By ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY
A rabbi, an Iman and a Methodist Minister sat at the table. No, this is not the beginning of a joke, but a real happening.
Last week I attended one of an ongoing series of “Faiths in Conversation” events hosted by the Memosyne Institute in Dallas, Texas that takes place on a regular basis. The topic? Genocide – from the perspective of the three Abrahamic traditions.
I had heard presentations from Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger of the Jewish Studies Institute of North Texas and Rev. Doug Skinner of Northway Christian Church before, but it was my first time listening to the thoughtful delivery of Dr. Mohamed Lazzoumi of the Islamic Seminary of America and the Islamic justify genocide Association of Collin County.
Missing, for me were perspectives from a catholic priest, a traditional black pastor, or other non-denominational religious thought leaders, but I listened with an open mind. Those three were clearly comfortable with one another – having been participating in this ‘conversation’ for a while.
We were introduced to broad readings and interpretation of some select Hebrew Scriptures, Scriptures from the New Testament and 5:52 of The Koran, which was used as the starting point by the three religious/thought leaders.
The moderator, Dr. Hunt, a professor of religious studies at SMU, was fair and impartial in his summation and reflection on the issue.
Genocide. Heavy subject. Is it ever justified? On cursory review, according to the presentations, it appears that traditional religious literature may offer a variety of instances where it may seem so.
The audience was a little thin – it may have been the topic, but learning about the roots of the traditional teachings of those major religious groups about murder, killings, justified war, and other matters that affect how we treat one another, well it left me bereft of ever having a world at peace. I was left chilled in my zeal to expect something greater – and under the guidance of the religious leadership.
The week before I attended the “Conversations,’ I had visited my friends/family in South Florida. During Sunday dinner, my son held his weekly Bible lesson.
His wife and their five children (13-5 years old) discussed the meaning of ‘neighbor’ within the context of the Trump’s immigration policies. My son used the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what Jesus said about who is the ‘other,’ and how to treat them. As a mom, I was blown away, but then again …
I was still basking in the glow of that teaching moment by my son when, during “Faiths in Conversation,” we were reminded that the Hebrew literature is filled with directives from GOD to wipe out entire peoples who, through Rabbinic interpretation, were deemed not ready or willing to submit to the one GOD.
In the New Testament, Rev. Skinner reminded us that Jesus was a pacifist – teaching a new way. He cited several scriptural quotes to support this.
Skinner gave us a brief history of how the Roman church (not based on Jesus’ teachings) was formed 400 years after the crucifixion, and as part of a pact between Emperor Constantine and the early Christians leaders (remember how happy the early Christians were to become martyrs?), Christians were conscripted into the army of Rome to advance The Church’s spread throughout Europe: The Holy Roman Empire advanced on the infidels.
Again, die or submit to the one GOD. Then Mohammed, who in 700 AD, fulfilled his vision to take the word of the One GOD (again in the Abrahamic tradition) to his people. That word was very nearly the same as the Hebrew scripture (remaining close ‘cousins’ in the spirit as well as the flesh).
There you have it: three major world religions teaching (using various scripture and interpretations), under the banner of propagation of a faith, protection of a chosen people, and/or a filial loyalty to one GOD, that there is such a thing as justified war!
Yes, I simplify, but OMG! The world is f’d up.
Whenever I reintroduce myself to Jesus, and the Buddha – both recognized subversives during their time, I go back to the words of Jesus, before He became Christ, and understand what happened, historically speaking. The Church got it wrong!
The Synagogue got it wrong! The Mosque got it wrong!
I have found in my readings that the One GOD is not a war-monger. It is His people who thirst for blood, vengeance and domination over their fellow man.
When I read the original words of this One GOD and know that, bottom line, I have a choice: it’s called free will. And, I have learned that the way to peace is not under the banner of a call for war, retaliation, retribution, conquest or other forms of brutality – and those directives are not in any holy scripture but in the minds and in the hands of men.
Can Genocide become a thing of no more?
I say yes, but not guided by a narrowly drawn vision for mankind under the yoke of institutionalized religious thought. We need to start with a peaceful disposition in our hearts. Where does that come from?
Go within people. The answer is within. firstname.lastname@example.org