Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ending Violence in our Religions

In the Focus section of today's Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro's newspaper of record) Jerry Leith wrote a letter calling me out by name, and challenging me to stand up against religiously sanctioned violence, murder, and persecution. Amen, Brother Leith! Jerry and I had a brief email exchange, and I would like to accept and expand his challenge in the following ways. Since I have no idea what will happen to this idea, I thought I would share it all with you. If anyone wants to borrow it for their own communities, please feel free to do so. 
I don't have permission to reprint Mr. Leith's letter, but you can find it on line at
After reading Jerry's letter I suggested we expand the issue this way:
First, the examples offered in Mr. Leith are limited to Islam, but all religions have violent elements and extremists who exploit them. I suggest our call for nonviolence be expanded to clergy and laity of all faiths.
Second, he focuses on Imam Bahloul, Rev. Watson, and myself; I suggest we broaden the call to include all clergy in Rutherford County.
Third, he focuses on this-worldly violence alone, and I think it is important to do away with violence in the after-life as well. Believing that God will damn and torture nonbelievers or differently believing believers in the next life makes it easier for lovers of this God to persecute, torture, and murder them in this life.
Mr. Leith generously offered to pay 50% of the cost of an ad in the DNJ. I will pick up the other 50%. Here is the text I propose we run:
“We, the undersigned clergy of Rutherford County, agree to immediately cease all expressions of violence in our religious organizations, theologies, liturgies, sacred texts, and sermons; and urge clergy and laity of all faiths to disassociate themselves from of any organization, religious or secular, that promotes violence in the name of God or as the will of God in this world or the next.”
If this is the ad Mr. Leith has in mind, I am grateful to him and his generosity, and honored to be the first to sign it.


Anonymous said...

I would sign your letter but I am a nurse, not a religious leader. I don't know what I think of Mr. Leith's letter through.

Mary Ingmire said...

I say go for it. Mr. Leith is intent on protecting Christians but I think people of all faiths (or none) should be protected from persecution.

OGD said...

Rami - I particularly like the idea of a nonviolent after-life. I for one do not want my peace and quiet disturbed by floggings and gunfire.

The Shadow said...


As a Religious leader (myself) I would be more than happy to support rejection of any act of violence in the name of religion (and fight against violence with my dying breath)~{just kidding}

Jesus was never in support of violence and got crucified for proclaiming a different way of life; Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed equality for all races and was murdered, John Lennon cried out for peace and died on a street due to violence.

Violence needs to stop especially in the midst of a people who look for religions to guide them. Oh maybe that is part of the problem; looking for religions to guide them instead of GOD! Oops there is another problem~which GOD. You write it, if it looks good, I'll sign it. If that would really make a difference. Has humanity been promising to love God and love others for years?

Johnny Anderson said...

I am 'technically' an ordained member of clergy, but not a resident of Rutherford I can't sign...but I'll offer to pony up some of your share of the 50% for the ad to show my solidarity with your cause.

Chris said...

Rami -

I would sign your letter (if only I fit the specifications) but surely you were being humorous when you suggested the adoption of a nonviolent afterlife. I personally do not believe in a violent afterlife, or indeed that we will exist in any form that we currently identify as being "us" when we pass on. However, demanding such a radical theological shift seems a bit overambitious.

You wrote: "Believing that God will damn and torture nonbelievers or differently believing believers in the next life makes it easier for lovers of this God to persecute, torture, and murder them in this life." That is a point that I hadn't really considered but I must say I agree with. I think though that it would not be necessary for people to change that belief as long as they affirmed the practice of love and non-violence in their own lives. These believers must relinquish the power of "judgement" to God and accept that it is not their place to condemn or hurt others. In essence they must say "I believe you are going to hell but I still love and respect you, and I understand that I cannot know for certain what yours or my own fate will be. I am content to wait and see."

If all believers adopted that philosophy, do you think that would be sufficient?