Tuesday, July 06, 2010

An Open Letter to My Neighbors

I am a lover of God and a student of religion. I do my best to understand the nature of religion, and how it justifies the worst of which we are capable, as well as call us to the best.

There are people of faith on all sides of an issue. Religion is what we interpret it to be, even as we deny we are interpreting; and God says what we choose God to say, even as we deny we are choosing. This denial makes us vulnerable to those among us, both religious and political, who hope to rise to power on a wave of fear. Their current target is Islam.

I, too, am afraid of Islam, but no more than I am afraid of Judaism and Christianity. All three religions are steeped in blood, and follow a God prone to anger, violence, and hate even as He calls for compassion, justice, love, and peace. Worse still, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are mutually exclusive faiths; only one of them can be true, and each measures truth in body counts. Read our holy books, read our histories, read the daily news. But none of this excuses the demonization of Islam and our Muslim neighbors.

If you want to keep yourself, your family, and your country free from theocracy don’t opt for muscular, xenophobic, fear-based, and hate-filled rhetoric disguised as Christianity and draped in the American flag, but stand up for the First Amendment. It is freedom of religion that has kept us free from theocracy. Repressing religion only empowers it. Welcome Islam to our community, and demand transparency from every faith.

I challenge all believers to take up the hard work of cleansing their respective faiths of the hatred and violence embedded in them. I call all believers and especially the clergy to an Abrahamic Reformation, one that helps us deal with and heal from the shadow side of monotheism by cleansing ourselves and our religions of fear, hatred, and violence, and find ways of disempowering the fear, hatred, and violence in our sacred texts, customs, and institutions.

Let us encourage our clergy to gather together and produce guidelines for interpreting our respective religions that make compassion and justice our primary concern. Let us state unequivocally our opposition to terror, violence, and oppression of peoples, persons, and the planet; let us state unequivocally our support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and let us measure our religions against those rights, boldly changing what we teach and what we practice whenever they come into conflict with those rights.

Let us show the world a new way of being religiously diverse, one not rooted in fear or kumbaya, but in humility, honest dialogue, and the First Amendment as the best antidote to theocracy and political demagoguery.

9 comments:

Johnny Anderson said...

I pray....no scratch that, I hope that Islam experiences it's Enlightenment period. I tend to single out Islam as more of a 'threat to reason' than most other religions. I can think of no other world religion today quite like Islam. It has existing theocracies in place that interpret their scripture in so dogmatic a manner as to allow torture to extract a coerced guilty plea of adultery. The punishment for this??? Stoning to death. And not just your regular stoning. To be buried in the ground with only smaller stones allowed so as to cause the most pain (go check CNN for Iran's latest).

With that said, 1st amendment protects the right to build the mosque/social center. Period.

Derek said...

Rami, thank you for this post.

anam cara wppc said...

I just heard Phyllis Tickle at the Presbyterian bi-annual assembly tell the audience that her sources in the Islamic world feel they are now going thru the analog to the Reformation.

Raksha said...

Wonderful post! The world is long overdue for an Abrahamic Reformation or Revolution. Your statement about "the shadow side of monotheism" made me wonder if there is anything BUT shadow side. We haven't been seeing too much of the bright side lately. It made me think of something I posted on an interfaith discussion board yesterday:

...the older I get the more I detest monotheism. I have come to see it as an express route to intolerance, and I haven't considered myself a monotheist for years. I usually call myself a monist or pantheist--maybe a panentheist, but I don't know how any human can say anything whatsoever about the transcendant aspect of God. Which is not to say it doesn't exist, but I don't know how humans can claim to "know" it when we are limited creatures simply by our nature as incarnate beings. And to say that God is a transcendant "Person"? To me that is simply a contradiction in terms."

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Peter Schogol said...

It's instructive to hear such models of scholarship and interfaith cooperation as Sarah Palin talk about why New York City shouldn't allow the construction of a new mosque within a few hundred meters of Ground Zero. Is she equally vexed by the thought of a 26-ft cross in front of Block 11, the most horrific torture chamber at Auschwitz?

Lindylou said...

I think you begin by stating you are a student of religion and history, and that you love God. Religion is a dicey topic because as numerous as their are people there will be personal definitions of religion... what it is to me. People do many evil/ wrong/ bloody things in the name of whatever the decide to stand behind to justify their actions.

There is a difference between Religion and God... though some try to make it and Him one. God is not religion and religion is not God. God is a person, not a theology or a set of beliefs or a bunch of traditions/rules to follow or an organization.

Can you define a person? It is really hard to do. You can describe the parts you see, or know, or experience, but a definition is limited to you the definer.

God is not a limited person like you or me, he is not a created human being. We can't put him in a nice little religion box. He never wanted it that way.

God always from the beginning of mankind before Judaism, or any other religion... God made humans to be in a personal relationship with Him... to know Him... to hear Him... to talk to Him... to share life with Him...the laughter, the blahs and the tears...

God is bigger than religion and not responsible for what people do in his name... that is not God... that is people doing evil.

There is but one God. Many gods makes no sense if you really think about it to the highest degree...

We can imagine or want or create for ourselves or believe what we define God to be, but it has no effect on Him.

Our thoughts do not create reality. God is God. We either have great joy in knowing Him and living life with Him or we can wonder aimlessly, selfishly, politically, socially, philosophically, mentally, emotionally through life from one event to the next never knowing Him or who we were really created to be.

I chose to have a relationship with God and to know Him and to be who He created me to be.

I only wish God was not so misunderstood, and confused with religion.