold, clear, azure sky the city of Jerusalem lay stretched upon the mountains and valleys like a fuzzy glove upon God’s hand. People from all over the world had gathered here to unearth evidence of God at work among the people of the earth. Some sought a temple that no longer exists. Some sought a mosque where a prophet entered heaven. Some trod upon the cobblestones of ancient, holy real estate, pleading for reconciliation, seeking atonement for the human condition.

A man wandered beyond the dome, past the blocked-up eastern gate; curving around northward, he noticed a large open area beside the mosque. Was this where the former temple had stood? What a beautiful mosque.

Could not the owners of this hill sell the adjoining, vacant acre or two to those pilgrims who, standing daily at the wall below, were wailing for their wonderful temple? Why not make a deal? Such a deal. Cousin to Cousin. Temple and Mosque, Mosque and Temple…Mosque Shsmosque, Temple Shmemple. Such a deal. Everybody happy. You pray your way; I pray mine.

A man traveled outside the wall, beyond the ramparts of human religion-building, pushing the envelope of mortally human strife… through the Kidron Valley below, to the vanity-laden valley of struggle, along the groves of Gethsemane; he trod among the graves of the prophets; he ambled along the graftings of the profits. He wept. Mankind, like a flock of fluttering chickens in a barnyard, clucking, headless…why can’t we get it together?

A man walked up the other side of the valley, through Arab neighborhoods, to a Jewish cemetery. Oh wailing trail of human history, why allowest thou such holocaust? Turning around, he looked back across the valley, to the mountain where he just had been, with tears:

Sons of Adam, argue all you want about real estate on your holy hill. “I’ll be over here on the other side,” thought he.

But the walk was over now. It was time to go to work. John Demos, reporter for XYZ, was scheduled to do a live broadcast three hours from now. The American Secretary of State and her entourage were in the ancient city to prevail upon, once again, the ancient brothers and sisters to settle their ancient differences. And John would be covering the event for XYZ.

***

Half a world away, John’s face could be seen on the TV in the Jesse James Gang Grill.

He was reporting to the world about the latest official Middle East peace initiatives. Hilda Hightower interrupted her flower-watering chore for a few minutes to watch his report…

DomeRok

Wailing Wall

JerChSepulc

JerGoPeace

Glass half-Full

What Mr. Nawaz says about Islamism

March 22, 2015

Among the people of my Christian tribe, a big question these days is:

Does Jihadi extremism represent, in any appropriate way, real Islam?

This is, as you know, a timely question. And I am curious about the answer, so I thought I would get a Muslim’s written perspective on the matter.

The book I chose is Maajid Nawaz’ autobiographical testimonial, Radical.

http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Journey-Out-Islamist-Extremism/dp/0762791365

Now, having read it, I am inclined to give the “moderate” Muslims of our world the benefit of the doubt. So yes, to answer my own question, I am of the opinion that there is such a thing as a legitimately moderate Muslim, in spite of the Islamofascists who are striving terribly to drag all the Muslims of the world into their gruesome quest for khilafah domination.

My rationale is based mostly in Christ’s sermon on the mount, recorded in Matthew 5, which says this:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

My inclination is to make peace with Muslims in any way I can. There is nothing wrong with this.

Some of my Christian friends say, however, that it is dangerous to make peace with the Mohammedans. While that may be true in some cases, I believe Christ calls us, based on the beatitude stated above, to take a chance on peace with other religionists whenever possible.

Love your enemies.

For me to cast a blanket judgement on all Muslims, based of the atrocities of ISIS, al Nusra, Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk, would be like casting judgement on all my fellow Christians because of what has been done in times past by the IRA, or Bosnian Serbs, or pedophile priests, or Spanish Inquisitors, or medieval Crusaders.

That’s not to say there are no fundamental, prejudicial problems with the primary Islamic scripture, the Quran; it contains passages that assign second-class citizenship to non-believers, and displays blatant antisemitism in other commandments. This is nothing new, and we should, accordingly, keep an eye, and a legal reign if necessary, on their oppressive Islamic tendencies in places where Muslims are in charge.

And it’s not like we have no problematical passages in our own Bible Scriptures. As a realistic Christian, I can admit that, but I still believe our book is a very long account of our Creator’s deallings with a fallen, sinful mankind, starting with the Jews, then us Christians, and eventually the whole damned world.

So get ready for God’s judgement on all of us. I have an advocate in Jesus. Who will defend you in the final courtroom? Will you have a leg to stand on?

I have read the Bible, and I believe it.

I have not read the Quran, but that is no requirement for citizenship in this world. And I suppose that as long as there is no caliphate governing American lands, there will be no such requirement. And of course there is no obligation in my country, USA, for anyone to necessarily read the Bible, or Torah, or any other sacred book.

Let’s keep it that way.

I am a citizen of this world, and when I hear or read that the third Abrahamic religion contains scriptural judgements about Christians, Jews, and other kaffir types who do not subscribe to Muhammed’s legacy, I am paying attention, because I want to do whatever is necessary to protect me and mine.

At the present time, I am in no danger of harsh punishments from so-called Muslims who are mad as hell. There are, however, Christian brethren of mine who are, as we speak, enduring terrorism in other lands, such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and God only knows where else in this unstable world.

So recently, when I was seeking answers about all this, I did turn to Maajid Nawaz’ book, Radical, and I read it.

There’s a lot I could say about his testimony; I recommend the book. But I will wrap this up simply with a quote, which explains in a cogent, concise way, the essential relationship between Islam and “Islamism.” Maajid Nawaz writes:

“Important to grasp is how Islamism differs from Islam. Islam is a religion, and its Shari’ah can be compared to Talmudic or Canon law. As a religion, Islam contains all the usual creedal, methodological, juristic and devotional schisms of any other faith. In creedal maters, there exist ancient disputes, from which we have the two major denominations of Sunni and Shia, each giving rise to numerous sects within their ranks. From methodological disputes, legal theorists and traditionalists debated whether scripture was best approached through systemised reasoning or oral tradition. From juristic differences, major schools of law emerged. And from a devotional angle, lapsed, traditional, fundamentalist and extremist Muslims have always existed. Superseding all these religious disagreements, and influencing many of them politically, is the ideology of Islamism. Simply defined, Islamism is the desire to impose any given interpretation of Islam over society as law.”

And a little further down  page 80:

“. . .one can see that, ‘though religious extremism and fundamentalism may pose social challenges, it is Islamism that seeks real power. Like Mussolini’s fascists, who were also socially progressive, it is the toatalitarian aspect of Islamism that gives rise to major concern.”

Yes, Maajid, I am concerned about that, as are many other kaffirs. And that sounds like a “moderate” analysis if I ever read one.

Therefore, in order to, as posited at the start of this, give Muslims the benefit of the doubt, I must say: I  finished reading Radical thinking that if there were more Muslims like Maajid, this world would be a better place.

The book was, as we say in evangelical circles, “edifying,” which means: I learned something from it. Thank you, Mr. Nawaz. Help us keep a rein on those totalitarian-leaning ones among your tribe.

Smoke

Surely, He has born our griefs

December 13, 2014

Every now and then in world news, it is reported that Muslims have taken offense because the Prophet Mohammed was insulted by some disrespectful kaffir journalist, speaker, or movie. In such cases, followers of Islam have been known to demonstrate their ire publicly.

This does not generally happen–it should not–among Christians, because our Savior has already suffered just about every insult, torture, or disgrace known to man– when he was nailed to a cross. There is nothing a person can say or do to humiliate Jesus that hasn’t already been spoken or done.

People who do not believe in Christ sometimes say that ours is a weak religion–even pathetic–because we put all our hope and faith in a Messiah who was judged to be a criminal and blasphemer and then publicly humiliated by torture and death on a cross.

The Muslim religion, by contrast, is founded on belief in the spoken word and action of a different person, Mohammed, who was a very successful man. Although he was opposed by many religious people of his day–as Christ also was–Mohammed surmounted the opposition of his enemies. In spite of his contentions against the stubborn Arab old-religionists of Mecca, he became, during his lifetime, a highly respected religious leader, revelator, military leader, judge, and founder of a world religion. Along the way he who took multiple wives, fathered many children and grandchildren, and died a natural death.

Jesus Christ, however, died on a cross after being publicly humiliated and tortured.

People who criticize Christians for following a suffering, crucified Savior think we have been misled or duped to put our faith in such a loser.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter what they think. Whatever abuse, verbal or physical, was heaped upon Jesus, is to be expected in the Christian life, and we must bear that humiliation with the same dignity that Christ bore his.

And that is a major point of Christianity–learning to bear the humiliation and suffering that this life generates, even as he did.

The real frustrations and failings of our life, after all, usually center around our defeats, not our victories.

So, by going to the cross, which facilitated his later resurrection on the third day afterward, Jesus showed us how to accomplish the greatest–the most necessary–victory in life. This overcoming is obtained through facing, bearing, and overcoming whatever-the-hell trouble life throws at us, including the worst adversity of all–death itself.

The Jewish prophet Isaiah foreshadowed this exemplary, salvatory role of Messiah when Isaiah presciently spoke:

“Surely, He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows!”

Several millenia later, the composer Georg Friedrich Handel included these prophetic words from Isaiah in his great musical oratorio, Messiah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT8tR1azaIw

This motivates us to proclaim, as Paul did:

“Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation–giving no cause for offense in anything. . .”

Life is sad, and difficult, but our God has shown us how to get through it victoriously; this does not require taking offense at every little errant word or insult. He was our example in this forebearance. Furthermore, we have better things to do.

Glass half-Full

What Muhammad did

October 25, 2014

I have been reading about Muhammad in Karen Armstrong’s biography, and I have concluded that he was a genius.

That prophet’s spiritual presence was so compelling to his first followers that they accepted without question hundreds of utterings  spoken through his mouth. They later assembled these verses as the suras of the Qu’ran.

This was no small feat. The lyrical content of Islam’s holy scriptures is composed entirely of one man’s revelatory pronouncements. (If I am wrong about this, you Muslims please correct me. I understand that the hadiths, written later by others, followed, but are not  considered holy revelatory scripture.)

Compare this Mohammadan revelation to, say, the Bible, which was assembled as sixty-six books that were spoken or authored by a multiplicity of authors over thousands of years. What a legacy the Jewish people have given us. Muhammed benefited directly from the Judaic legacy, and considered himself a part of it–a most definitive and corrective part of it.

What Mohammed had to say about al-Lah to his fellow Arabs during the early seventh century c.e. was quite urgent and compelling. The essence of it is that al-Lah is one God, not some pagan collection of many gods and goddesses. This may sound like religious quibbling to modern secularists, but the monotheistic insistence was downright revolutionary to 7th-century Arabs, especially those of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. Muhammad’s impact upon the Arabic tribal life and religion was  similar to Paul’s upending message about Jesus Messiah to his fellow-Jews, which had happened about five hundred years earlier.

Muhammad’s message of monotheism, consistent in some ways with the ancient Abrahamic covenant, has spread across the world for fourteen centuries now. It is quite amazing, even as Muhammed himself must have been a quite amazing man.

Not as amazing, however, as being resurrected.

In her biography of Muhammed, Karen Armstrong reports that in the year 621 c.e. Mohammed instructed the Muslims to pray facing Jerusalem. Because the prophet had been taken up in a night vision by an angel, Gabriel, and transported mystically to Jerusalem for certain revelations, the holy city of the Jews was shown to be “central to the Muslim faith too.”

For more than two years, the Muslims adopted Jerusalem as their qibla, or direction of prayer. But in January of 624 c.e., about eighteen months after Muhammed’s hijra (the prophet’s history-shaking, exilic journey to Medina after being rejected by the powerful Quaraysh tribe of Mecca), something happened to re-orient forever the Muslim quibla. On page 162 of her book Karen Armstrong wrote: 

“. . . Mohammed was leading prayers in a mosque . . . Suddenly, inspired by a special revelation, Muhammad made the whole congregation turn round and pray facing Mecca instead of Jerusalem. God had given the Muslims a new focus and a new direction (qibla) for their prayer.”

At that turning point in time, the Muslims redirected their salat devotions back toward Mecca, the place of their origin. I wish that they had, at that point, just left Jerusalem to the Jews. Our present-day situation in that city might have been less contentious.

Now the Jewish caretakers of the holy city would have to deal only with, instead of Ishmaelic Muslims, God and everybody else who claims to know Him.

According to the account of God’s work among homo sapiens that I subscribe to, God’s verdict on the matter is:

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

Mark 11:17

Here’s a song about it

and another song about it

Smoke

Time for Jihad?

September 7, 2014

Jihad is not one of the five pillars upon which the faith of Islam is founded.

If we, the Christians of this world, are to morally oppose Muslim terrorists, we should not do it on a platform of condemning Islam as a whole. Such a judgment upon Mohammed’s people would be downright impracticable and unworkable. We may classify them as heretics; some of us may identify Mohammed as a false prophet.

But hey, the Muslims of the world are not going to go away on the basis of our opposing their extremist elements. In the last fourteen centuries millions of the Islamic faithful have followed the teachings of Mohammed, and millions of them still are following him through the Quran and hadith traditions.

And that is worth something, because it is reality. Islam represents a long-lived institutional presence in our world. Such longevity has earned the people of the Quran an historical legitimacy.

Mohammed founded his worldwide religion based on five religious disciplines, or “pillars,” as the Muslims call them: belief in one God, prayer five times a day, giving to the poor, fasting and spiritual discipline during Ramadan, and the hajj journey to Mecca.

Jihad is not one of the five pillars of Islamic faith.

World history proves that Islam is no fly-by-night cult; the opinions of mankind render it a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

On one hand, the “force” characteristic of Islamic expansion is the problem, and we need to deal with it. If Islam is a religion of the sword, which depends on forced conversion of people with whom it crosses paths , we do have a large fundamental problem with it.

On the other hand, if the coercion we presently see from ISIS and other murderous groups is not rooted in authentic Islam itself but rather in extremists’ distortion of that faith, we cannot reasonably classify all Muslims as jihadists.

So which is it? Which “hand” is it? I believe we need to give mainstream Muslims the benefit of the doubt, because we inhabit the same world they do. Blessed are the peacemakers. But the ISIS murderers–they are a different animal. They are the Nazis of our age.

We will soon have to deal with them in the same way our grandparents had to deal with the Nazis three quarters of a century ago. Because the world did not effectively oppose the rise of Hitler and his Nazi criminals in a timely way, their Third Reich thuggery corrupted the entire machinery of Germany’s government and military. Then it took the greatest generation of our Western civilization to put a stop to their fiercely organized bloodletting. But it was not easy. Millions gave their lives in the process of ridding the world of the Nazi pestilence.

This cannot be allowed to happen to the Islamic countries in our day and time. We must make peace with Islam, if that is possible. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Accordingly, we must insist that Muslim leaders clean house, and rid their ranks of those murderers who execute innocent men/women without rule of law and without justice.

This dire situation is nothing new. About ninety years ago, Adolf Hitler named his contention with the world “Mein Kamph,” which means “my struggle.” He spent the rest of his destructively misguided life trying to convince the German people that “his” struggle was the same as their struggle to become a great people. It wasn’t. As it later turned out, the German people had better things to do than fight the feuhrer’s maniacal battles for him. What a price the Germans and the world at large had to pay in time and precious lives, to learn that hard lesson.

Likewise, the Muslim faithful of our present world have better things to do–like governing their own people–than fighting the bloody battles laid out for them by ISIS, Al Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah and others of their ilk.

Fourteen hundred years ago, Mohammed established his legacy among the Arabs by accepting the role of spiritual prophet. But he went further than that. He also took on political and military roles. Perhaps his taking on such forceful responsibilities, and their subsequent precedents after his death, is why the coercive power of the sword has become an oft-used weapon of Muslim hegemony.

This swordish attribute of Islamic power is not a religious tactic to which Christians readily acknowledge legitimacy. Except that: our own history of violence, forced persecution and war are, like it or not, an undeniable stain on the Christian heritage.

Even so, that was not Jesus’ precedent. All the subsequent killing, maiming, forced converting in the name of God under Christendom was what we did, not Jesus. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to atone for those sins that infect every one of us, and to affirm his salvatory work through resurrection after crucifixion. There is no historical evidence that Jesus took up the sword.

As for Mohammed, he affirmed his work through writing the Quran, but also by taking up the sword in the interests of redistributing wealth and establishing justice among his Arab people. He did take up the lethal weapon of military power in order to accomplish that. The principles of Islam governance are human principles.

The principles of Christian resurrection, however, are advocated by a people who hope to transcend this world, and possibly transform it in the process. Because this world is at war with itself, always will be . . . until Christ returns.

You think me naive to write such a thing? Two thousand years of Christianity attest that I am not alone in this belief. As for you followers of Mohammed, may Allah be with you. We’ll see how far that gets you on judgment day.

Smoke

Proxy War

July 9, 2014

 

In the world of the 1930’s, two destructive European ideologies were accumulating an arsenal with which to obliterate each other.

Unlike today, when the world is polarizing along ancient religious divisions, the scenario of the ’30s was moving Europe toward a death-struggle between two opposing Western economic ideologies–fascism and communism.

The rise of two masterminding evil geniuses–Hitler and Stalin– enabled their respective war-making nation-empires to rise to their full militarily destructive capacities and impose widespread destruction upon the world. During that period, seventy or eighty years ago, the civil war in Spain became the puppetized proxy war. Militarizing fascist states–Germany and Italy–propped up Spanish insurgents led by General Franco, as he sought to run the Communist-leaning, Soviet-supported government of Spain out of Madrid and out of power.

Today, the hotspot is not Spain; it is Syria. The power-brokers are not the Allies and the Axis; they are the West vs. Islam.

The civil war in Syria, which is now spreading into Iraq, is becoming the proxy war for two opposing ancient strains of Islamic power–Sunni and Shia. Iraq is caught in the middle between Syria (mostly Sunni) against the Shia empire, Iran, on the other side.

This scenario is eerily similar to the European ideology-based polarization of eight decades ago. During the 1930’s, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were caught in the middle between Hitler’s bloodthirsty power-grab and Stalin’s stealthy gulag death machine.

Today’s version of human-powered depraved bellicosity is not exactly the same, of course, as what was taking shape in the ’30’s, but there are similarities. The student of history can dimly discern these similarities. In our war-bound world of today, Syria, Iraq and other Arab states are caught in the middle, as Spain, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in the former times.

ISIS radicals in Syria are the Islamic version of Franco’s quasi-Catholic fascists in Spain in 1936-1939. They are hiding  their heartlessly demonic destruction behind a facade of the indigenous religion.

Franco’s insurgents were supplied by the emerging-under-VersaillesTreaty-radar Nazi-fascist German Luftwaffe, who shocked the world with their air-powered obliteration of the town of Guernica, Spain, April 26 1937.

Today, ISIS brutes are shocking the world with their brutality in western Iraq, as has happened in Mosul. Now the battle is getting more intense and bloodier between Sunni and Shia , as it was between Fascist and Communist in the late 1930s.

This showdown is one that the major powers, comfortable in their relative prosperity and peace, prefer to watch from a distance and get involved if it becomes absolutely necessary.

In Britain and France in the 1930’s, capitalist power-brokers stealthily supported Hitler’s camouflaged Nazi heathen militarism, because they saw it as a potential defense against Soviet Communism.

Little did they know what Adolf Hitler had in mind.

Is there an Islamic Feuhrer out there in the middle east somewhere now, waiting in the wings to make his big move?

In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain went to Munich and made a deal with Hitler. He came back to England waving a piece of paper that he thought represented peace. But a few months later, Hitler, having stalled the Allies off long enough to build up his wehrmacht, jumped on Czechoslovakia and Poland like a pit bull on a squirrel. You know the rest.

The world got sucked into a terrible war; millions were killed. Because the Allies were worn out with it all by 1945, Stalin took the scraps in eastern Europe that Hitler had failed to hold and therefore left behind for his former ally. Stalin, the fox, outsmarted and outlasted his ally-nemesis, Hitler. Stalin could not have done it without our help. War makes strange bedfellows.

Nowadays, it looks as though the United States, weary of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is willing to turn the defense of weak Iraq over to the Iranian ayatollahs, so that ISIS will not take all of Shia-dominated Iraq.  Hitler didn’t want the Czechs/socialists to have Sudetenland either.

Those Iranian Shia will be doing the dirty work in proxy war as Franco did for Hitler and Mussolini in 1936-39.

Is this something like turning the protection of the hen-house over to the fox?

We shall see.

 

Smoke

Dam infidels at it again

November 12, 2011

Wouldn’t you know it. The people of ancient Israel had a great little kingdom going, with the legendary King David establishing for them an impressive niche among the kingdoms of the earth, and then his venerable son Solomon consolidating their collective labor and wisdom into a golden age of excellence. But then Solomon died, and his sons Rehoboam and Jeroboam couldn’t work together, so Jeroboam took some rebels and they struck out on their own to establish a renegade kingdom of Israel at Samaria.
Those dam infidels.
Solomon’s golden age kingdom was eventually ground into dust by Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors. Jewish kingdom was extinguished, but their worship of Y_h, and identity as a people chosen to document God’s work, survived. After their banishment from Jerusalem, captivity in Bablyon,  and eventual return of  some Hebrew exiles to Jerusalem, the Jewish people managed to maintain a unique culture and precious heritage, in spite of later Greek hegemony and Roman domination. Almost a thousand years after Solomon, Messiah finally came, suffered Roman crucifixion, but then triumphed by rising from the dead. Jesus’ disciples, most notably the upstarts Peter and Paul, forsook Jewish tradition to start a new spiritual work on earth, which became Christianity and spread like wildfire through the Mediterranean world.
Those dam infidels.
After centuries of steady growth, suffering bloody persecutions from heathen Roman emperors, Christianity proliferated in spite of the bloody business of feeding them to the lions and such. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, so we Christians like to say, although I’m not necessarily  volunteering for that role. But then 300 years after Christ, one noble emperor Constantine finally got the light bulb turned on his head and became a Christian. If you can’t kill them, join them, I guess. As lucid as he was, Constantine got the bright idea to require all Roman citizens to be Christians, thus merging the public function of governance with the private practice of worshipping a risen Saviour. It was an idea that looked good on tablets (not ipads though), but it later turned out to be a mistake, although the organizing strategy worked tolerably well for a millenium or so, until Europe-based Christendom ended up splitting in two–Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox.
Those dam infidels again.
Meanwhile back in the mother lands, in 7th-century AD Palestine and Arabia, Mohammed got to looking around and realizing that mankind had a real problem. Even so-called righteous people such as Christians and Jews couldn’t seem to be good and properly serve God, and they had irrepressible reprehensible tendencies toward idolotry and debauchery. So Mohammed took it upon himself a la Allah to straighten the human race out by starting a new religion, which would prove to be more forceful and therefore more effective in its conquest of us unruly humans. So Mohammed and his subsequent imams set out to conquer the world for Allah.
Those dam infidels.
Mohammed and his band of believers did manage to compel a lot of people to their way of worshipping. However, after he died, the surviving leaders of Islam could not agree on who would be the successor, so there were bloody disagreements among them. After a few years, one faction’s acknowledged spiritual leader was recognized as legitimate imam to take up Mohammed’s authority. But by the time some Muslim agreement was reached, the other faction had already recognized three imams. Thus did the first Caliph of the Shi’a become known also as the fourth Caliph of the Sunni. These inceptive infightings resulted eventually in two major branches of Islam. Since the split happened quite early in Islamic history (about 656 AD, just 24 years after Mohammed’s death), the results produced two major branches of Islam–Sunni and Shi’a. This is not unlike the Christian Catholic/Orthodox legacy of two major dogmatic strains.
Those dam infidels again.
Fast forward a thousand years or so, and pan back to Europe, where we’ve got a a Protestant reformation brewing in the northern regions. Eventually Christendom manifests its inability to achieve consensus by morphing to a religion with hundreds, or thousands, of denominations.
Those dam infidels again, and again.
By and by, our perpetual trail of tears and blood gets dammed up into a global reservoir of apostate tragedy. Those dam infidels have been at each other’s throats for millenia. It gets discouraging, not to mention all the oriental religions–Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Zoroastrian, and God only knows how many.
An overview of history makes it appear that we humans will never agree on religion. We’ll be disputing about who God is and what he’s up to, or if he even exists,  until such time as we just blow ourselves to kingdom come.
I believe if God were really among us, he would take a real beating for this refusal to whip us into submission.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Conquest

March 13, 2011

Several thousand years ago, the people of Israel threw off a bondage of  Egyptian slavery.Then, in a 40-year odyssey toward freedom and their own identity, they wandered through desert areas until the people occupied  a new homeland where they would eventually set up a kingdom.

The establishment of that twelve-tribal homeland required some conquest of the native peoples. Jewish use of military might under the auspices of divine direction was, and is, a matter of perpetual dispute. Even today, the controversy intensifies, with each new generation, about whether or not the Jewish people are entitled to that narrow stretch of God’s earth between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Their perseverance to build a kingdom secured in righteousness and prosperity reached its golden age of fulfillment under David and Solomon.  But it was a flash in the historical pan. After Solomon’s death, their progress as an identifiable entity among the kingdoms of this world took on a downhill devolution, until finally the descendants of Israel were overrun by  Assyrians,  Babylonians,  Seleucids, and the Romans.

Their collective push to establish a worldly kingdom actually reflect a rather typical pattern in the development of people groups and their respective nations. But one unique element of the Israel contribution to world culture is their legacy of prophetical writings, which have since achieved universal distribution through a myriad of spiritual apropriations, most notably the Bible. The core of that prophetic heritage is a call to righteousness, or living rightly: morality, the Ten Commandments, etc.

About a millenium and a half after the Jewish diaspora, from out of the Arabian desert came Mohammed. He also issued a powerful summons toward righteousness;  he set forth five pillars of right-living upon which the practice of Islam, and its ordained proliferation,  would be founded.
I am not a Muslim, so I cannot claim an authentic understanding of their traditions and intentions, but it seems to me that Mohammed pointed out to the world that  Jewish and subsequent Christian efforts to establish a correct teaching about God–the One true God–had failed. A ubiquitous presence of idolotry and immorality among the people of Arabia and  beyond were evidence that men/women still needed a new infusion of religion, and he, Mohammed, was going to provide it. So he wrote the Q’uran.

But understand this: Mohammend was a conqueror. After his treatise of corrective religious dogma had begun, he went out and conquered multitudes of people, just to teach the world a lesson or two about rigteousness. The conquest of infidels that Mohammed and his immediate successors imposed on surrounding lands was immense. Islam established, through  unprecedented levels of conquest, a religious dominion far beyond anything that Moses, Joshua, David or Solomon ever dreamed of.

In the middle of all this religion-spewing history came a gentle  man from Galilee. His input to the spiritual heritage of mankind was not an advocay of conquest over peoples and nations. Whereas Jewish religion had been founded upon conquest of the Promised Land, and Islamic religion would later require conquest of the Infidels, Jesus’ only advocacy of conquest was a conquest of self.

He counseled people to “take up your cross and follow me.” By allowing the strong-armed conquerers of this world to crucify him, he wielded the ace of eternal life, and demonstrated its authority to trump this world’s  conquestive trick-taking.

He set in motion a narrative of redemptive power that has reined in the depraved hearts of men and women for almost two thousand years now. Jesus’ resurrection out-performed the legalistic limitations of Mosaic and Shariah Law. What better way to assure miraculous spreading of the news than rising from dead.

We don’t need to conquer the world; we don’t need to save it. That’s already been done, in the individual hearts of all persons who are willing to receive that deliverance.

Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell the Israelis. Go tell the Islamists: Forget about your conquests. Instead, let God conquer yo’ bad self so that you can rise to the challenge of eternal life, and therby overcome this goddamned world.

Glass half-Full

‘Isma’il, chill out! Yitzak, go sit in the corner.

August 15, 2010

About 3000 years ago, a Hebrew named Joshua lead his people across the Jordan River, to its west bank, and defeated the native peoples there. It was a tenuous victory that lead to a shaky occupation which is still being uneasily enforced to this day.

1700 or so years later, another leader, Mohammed, was born in nearby Arabia; he initiated Islam, and propelled his followers to a wide swath of military victories in that same region of the world, what we now call the Middle East.

Roughly in the middle of history between these two military victors a man named Jesus was born in the west bank town of Nazareth. He walked around the countryside teaching parabolic truth, preaching life after death with repentance from sins, and telling the locals that they should love and pray for their enemies. He also founded a religion.

Each of these three peoples of the Book has, over time, generated some pretty decent devotees. But each group has also produced a fringe of zealous followers  who thought they were doing God a favor by killing members of the other tribe(s).

In spite of it all, over a few millenia of time,  the human race strove mightily to evolve and improve itself. Two or three hundred years ago, a select group of enlightened Europeans threw off the bloody religion thing altogether and decided to strive for some rationality and order in society instead of the incessant blahblahblah of religion and the constant yadayadayada of dogmatic bickering.

Intelligent people of these modern centuries steadily supplanted the ole time religions with enlightened social and political maneuvering, accompanied by military prowess that turned out to be quite impressive, not to mention pretty damned explosive in its impact upon all mankind.

Consequently, people in our postmodern world have finally come to the realization that religion is obsolete, and even unnecessary.
In recent centuries, folks have had the existential power of dynamic ideologies to infuse meaning and purpose into their lives. Some of these posto-religio movements became, in their heyday, seriously potent in their persuasive encounters with proponents of the opposite purpose. The big clash, of course, has been the whacking of Capitalism’s exploitative hammer against the sharpened sickle of Communism, which produced some freakin’ incendiary sparks on the anvil of tedious time.

But hey, as the tri-pronged dialectic and dwindling resources steadily deter all hot military/industrial wheels from their slow slogging toward destructive fates, even these two C-bound titans of ideology eventually cooled to a smoldering slag of pragmatic society-building, and were cast upon the long and winding road of proletarian planetary progress.
Thus does the dust of  yesterday’s enlightened ideologies settle along the earth-frackin’ faultlines of a brave new, monetizing world. Its a reality check for concerned citizens everywhere, prozac time for zealots.
I mean
Marx is dead. Lenin has bit the dust. Stalin was snuffed out. Hitler fucked himself and his entire nation, along with the whole world. J.D. Rockefeller ran out of dimes; Rhodes toppled from life. Roosevelt went on to that great new deal in the sky.
Nixon and Breshnev fell to a ghastly glasnost in the cold ground. Mao’s in a maosoleum, and one morning in American Reagan didn’t wake up.

Freemarket and statist economic fixes merge under Mr Obama, as they had begun to do under Messers Deng and Gorbachev twenty years ago.
The dust settles. The canon fodder of  cold war dims to a dingy roar of superpower-enabled warlords and puppetary politicoes in distant developing nations.We lift the curtain of rigidly organized contention, open our eyes to a brave new world of perestroika, detente, diplomacy and open doors  and we see in the secularizing wake of the progressive post-20th century world…

It’s the religion, smartypants! Islam vs. Everybody else?