Posts Tagged ‘Mohammed’

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

This World

September 13, 2014

There’s something wrong with this world. Can’t you feel it?

Something a little out of whack.

We detect that something is a little out of kilter, maybe a little rotten in Denmark, and Detroit, in Darjeeling, something amiss in Mississippi, Malaysia and Malawi, out of sync in Singapore, Sevastopol, and Sao Paulo, and probably in our own back yard.

Everywhere we look in the world we notice folks, including me and you, who are playing the game without a full deck, making mistakes, screwing up; we see them building cities and societies using resources that are one brick shy of a load, with a screw loose somewhere and trying to put things on the straight and narrow with instruments that are about half a bubble off level.

What’s up with that?

Many moons ago, when men were crawling out of the caves and bushes, when women were roasting critters over fire and worshipping the sun and stars and rocks and trees and bulls and bitches, back in the mists of antiquity when humans hung together in packs and tribes, then in camps, cities and even empires– along came a fellow who marched to a different drummer.

He managed to do–not that he was trying to do so– what a lot of celebs these days spend their whole lives attempting–he made a name for himself. You’ve probably heard of him:

Abraham.

Scads of people throughout history claim kinship or faith with him. Why? What was it he did that was so important?  Well, how about this–history, oral and written, records that he believed God.

Abraham had noticed that, as I mentioned above, something was wrong in this world. So he asked God if there was something he could do about it. God urged him to leave the old world that he had been born into, and emigrate to a new place. So Abraham accepted God’s counsel; he picked up stakes and moved.

Since that time, a lot of people of have, you know, done something like that.

Abraham was an immigrant. He was hoping, I suppose, that he would not be turned back at some border somewhere.

He did manage, thank God, to get settled into a new place, and a lot of things happened after that. His young’uns came along–Isaac, Ismail, and so forth and so on.

By n’ by, a certain strain of his descendant family tree got themselves stuck in a slavery situation.

Then another fellow, Moses, came along and sought God’s counsel. He got the people organized and led them out of slavery. While his people were wandering around in the middle east trying to get it together, Moses inquired further of God, and so God gave him a revelation of what was to be done about the situation.

That situation being this world, which is about half screwed up, and what could the people do about it. They needed some laws and principles to get themselves straightened out and going in the right direction, so God gave them some instructions. Nowadays some folks call it Torah, others call it Pentateuch, or Bible. Some call it myth. I call it part of the Bible.

The short-term outcome of all that was, in the ensuing centuries, Moses’ people founded a kingdom and ran it for a few hundred years; it was supposed to be based on righteousness and justice. But, over time, things did not work as planned, and the kingdom was overcome by others and it all fell apart.

A few centuries after that, but in the same place, Jesus came along.

Now the main deal with Jesus is his Resurrection, and our resurrection, which accompanies his if we are willing to go with him. Either you believe it, or you don’t. As for me and my house, I do believe that he was was raised from being dead after being crucified to atone for all the bad stuff that makes this world, including me, wrong.

But of course that’s not the end of it all.

A few more centuries rolled by. Mohammed came along and noticed the same thing that I alluded to above–there’s something wrong with the world. He claimed to have a revelation from God of what’s to be done to get this crooked ole world straightened out.

Now the thing about Mohammed is: although he was a genius in religion, politics, and military strategy, he was a mere human like you and me. And so all the carefully-crafted constructs of his legacy later degenerated into more of the same-old same-old dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest manipulations of selfish lecherous ego-driven men , like everything else in this damned world.

There is no fixing this world. The Jews have been trying to fix life for thousands of years. Now the Muslims are taking their shot at it. Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Shintos, God bless ’em all for trying, but  none of it works for getting this earth and its people corrected. The world just continues to get worse and worse, and the stakes higher and higher, like carbon emitted and rising to entrap the atmosphere, while human compulsions descend lower and lower, like carbon emitted and accumulating in the tombs of our ancestors and ultimately in our own graves.

But each one of us faces death alone; the wicked world that hath confounded me, stumbled you, for lo these many years– it does not die with us. It just keeps going on and on and on in all its incendiary dysfunction.

When it gets right down to it, each man, each woman, must decide what is to be done about his/her own life, and what role he/she will attempt within the revolving restrictions of the great mandala. As for me–I’m going with the one Creator who, allowing himself to be crucified at the hands of this world’s dysfunction, has already conquered and surpassed the death that awaits us all.

my 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

The Sword

August 31, 2014

On the night that Jesus Christ was arrested, he was in the presence of eleven men who had devoted themselves for the last three years to his message and to his life’s work.

That night was a dangerous night. Peter, John, and the other guys could smell trouble coming; it was in the night air as thick as dew on dixie. The powers-that-be did not approve of what Jesus was up to, and they were out to get him.

After these zealous men had eaten their Passover meal with their fearless leader, they were talking about what might happen next. The dramatic events of previous days indicated that something terrible was going down.  They could feel it in their bones that Jesus and his followers might suffer some dire consequences as a result of the unprecedented works of healing, teaching, and organizing they had been doing among their people. Their trepidation was not just idle paranoia, because Jesus was about to be hauled in to face charges of blasphemy and insurrection.

One of his disciples was a man named Peter. Peter was a fisherman by trade, a man of action, a provider, a doer; he was a go-getter, willing to go out and do whatever needed to be done to make  happen whatever needed to happen. So when Peter, impetuous man that he was,  discerned that danger was afoot, he began planning in his mind a strategy to act protectively on Jesus’ behalf.

Now this little band of brothers had, among their minimal possessions, a couple of swords.  Somebody informed Jesus that they they had these two swords, and they were wondering if maybe they should bring them along.

Jesus said: “It is enough.”

Now I’ve been reading and hearing about this historical event all my life. I’m wondering what did Jesus mean by this cryptic, minimal answer when he was asked about the swords (and hence, whether it would be appropriate to use them.)

Think about it. What defense could be implemented with a couple of swords against Caesar’s enforcers? Of what use are a couple of blades against the vast power of Roman law in cahoots with local religious power-players?

Jesus was like yeah whatever I don’t wanna discuss it now. You don’t get it do you, Peter? Just bring ’em along, whatever.

Subsequent events indicate, however, that  Jesus was committed to his own strategy of non-violence. He knew what he had to do, and it did not involve taking up the Sword.

So a few hours later, when the actual arrest happened under cover of darkness in the garden of Gethsemane, one of the guys whipped out the sword and used it in Jesus’ defense. As a result of that hasty reaction, a slave who was one the arresting officers suffered the loss of his ear. What a bloody omen that must have been to set the tone for what was about to happen.

But then Jesus nipped in the bud what might have been the beginning of a real insurrection. He told the impetuous disciple (many Christians believe the sword-wielder was Peter) to put the weapon away, and he said: “. . . for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

Another cryptic remark from Jesus. Nevertheless, as a result of Jesus’ insistence on non-violence on that fateful night, he went on to face charges (from the religious power-players) of blasphemy and (from the Romans) of insurrection.

The next day Jesus was condemned to death, then beaten and crucified. After a couple of days in the crypt, he was raised from being dead, and a worldwide religion was established on behalf of his redemptive life and work.

So we see from scriptures what Jesus did with the swords that his followers had brought along that night. He chose not to use them.

About 600 years later, another world religion was founded, which was to commemorate what Mohammed did.

So here’s my question for you to consider: What did Mohammed do with his sword?

Sword of the Spirit

Smoke

The Two-edged Sword

September 15, 2012

In the annals of human history, the invention of the sword is surely a turning point; it’s importance ranks right up at the top of the list, along with the first use of that most laudable invention of all, the wheel.

I suppose the first application of a sharpened implement was  used by prehistoric humans for gathering and preparing food. But I’m sure it wasn’t long before some irate or jealous neanderthal discovered its advantageous wielding for more nefarious purposes, such as murder or maiming.

If you’re not into the neanderthal explanation, think of this bipolar principle of homo sapiensbehavior in terms of Cain and Abel.

Love it or hate it, this sharp implement has been used for many millennia to advance the various purposes of our species, and its power has much to do with our ascendancy over the lesser species of the animal kingdom.

In human relations, the damned thing has been swung forever, by men, to inflict injury, pain, destruction, and death, on other men. On the other hand, the same weapon has long been applied by the nobler ones among us to defend the weak and the innocent against such atrocities, thus administering a thing that we call justice.

In the ascent of human ethics and society, “the sword” became, over time, something more than an implement or a weapon. It became an idea, a two-edged concept. On one edge of the sword is crime cruel atrocity; on the other is justice and defense.

Looking at history, we see undeniable evidence for the frequent use of both edges of “the sword”, the good side and the bad.

It reflects the dual nature of Man. On one side we are rotten to the core; on the other we are redeemed, and noble.

The sword has been used for thousand of years to enforce and extend various religious movements and agendas.

Very controversial in the ancient history of the Middle East is the use of the sword by Joshua and his Israeli tribes to subdue the Canaanites, on behalf of J’…h. Several thousand years later, Mohammed swept across the middle east crescent with his band of conquering Muslims, asserting righteousness with the sword in the name of Allah.

That little skirmish is still at center of all our international politics here on planet earth.

Jewish tradition proclaims that Moses gave us Law, so that men could live with each other having at least some semblance of societal order; since that strategy wasn’t exactly working out as planned, Mohammed came along thousands of years later, to enforce the correction needed to establish righteousness upon the earth.

Neither of these has worked as effectively, to quell the belligerent manipulations of mankind, as their founders might have intended.

In the midst of these two sword-swinging religious traditions, and between them historically, there came Jesus, who grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is somewhere between Damascus and Jerusalem. This Jesus, whom I regard as Messiah, and deliverer of mankind from its evil nature, did not wield the sword, as Joshua and Mohammed had done. Instead, he laid the weapon thing down and preached peace and forgiveness, which is considered foolish and naive in this present arrangement of the world. But in the kingdom of God, which is our fortunate destiny as earth-dwellers, his good news receives more favorable reception.

When his right-hand-man, Peter, drew the sword in retaliation against the oppressive, arrestive Roman sword, Jesus instructed Peter to put the thing away. Their were higher principles at work in those events than the  impetuous power of the sword could impose.

This Jesus is the one about whom I wrote a song in 1979, when the Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy and hostages in Teheran. About ten years ago, some friends of mine gathered in our hometown, Boone, North Carolina, USA, to help me in recording it. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a listen and consider the message therein.

http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/wevegotasong.mp3

Glass half-Full