I might be alone in my interpretation of the unforgivable sin, the sin against the spirit. I’ve always taken it to mean something like invoking God/spirit to authenticate and make authoritative a view or action that directly expresses everything of its opposite. My journey is still very much in process, but it does seem even to me as though some of the people claiming to be christians might really take a new name for themselves. I think “Pharisee” doesn’t even go far enough, since the Pharisees were authentically attempting to be righteous. “False prophets” gives them too much importance. The more authentic followers of Jesus must grieve to see it.
For the misled, some remedial reading. Can you continue in your present path and still honestly try to claim to be of the spirit, if you believe these to be sacred texts?
1 Corinthians 13:1-13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Romans 12:9-17: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Matthew 25: 31-45: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Phillipians 2:1-7: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Galatians 5: 22-26: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Col 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
P.S. For thinking through belief from a spirit-centered view, turn off the hate and start reading. Here is one attempt to talk about beliefs from a conservative Christian point of view, but not a hateful conservative Christian point of view. The difference is clear: http://www.facebook.com/ThruWayChristians (thanks to John Shore).
“If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Can you imagine a trillion? How about the almost 9 trillion of our national debt? How could the $2,000,000,000,000 (2 trillion) that the Iraq War has cost us so far been spent instead? At a cost of less than 200 billion a year – about a tenth of the total war budget – we could eliminate extreme poverty everywhere! What does this say about America’s priorities?
Israel has blocked all fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, a move that Amnesty International calls deliberate collective punishment. As electricity and fuel supplies run out, and humanitarian assistance is cut off, this may well escalate to a full-blown humanitarian emergency for the entire Gaza Strip.
The organization called for an immediate lifting of the fuel blockade and of other restrictions which have effectively prevented entry or exit of people and goods from the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control in the territory, in which 1.5 million Palestinians live, in June 2007. … Amnesty International acknowledged Israel’s right to take measures to protect its population from rocket and other attacks by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, but condemned the Israeli authorities’ decision to cut off the already tightly restricted supplies of fuel, electricity and humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s inhabitants.
“This action appears calculated to make an already dire humanitarian situation worse, one in which the most vulnerable – the sick, the elderly, women and children – will bear the brunt, not the men of violence who carry out attacks against Israel,” said Malcolm Smart. “The rocket attacks should cease, and immediately, but the entire population of Gaza should not be put at risk to bring this about. …“Now, even crucial aid is not allowed to reach those that need it most in Gaza. These measures must be stopped and the passage of aid, fuel and electricity and other basic necessities must be allowed to resume immediately”, said Malcolm Smart.
How about – get this – corporate representatives sitting on governing boards? How about corporate sponsors influencing the direction of research before the funding decisions are made? How about giving away the exclusive rights for commercialization, effectively subcontracting research rather than promoting independent research? How about delaying the publication of research while they scurry for the patents?
“It’s a cheap subterfuge for carbon-emitting companies,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the CSPI’s Integrity in Science Project. “They get the prestige of associating themselves with major respected universities, yet can control the direction of research and get first rights to intellectual property while delaying any finding that doesn’t help the bottom line. Meanwhile, the p.r. blitz surrounding these programs masks the fact that the carbon-emitting industries actually are spending much less on research and development than they did 10 or 15 years ago.”
Between 1998 and 2005, Exxon gave more than $19 million to groups that promoted the idea that global warming was a hoax. Yet beginning in 2006, ExxonMobil ads proudly touted the company’s funding of the Stanford program: “Today an energy company and a leading university share a common goal. The common good.” Another ExxonMobil ad bore the Stanford University seal.
There’s a proposal in the works to turn Union Square – the famous Washington Mall site of the Capitol reflecting pool and the Grant Memorial – into a designated protest place. Oh, swell. You can imagine the debate going on.
“This is a sugar-coating effort to conceal the real plan, which is to reorganize the Mall from its traditional venue as the heart and soul of this country’s free-speech protest movement,” said Brian Becker, national coordinator of Answer, an antiwar coalition.
C’mon, you millions! Off to the protest area! You are not allowed around here!
Other noteworthy articles collected at Common Dreams:
It’s been a while since I posted on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the news. Here’s a roundup. Refusals of blood transfusions, resulting in death. Sexual predators and child molestation. Mental instability. Violence. Even a possible kidnapping. The usual.
I am sure that I’ve missed several additional items, but I’ve become too sad to do more than this today.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, you call yourselves “sheep.” If you must have a shepherd, why not seek a more loving one than the harsh caricature constructed by the publishing empire of the Watchtower Society? I grieve for you. I grieve for you.
14-year-old Dennis Lindberg Refuses Treatment for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and Dies
Doctors said he needed treatment that included blood transfusions; most children with this form of leukemia recover. However, Lindberg was a Jehovah’s Witness, and transfusions go against the teachings of his religion. He became a Witness while in the care of his aunt, also a follower, who became his legal guardian after his biological father was jailed for drug possession.
As she suffered severe blood loss and her life ebbed away, medical staff urged her husband, Anthony, and her parents, all of whom follow the same faith, to overrule her decision and allow a transfusion which could have saved her, but they refused. She gave birth naturally and all appeared well as she cuddled her baby son and daughter, but she suddenly began to haemorrhage. Her condition was complicated by the fact she was anaemic.
The latest pronouncement on the topic from the Watchtower authorities said that anyone using blood products, even in life-saving surgery, would be “disfellowshipped” – or expelled from the Church. This usually means being shunned by friends and family. However, if “true repentance” is shown, they can be readmitted to the Church. This change was introduced to take some of the heat out of the bad publicity that followed the hundreds of deaths of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world because of the blood ban. The authorities are reluctant to lift the ban completely — even though there are suspicions that they would like to — because they fear being sued by families who have lost loved ones to the policy which, in the end, would have turned out, after all, not to be the fixed and eternal word of God, but the demands of mere, deluded mortals.
Jehovah’s Witnesses defended yesterday the decision of a young mother who died after refusing a potentially life-saving blood transfusion, having just given birth to twins. To agree to a transfusion would have been a transgression comparable to adultery or sexual immorality, a spokesman from the central office of the British community of Jehovah’s Witnesses told The Times yesterday.
Really? That’s odd, because “sexual immorality” is quite common among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Acceptance of a blood transfusion, even to save a life, is taken more seriously – exponentially so. It’s considered the ultimate test of your faith.
Her right to refuse treatment was respected, enshrined in law, upheld by the establishment – but what of her children’s right to a mother’s love?
What, moreover, of the doctors’ and nurses’ right to do the utmost to save her life? What of our right to decide that any religious belief that condemns its devotees to death is dangerous, pernicious and does not deserve reverence or respect?
Most religions freely allow the breaking of their most solemn laws if human life is at stake. Muslims, if they will starve to death otherwise, may eat pork. Jews, if the situation is life and death, may break the Sabbath or eat and drink on the Day of Atonement.
Should a religion that sits by and allows a healthy young mother to refuse life-saving treatment be afforded the same deference as religions which recognise that human life is paramount?
Ex-JW Rachel Underhill Recalls her Own Brush with Death
“I went into premature labour… [and] was told I would need an emergency Caesarean but it wasn’t until very late that night that my consultant noticed I was a Jehovah’s Witness and what that meant. I’d grown up as one, so even as a child I’d known that I wasn’t allowed a blood transfusion. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d ever need one,” she said.
“When I was in labour… no way was I in any physical or emotional state to say that I might have wanted a transfusion… I’d have been cast out of the religion, which at that point was the last thing I wanted. I needed the network that being a Jehovah’s Witness gave you. Plus it’s a very controlling religion, and I didn’t even think of challenging it.”
She eventually cut her ties with the church. This means she is now free to speak out on issues such as blood transfusions. “I think that in extreme cases, doctors should be able to override a Jehovah’s Witness’s wishes,” she added.
…Jehovah’s Witnesses do use many fractions and components of blood, so if it’s “sacred” to God why the hypocritical contradiction?
They also use blood collections that are donated by the Red Cross and others but don’t donate back . . . yet more hypocrisy.
The Watchtower promotes and praises bloodless elective surgeries. This is a great advancement indeed. But it’s no good to me if I am bleeding to death from a car crash and lose half my blood volume and need an emergency transfusion.
The reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood is because of their spin on the Old Testament of the Bible from 3000 years ago.
Modern medicine will eventually make blood donations and transfusions a thing of the past. But when this technology happens it won’t vindicate the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all the deaths that have occurred so far.Their rules against blood transfusions will eventually be abolished (very gradually to reduce wrongful death lawsuit liability). Even now most of the blood components are allowed. In 20 years there will be artificial blood and the Red Cross will go on with other noble deeds.
None of these changes, however, will absolve the Watchtower leaders or vindicate their twisted doctrines. — Danny Haszard
A man who identified himself as Flores’ brother tells ABC15 their family is very upset with the 8-year-old’s family. He said it, “was her fault too… she pressured him.” … Flores lives across the street from Buckeye Elementary School.
She was “askin’ for it” – right?
67-year-old JW Elder in Quebec Convicted: 7-year Sexual Abuse
Found guilty in December 2006 of acts of sexual abuse of a minor – acts which took place between 1985 and 1992 – Marcel Simonin, 67 years old, formerly an Elder among the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Châteauguay at the time of the crimes, has been sentenced to serve 9 months in prison. He will serve the sentence in the community.
Simonin received his sentence last Wednesday at the Châteauguay Court House. At the time of the initial incidents of assault, the victim – a young girl – was only 11 years old.
The mother of the young victim met the individual – who at that time was an Elder, that is to say that he was a speaker during congregation meetings – at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Châteauguay. He taught the precepts of their way of life and spiritually supported members of the congregation.
After gaining the confidence of this woman and of her daughter, he proceeded to engage in multiple incidents of intimate contact with the adolescent. The incidents included simple touching and full sexual intercourse.
During those 8 years, the assaults took place in several locations; notably, in the defendant’s home, in his car, at the home of the young girl and in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Châteauguay.
In her verdict, Judge Linda Despots – of the Criminal and Penal Chamber of Court – noted that the victim had lodged a complaint at the age of 16 or 17, but later withdrew that complaint as “she felt pressured by the community and by the threat of being disfellowshipped. It was another Elder, in the Québec region where the mother and the complainant had moved, who persuaded her to write a letter to the authorities of the Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning her experiences with the accused.
Following receipt of that letter, Simonin telephoned his victim to apologize for the events, after having admitted the truth of the accusations. The complainant, allegedly, then forgave him.
However, when in 2003 the young girl again saw the accused during an Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal, his presence re-opened her wounds and caused her to re-live the feeling of guilt that she experienced during the years when she had been victimized by the molestations. The young girl then had some difficult years during which she made 3 attempts at suicide and submitted herself to psychological treatment.
In 2005, in order to continue her therapeutic progress and to free herself, the young girl decided again to file a complaint against the accused.
After his wife went to bed, Willick gave the girl a beer. He then kissed, fondled, undressed her and had intercourse with her, Bains said. The victim, now 25, recalled during the preliminary hearing that she was wearing Mickey Mouse underpants at the time. She said the advance began without warning and she did not know what was going on, Bains said.
Wendell Willick, 47, was counselling the girl at the behest of her parents – who were friends of Willick through their church – during the period of the abuse, which began in 1996, when the girl was 14. The court heard during a sentencing hearing that Willick first had sexual intercourse with the girl when she was visiting his home on a weekend pass from a hospital psychiatric ward. The victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was in the midst of a troubled adolescence. She had once run away from home and had repeatedly cut herself. … The girl’s trust and spiritual beliefs were shattered, she said in a victim impact statement that was read during the sentencing hearing. “It made me feel like a person of no value with no voice. . . . Parts of myself are missing,” she wrote.
The Crown Prosecution Service is to review the sentence of Michael Porter, the elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses who was sentenced to a mere three years’ community rehabilitation after admitting abusing little boys (one a baby of 18 months) over 14 years. The leniency of this sentence caused outrage at the time . It also focused attention- as in some other churches’ cases in the past – on the dangers religions run when encouraging undue reverence for senior figures. … I can find no comment on the Watchtower website about the Porter case, or policy on this subject, but a page of warnings against internet chatroom predators.
Judge Tom Crowther opted not to jail the self-confessed paedophile after hearing he had undergone therapy. Dan Norris, Labour MP for Wansdyke, Somerset, and a former child protection officer, welcomed the Attorney General’s decision. “A relieved public will greatly welcome this common sense decision to review this wicked abuser’s sentence,” he said.
When someone commits the sin of literalism, they grip the letter of the law so tightly that they squeeze out the intent with which it was written. …
Anyway, since the child molesters and child-rapists generally don’t attack their victims in front of two witnesses, all the Elders do is ask the perpetrator if he did it. If he says no, then they close the case. So, the pervert goes on preaching door-to-door, telling people how to be righteous, and when he gets another chance, he molests another kid. Then he molests another. Then he molests another. The Elders know. When the kids turn 13 and begin to act out sexually, as traumatized children will, then the Elders punish the kids for being “rebellious.” By punish, I mean cut them off from all friends and family. …
So, you may ask why I wrote this. Haven’t I gotten over it now that I have my own thing? Well, a lot of us have trouble moving on, what with bipolar manic-depression, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mommy-issues, daddy-issues, and dysfunctional romantic relationships. These betrayals strike at the throat of our lives, because we’ve been taught that all the other churches follow Satan, and this is the Church of Love. Every other word is Love. But if the word love means anything, it means compassion and mercy for women and children, victims and helpless.
Ex-JW Barbara Anderson Still Fighting – Court Documents on National Television
According to Anderson, she has amassed nearly 5,000 pages of court documents that are presented on a digital CD titled, “Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crisis,” for the general public to examine. After reviewing the CD, NBC apparently became interested in her efforts to substantiate her claim that although church headquarters kept track of sexual abuse cases in a data-base, their rules hindered reporting accusations of child abuse to the authorities. As mentioned in the MSN article, Anderson contends that Witness policies “protect pedophiles rather than protect the children.”…
“The court documents on the CD are full of dialog and documentation exchanged between opposing counsels in 12 different alleged child molestation cover-up cases,” she said. “Shortly before these cases were scheduled to go to open court trial last April, where evidence would expose the responsibility of Jehovah’s Witnesses for secretly allowing molesters to hold positions of authority within the religion, the defendant, Watchtower, secretly settled out of court with 16 plaintiffs paying as much as $12,500,000 in total.”
NBC News reported that it obtained a copy of one of the settlement documents in which an alleged victim in one of the nine cases involving 16 victims received $781,250.
“By absolute insistence of the defendant Watchtower’s attorneys, all of the plaintiffs and their attorneys were required to sign a conditional ‘do not ever talk about this to anyone’ confidentiality order,” says Anderson. “Then the Watchtower organization walked away without admitting any liability,” she said.
Anderson says some of the court documents she was able to obtain “were intended by defendants to be buried for eternity.”
The farm is exempt from property taxes, according to town officials. If the property was taxed, the bill would be about $2 million. … Such religious and other groups are under heightened scrutiny from town officials. A recent court ruling allows governments to reject the property tax exemptions in some cases. Assessors will be taking another look at some organizations as a result, Schoeberl said.
Already on Probation, Jehovah’s Witness Goes on Drunken Rampage with Baseball Bat
She said Roth is deeply involved in a Jehovah’s Witnesses church and “lost his standing” in the church as a result of the charges. He wasn’t allowed to participate in all church activities, although he continues 25 hours of volunteer work a week with the church, she said. …He was fined $350 for breaching a probation order not to drink. On Sept. 23, police saw him urinating in front of a restaurant on University Avenue in Waterloo.
25 hours of “volunteer work” a week? That’s about 100 hours a month, which translates to status as a top pioneer (missionary). Exactly what standing did he lose? How would you like to be talking to this guy about God at your door?
Possible JW Involvement in the Missing Maddie Case
The mystery woman knocked at the door and said she was a Jehovah’s Witness. She was accompanied by a man. Sixsmith said: “I can’t get it out of my head that it may have been Mr Murat and his girlfriend.”
A recent column in the Chinese University’s Student Press magazine (Hong Kong) was deemed “indecent” by the Obscene Article Tribunal because it asked readers about whether they had ever fantasized about incest or bestiality.
A storm of debate followed – on freedom of speech, the right to open sexual discussion, and the obligations and limits of social morality.
Seemingly in response (although I’m not sure how they would know that), someone launched an anonymous web site (truthbible.net ) that said the holy book “made one tremble” because of its violent and sexual (including rape and incest) content.
By noon Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Television and Entertainment Licensing authority (TELA) had received more than 800 complaints about the Bible. TELA now has to decide whether the Bible violates Hong Kong’s obscene and indecent articles laws.
If they decide that it does, then the bible could be sold only in a sealed wrapper, with a statutory warning notice. You’d have to be over 18 to buy it.
Ok, generalization time: Here in sanctimonious America it is common for people simply not to read the bible (really read, as you would read another book). Those who notice little issues tend, for whatever reasons, to keep critical thoughts to themselves. Many people on all sides feel ignore the parts that might make them at all uncomfortable, or that contradict one another, or that aren’t really comparable from one book to another. Many people don’t realize how much violence and censorship was involved in the selection and canonization of the scattered texts called the Bible, or that ideas about “inspiration” came along rather late.
“I think the Good Book is missing some pages….” – from “Icicle,” Under the Pink, Tori Amos
There are plenty of odd bits in these texts. Ancient peoples lived a bit closer to life’s edges than we do, and their cultures and perspectives varied. Ever wonder about how things looked from the Canaanites’ point of view? Or why God would order someone to impregnate his brother’s wife? Where did Cain’s wife come from? And what was that whole thing about grabbing “thigh” to make a vow?
I won’t list more examples here. Hey, it’s a PG-rated blog, and some of these are too… tooo… toooo…. unreflective of American “family values.”
But I’ll link ‘em! Here are a couple of lists – I’m pretty sure that at least one example may startle you.
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SilentLambs invites everybody who can be there to support a major announcement about justice for victims of abuse.
Please contact them immediately if you live in the Nashville or San Diego area, or close enough to drive.
I feel a great urge for peace today. I am thinking about some of the wise and kind people that I have met, and the way I felt when I was near them. There are people of the book(s). There are people of people, so to speak. There are people of the cosmos. Each have their strengths and blind spots, but they share some things in common.
Such people seem to leave sparkles of light wherever they go. And some of them don’t even know it.
Caring and love are much better than hatred and fear, creating a better world for everyone.
It seems so bizarre to me to feel the need to restate what I would think should be blindingly obvious: The lust for power (with all its accompanying hatred, violence, fear, and greed) is not a religious virtue.
There is a kind of mirroring between the radical pseudo-Christians of dominionism and the radical Islamicists. Both groups of hardline zealots appear – almost paradoxically – damaged, hurt and fearful. They don’t have the courage to accept others for what they are and let God be the judge. The very capacity for compassion and respectful relations with others seems stunted. Perhaps they fight to ward off fear, or in desperation, or simply from a lack of better models and leaders. Perhaps they are angry about real experiences, and perhaps some of them have valid complaints that should be discussed more openly in the public sphere.
But they claim God’s judgment for their own, and that is not a virtue in either Islam or Christianity.
Both political movements (let’s just admit that they are more political than religious, shall we?) seem very interested in earthly power, even to the point of murder and war. They have national interests. They seem very comfortable believing that they have an exclusive connection to God, and that they can speak with God’s authority.
They practice domination… and I think that pretty much explains why the big fight for the Christian (de-)”con”structionists (it can’t be “Reconstruction” if you think about it) is to display the ten commandments instead of, say, the sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
I’m not someone who relies on scriptural texts for my sense of ethics or for my relationship with God (there are many reasons for that, and perhaps I’ll explain my reasoning on another occasion).
Nonetheless, there are lots and lots and lots of people who feel that their sacred books are vitally, even supremely, important. These cousins – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – are collectively “the people of the book.”
So let’s review some points from some of their sacred texts.
Pick your own translation – and sure, your in-group’s interpretation if you know it – and chew on some of this.
The Qur’an (also known by the spelling Koran)
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. (2:190)
Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this life. For God has abundant treasure. You used to be like them, after all, and then God blessed you. (4:94)
Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.’
If it had been thy Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!
Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness. (39.10)
Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness
except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune. (41:34-35)
It may be that God will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For God has power (over all things), and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. God does not forbid you, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just. (60:7-8)
Our Lord! Perfect our light for us and forgive us our sins, for verily You have power over all things. (66:8)
The Prophet once saw a funeral procession passing by a street in Madina. The Prophet was seated at that time. On seeing the funeral, the Prophet stood up in respect. At this one of his companions said: ‘O Prophet, it was the funeral of a Jew (not a Muslim).’ The Prophet replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’
Peace be upon you.
The Bible: The Christian Scriptures (under the new law of the Christ)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12,17)
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and the disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those
who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ (Matthew 9:10-13)
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-46)
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. Ad if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.’ (Luke 9:46-48)
And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them, And he said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went to another village. (Luke 9:54-56)
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’ (John 2.13-16)
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’ (Luke 16:10-14)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-22)
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:26-27)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Peace be with you.
The Bible: The Hebrew Scriptures (under the law of the Convenant)
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood,
let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive
and whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with spoil;
throw in your lot among us,
we will all have one purse”–
my son, do not walk in the way with them,
hold back your foot from their paths;
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood. (Proverbs 1.10-16)
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. (Micah 4:3-5)
Intolerance lies at the core of evil.
Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger.
But intolerance of another being who dares to exist.
Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us,
because every human being secretly desires
the entire universe to himself.
Our only way out is to learn
compassion without cause. To care for each other
simple because that ‘other’ exists.
- Rabbi Menachem Mendle
At Princeton, there’s a course in the study of New Testament that some evangelical students were warned not to take. They called it “Faith Busters 101.” And some of them come just to flex their muscles and see if they can sit there and stand it while somebody teaches them about how the gospels were written. But what they usually discover is that learning about those things doesn’t change the fundamental questions about faith.
That’s from a very good interview with scholar Elaine Pagels at Salon about the Gospel of Judas, quarrels among early Christians, and some of the hazards of and alternatives to a literalist Bible reading. I’ve been reading her books for a long time now, and I like her quite a bit. I am fascinated with the history and texts of the early Christians. So much evidence was destroyed, but even what we have shows that there were many ways to be a Christian in the early days.
So the Gospel of Judas is a kind of protest literature. It’s challenging leaders of the church. Here the leaders are personified as disciples who are encouraging people to get killed, to “die for God,” as they called martyrdom. This gospel is challenging them and saying, when you encourage young people to die for God, you’re really complicit in murder.
Are there also theological issues at stake? This gets at the meaning of suffering, and the nature of evil as well.
It does. This was at a time when all followers of Jesus were struggling with the question, Why did Jesus die? What does it all mean? In the New Testament, the gospels say he died as a sacrifice. Paul says Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us. Why? Well, to save us from sin.
But this author is saying, wait a minute. If you think God wants his son to be tortured and killed before he’ll forgive people their sins, what kind of God do you have in mind? Is this the God who didn’t want animals to be sacrificed in the temple anymore? So this author’s asking, isn’t God a loving father? Isn’t that what Jesus taught? Why are we saying that God requires his son to die for the sins of the world? So it’s a challenge to the whole idea of atonement, and the idea that Christians — when they worship — eat bread and drink wine as if it were the body and blood of Christ. This person sees that whole thing as a celebration of violence.
You can see why some early Christians would have attacked this gospel. This is very threatening to other Christian accounts of why Jesus died.
It contradicts everything we know about Christianity. But there’s a lot we don’t know about Christianity. There are different ways of understanding the death of Jesus that have been buried and suppressed. This author suggests that God does not require sacrifice to forgive sin, and that the message of Jesus is that we come from God and we go back to God, that we all live in God. It’s not about bloody sacrifice for forgiveness of sins. It suggests that Jesus’ death demonstrates that, essentially and spiritually, we’re not our bodies. Even when our bodies die, we go to live in God.
Does this raise questions about how we should think about the Resurrection? In orthodox Christian accounts, this is considered a resurrection of the flesh.
That’s right. The idea that Jesus rose in the flesh is very important for a lot of Christians. And certainly for the martyrs. When people were going to get themselves killed, some of them were asked, Do you believe that you’re going to be raised from the dead in your body? And many of them said yes, of course we do. That’s why we’re doing this. So those promises of bodily resurrection and heavenly rewards were very important for many Christians.
Some of the things we’re talking about would seem to have great resonance in the Islamic world. Do you see any parallels between this Christian history and what we’re seeing among Muslim martyrs today?
I do. The author of the Gospel of Judas wasn’t against martyrdom, and he didn’t ever insult the martyrs. He said it’s one thing to die for God if you have to do that. But it’s another thing to say that’s what God wants, that this is a glorification of God. I think he would have spoken in the way that an imam might today, saying those who encourage young people to go out and supposedly die for God as martyrs are complicit in murder. The question of the uses of violence is very much at the heart of the Gospel of Judas. If you have to die as a martyr, you do because you don’t deny Christ. But you don’t go around encouraging people to do it as though they would get higher rewards in heaven.
Can you put the Gospel of Judas in perspective, alongside some of the other Gnostic texts that have come to light in recent decades — the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene? Do these really change our understanding of early Christianity?
Before, we had a puzzle with just a few pieces. Now we have many more pieces. We begin to see that in the early Christian movement, people discussed and struggled with all the issues that we now think of as normative Christianity, like, What does the death of Jesus mean? There wasn’t one kind of understanding of Jesus in the early Christian movement. Actually, there were many.