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Sunday, November 07, 2010

cold sweat

Now and then I have this concern that the right wing of Islam will join up with the right wing of Christianity and create a movement, a theology and a political party.

After all, they agree on many of the same things that appear to irk them about the present world order.

First of all, they - the religious, ultraconservative right - are not in control of the world and everyone in it. That seems to be the primary bone of contention.

Then, in this world they do not have control of, there are all sorts of people who are not Christian (or the right kind of Christian) or Muslim (or the right sort of Muslim).

To top it all off, in this world there are now gays running around with the full protection of their governments, practicing their lifestyles and getting married, there are women who are working out of the home and doing things like practicing medicine, practicing law, running corporations and, horror of horrors, teaching religion and theology to men.

Women can have abortions whenever they want. Marry whoever they want. Ignore religious practices if they want.

Who is going to put a stop to this?

Who is going to put an end to fornication and adultery? Pornography? Sex trade employment? Infidelity and divorce? Drug abuse and alcoholism?

We already know how some of this is dealt with in Islamic republics. We already know how the Taliban deal with these issues. In the old days, when the religion was the state and the state was religious, Christians got away with the same things - stoning, decapitation, torture, mutilation, drowning, burning, crushing to death under great weight - you name it, Christian states employed it in the name of God to make sure the state stayed, supposedly, pure and Christlike. But the democracies of the West eventually separated church from state and made sure people couldn't be punished or executed for offending religious sensibilities any longer.

A great gain in some people's eyes, a great loss in others' eyes.

For Christians who have always seen it as loss, finding common ground with another religion that has never separated faith from state - allowing all kinds of people in the 21st century to be punished and executed for having bad theology or for violating religious commandments - looks and sounds like a great idea.

Instead of the old and liberating and gracious Judeo-Christian heritage they propose a new Islamic-Christian heritage that will put everybody in their place, and quickly, by the power of the sword of God.

No doubt this movement will work out something where people can convert to Islam or, a violation of shariah law, Christianity, but everything else will not need to be contested. All sorts of religious people think freedom of press, speech, and belief have gone too far, in addition to such nonsense as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When someone mentions to me that studies indicate Christians have left Christianity because there is not enough control, and measures are not stern enough, and joined Islam it does not surprise me.

Jesus is not the same Jesus in Islam as he is in the Christian gospel, but why should that trouble any ex-Christian who wants to be part of the right wing element of a faith that won't put up with leniency for adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals and women who overstep their bounds? Jesus is not quoted much nowadays in many Christian circles except as a rubber stamp to heaven. His emphases on love and mercy and forgiveness and inclusiveness are out of touch with the times. It's much better to quote other writers in the New Testament and infinitely preferable to quote those in the Old Testament who wrote long before Jesus showed up and reinterpreted everything.

For the Christian, the Old Testament is meant to be something to learn from but not to live by.

But some modern elements of Christianity have turned this around. We should live by the Old Testament laws and learn a little from Jesus on the side.

They are quick to point out, "Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. That's what we're looking for, a way to bring those laws back and fulfill them!"

What they don't want to discuss is how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law - by expanding it in mercy and grace and compassion and scope. "You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, do not resist an evil person, if they slap you on the right cheek, let them do it on the left as well. You have heard it said, love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." This does not mix well with shariah law or Old Testament law. So, in order to bring about any right wing amalgamation that puts God back in control of the planet, Jesus will have to be left out of the limelight for a while - still honoured, but off to the side a bit, just for now. What counts is the law. What counts is control.

That's why it's not hard to believe some Christians are joining an Islam that emphasizes the law because that's already where a lot of Christianity is or is headed. That's also why, if I wake up in a cold sweat at the idea of a merger of right wing Christianity with right wing Islam, it isn't that far-fetched. A marriage of convenience that will bring about a world governed by law and by God (or at least certain people's interpretation of law and vision of God) might appeal to many who feel like everything is spinning out of control and tough measures are required to bring Earth back in line with God's will.

For myself, I prefer Jesus and his words and attitude, and I prefer to look at everything in the Old Testament, New Testament, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, in fact everything in the world, through Jesus' words and through Jesus' eyes.

But not everyone wants to go there anymore. Not even every Christian wants to go there. We're in a time of war and in a time of war certain other portions of the Holy Book, unaltered by the philosophy of Jesus, need to be brought to the fore.

That's what those parts of the Bible are there for, aren't they? To supersede Jesus in the darkest of times? Like declaring martial law?

I only know that John the apostle claimed that the law came with Moses but grace and truth came with the Jesus Christ.

I also know that Jesus, in documents as reliable as any others that have been preserved from antiquity and often a lot more reliable, said to love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves.

That still seems to be the hardest thing to do.

Especially for people who are religious and who claim to know God.

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