God's Call to Love
By madis senner
It seems every day the world becomes more violent. Those committing acts of violence
the 9-11 terrorists, those burning Jewish synagogues in Europe, Palestinian suicide bombers, the Sharon government's attacks on civilians, or the Ku Klux Klan's call for a Christian, white nation -- all claim their acts are divinely inspired and in keeping with their religious principles. They are doing God's work or God is on their side. They all bolster their claims by citing scripture, much as would a high powered lawyer cites precedents to support a case. Who is right? How can we tell right from wrong, good from evil when all claim divine approval? These are important questions particularly now that President Bush has expanded his God- is-on -our -side war on terrorism by attacking Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction.
To arrive at truth we must trace scripture back to the call of Spirit that brings scripture into being: this is God's call to love. There is no justification for war or violence in the eyes of God. The logic of all scripture toward self-abandonment in oneness with God is proof of this universal message, as is the practical teaching of the golden rule---or the law of love. It is the heart of all religions.
|Thou shall not kill.
"Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself."
Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, 71
"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
- Udana-Varga, 5:18
"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
"Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
"This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you."
"No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself."
"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self."
- Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the law: all the rest is commentary."
Talmud, Shabbat 31a
"Respect for all life is the foundation."
The Great Law of Peace
"Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone."
- Guru Arjan Devji 259, Guru Granth Sahib
"That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self."
The great teachers and prophets all reaffirmed that God's call to love was the core teaching. The Jewish tradition says it well. Rabbi Hillel when asked to explain Judaism while standing on one foot said; 'What is hurtful to you, do not do unto others. Now go and study the rest.' In other words would you want to be shot, punched or beaten silly?--so don't do it to others. Secondly the implication is that this do unto others commandment is the basis or foundation. Jesus reiterated the same in Matthew 22:36-40. Interestingly in the scripture Jesus is being questioned by the Jewish leadership of the time, the Pharisees the Sadducees, in an attempt to trap him, but found no fault with Jesus' reply.
"I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy…
For I am God, and no mortal --the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."
"Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law? j Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
The Prophet Mohamed takes it further. Implicit in Islam is the concept that each Prophet must agree with every prophet that has come before lest they be a false prophet and by agreeing with what has been said before they corroborate it. Similarly those quoting or sanctifying their acts with scripture must insure that their intent is in keeping with what has been said before.
005.048 YUSUFALI: "To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the
scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge
between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain
desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among
you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He
would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in
what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal
of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the
matters in which ye dispute."
PICKTHAL : "And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth,
confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So
judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not
their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We
have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He
could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which
He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another
in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform
you of that wherein ye differ."
SHAKIR:"And We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, verifying
what is before it of the Book and a guardian over it, therefore judge
between them by what Allah has revealed, and do not follow their low
desires (to turn away) from the truth that has come to you; for every
one of you did We appoint a law and a way, and if Allah had pleased He
would have made you (all) a single people, but that He might try you in
what He gave you, therefore strive with one another to hasten to
virtuous deeds; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will let
you know that in which you differed."
The only blood ever shed by the believers of Gods' call to love was their own. Nonviolence and passive resistance was the method of choice for many devout Jews whom died because of persecution or refusing to worship other Gods. Many early Christians like Jesus accepted their fate and died on the cross rather than fight violently back. The desert sages took the idea of nonviolent resistance to extreme--martyrdom.
Since 9-11 President Bush has often told us that God is on our side. Although the President considers himself a devout Christian and reads the bible daily it is apparent that he sees no conflict with war and his faith. The President sees it differently, and chooses to ignore the witness of the early Christian Church that flourished in the immediate period after Christ under brutal Roman rule. The early church did not accept or permit the soldier's duty to shed blood because it was incompatible with the teachings of Christ as notes John Driver, How Christians Made Peace With War, Herald Press 1988:
"It is noteworthy that between 100 and 313, no Christian writers to our knowledge, approved of Christian participation in warfare. In fact, all those who wrote on the subject disapproved of the practice." Page 14
"The objections of the early Christians to warfare and military service were based in the teachings and example of Christ. This led them to resist stubbornly the evils and the injustices of their time. But in doing this, they resolutely refused to respond to evildoers with violence. They were even willing to suffer persecution and death rather than to shed the blood of their persecutors. Respecting the lives of their enemies, they refused to contribute to the viscous spiral of violence."
Things changed dramatically for the Christian church under Augustine who developed a rationale for a just war. Augustines' motivation was to protect Rome--an egregious action because he was putting his will above God's and compromising Gods' call to love to protect an institution which he deemed more important than the truth. The Augustine rational for a just war rests on the belief that violence in defense of another is love of the one being attacked. That should person A attack B you as C would come to the aid of B because you loved B, even if it meant killing A. But kill A? Hardly, not only does such actions defy Gods' call to love it is in total contradiction of Christ's' example as we just noted. Augustine also argued that you should preserve love for your enemy in your heart even as you were obliged to kill him, obviously so splitting the teaching of Christ off from the real world. Christ sacrificed himself so that mankind could live--he neither hurt nor killed anyone. Such faulty arguments to defend war are effectively arguing that Christ should have never have entered Jerusalem and should have a led a violent resurrection and be not the messiah of Peace but the messiah of wrath. The example of Christ is clear. Even when he was being arrested Jesus told Peter to lay down his sword and not resist. Given that Augustine accepted torture it is not surprising that we saw similar arguments surfacing in the United States of America ahead of the war with Iraq. (CBS 60 Minutes;' Is there a place in the U.S. justice system for torture?', September 20, 2002.) Sadly torture became a reality in the aftermath of the Iraqi war at Abu Ghraib prison. Such are the seeds sowed by the 'just war theory'.
"In the early centuries of the church, Christians who suffered wrong without resistance at the hands of their enemies and persecutors were called 'confessors' and 'martyrs'. Martyr in Greek means 'witness'. Martyrs were persons who had given the ultimate witness. They were willing to suffer death rather than use violence to defend or avenge themselves. Martyrdom, therefore, meant much more than simply resisting pressures to deny faith. When these Christians refused to resort to the violence of revolution or self-defense, they're being faithful to their missionary call. They sought to make disciples of all nations."
Page 18-19 John Driver, How Christians Made Peace With War, Herald Press 1988:
The idea of a just war has a long history and often with the blessing of organized religion. But in the eyes of God there is no such thing as a just war. When we delve into the theory or rationale for a just war we realize it to be just that a theory or a rationale, a construct of the mind, rather than the spirit of God. And the mind as the eastern traditions teach us is maya. The mind is also our will and not Gods' will.
Those using scripture in defense of violence or war are de facto declaring that their religion is violent and war like. They see a God of Wrath rather than a God of Love. They ignore the teachers and great prophets and see God as being righteous and wrathful rather than being loving. Jesus had warned of times to come when many would claim to be like him, believers in Gods' call to love, but were not. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (mt 24: 6) Christ was right that there would be many claiming to be Christians and refuse to accept his most basic and fundamental teaching of agape upon which "hang all the law and the prophets". But the deceivers Christ talks of also appear in every religion whether it is Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism...
Scripture can at times be confusing, even conflicting. The reasons are many--things can be lost in translation or interpretation, parts can be corrupted or it speaks to a time long gone.
To insure the validity of scripture trace it back to its root--God's call to love! All must agree with the call to love lest they be false.
The eastern traditions tell us that do unto others, or the law of karma, has powerful repercussions. Meaning what we put out comes back to us, or what goes around comes around. So if we collectively as a society subscribe to the God of wrath we perpetuate and possibly accelerate the cycle of violence through our violent actions. In our interconnected global world this becomes increasingly dangerous as technology can empower a few to affect much of humanity. Gandhi once said that if we follow an eye for an eye we will all end up blind. In today's high tech world it could be much worse we could all end up dead
We can no longer afford to put our faith in a God of wrath.
Karma guides us both individually and collectively. We are not used to thinking of our collective karma--but we are bound to the actions of the communities and societies we belong to. That is why it is important to be a witness to God's call to love. Otherwise you become like the hapless passenger in car that is used to commit a crime--you are guilty by association.
It is time we buried the hatchet. A symbolic phrase to reflect the reality of how a Great Peace was once brought about and God's call to love was followed. Peace did exist among nations for hundreds of years in central New York. It was brought about by a great soul, the Peacemaker, who united the five nations (Mohawk, Onieda, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca) to form the Iroquois nation. We can do it again.
It is our to chose, do we or don't we want to follow God's call to Love? Time is running out and pressure is building.
"When the practice of ahimisa (non-violence) becomes universal, God will reign on earth as He does in heaven."
We need to follow a new path!
In calling for the first crusade in Europe (1095) "Urban II's strategy constituted a moment of generative violence: the directing of destructive group differences outward on a third party that then serves to consolidate the cohesion and identity of the primary group." To do this he started a holy war. "In an account of his speech summoning the crusade Urban said, ' Christian warriors, who seek without end for vain pretexts for war, rejoice, for today you have found true ones ...' When the crusaders had achieved the final catharsis of conquering Jerusalem one of their leaders wrote to Urban informing him that ' theTurks, who inflicted much dishonor on Our Lord Jesus Christ, have been taken and killed and we Jerusalemites have avenged the injury to the supreme God Jesus Christ.' "
Text from Cross Purposes, The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement,* 105-9, by Anthony W. Bartlett [Trinity Press, 2001]Founder of the Wood Hath Hope Bible Community.
Next article-Our Fundamentalist President--A companion peice--click to read.
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