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Wed, Aug 25 2004

Musings On Islam And Christianity

I was led by Chuck over at Just Thoughts to El Cachorrito Ladrando's interesting post on Islam vs. The West. I liked his observations, but my stream-of-consciousness took off with some more questions:

If, as the writer says, Islam is a benign religion in its purest form, I wondered if Christianity is also benign in its purest form.

If the extremists in Islam have turned to violence and terrorism, and if that religion, as the writer suggests, is some 600 years behind Christianity in its developmental stage, does the future mean that Islam will split into many denominations while holding some core set of beliefs in common (a bit like we see today if we compare Lutheran and Baptist practices)?

If the next 100 years are crucial to the future of Islam, what does that mean for the other major religions? Will their followers also be forced to redefine basic attitudes? What will each keep and what will each give up?

Christianity began in the Middle East, where theocracy has generally been the rule, rather than the exception. Has the Westernization of Christianity brought with it a tendency to pull away from the idea of theocratic rule? And is this why the U.S. has been experiencing some growing pains in such side issues as the display of the Ten Commandments (and other Christian interpretations and symbols) in courthouses?

If the U.S. is seen as a symbol of the separation of church and state to other people who have based their whole system of government on religious theocracy, and if that whole idea threatens their core beliefs, is it any wonder that some of them think of our American push for them to have a democracy as overbearing and evil?

How do we convince them that our best intentions toward them are based on our own sense of the separation of church and state being a good thing for each individual's freedom? Is it possible? Are we going to try? Can we sit down with one another long enough to find the common ground in the part of any religion that is love? Or will there be first, as the writer suggests, another conflict in the next one hundred years that brings with it the use of nuclear weapons?

If we thought we could prevent such a war, would we all stop what we're doing (which obviously hasn't worked so far), and take steps to be good to one another? Or is it too late? And if we battle one another here over the separation of church and state, are we actually the pot calling the kettle black as we talk about freedom and democracy, when some of our own country's issues still involve theocratic ideas? If we don't keep religious liberty as available as possible to all our own American citizens, how can we think to convince other countries to replace their theocracy with our version of democracy that looks to them like just a different form of theocracy?

Several years ago, when I first began to read of Osama bin Laden's warnings against the United States' actions in the Middle East, I remember thinking that I had never heard much from him before, and I thought that maybe, if he or someone else close to him, had not hidden themselves for so long, a lot of good could have been done to educate the people of this country about what the trouble was, in a follower of Islam's eyes. I remember wondering if there wasn't someone, somewhere, who would sit and talk with me about how the people of a country, or a religion, could learn from the past and could help one another to rise above the rhetoric and become friends, even if the rest of the world said it couldn't be done. I still think about that. Osama bin Laden seemed to think it was too late, and he said that in the interviews I watched back then. I think he gave up too soon, and he turned to violence, and because of that, now he can't get us to listen to him anymore at all. By the time we might have been ready to even know who he was, and what his religion might have meant to the United States, he had given up on us all and he fell into a pit of hate. He failed to convince us, because he failed to take an enlightened path of patience and strength and went instead onto a path of recklessness and weakness. I hope very much that he doesn't think to represent the best of Islam thinking anymore. And for him, it doesn't matter what happens now. He's lost his ability to be an inspiration among government and religious leaders. He could have done tremendous good if he had shifted his gaze from himself to his Maker. He's become the epitome of that old saying about serving as a bad example, if nothing else. But we could each be that way, in our own sphere of influence. I really hope we learn from his mistakes.

posted at: 10:09 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Quote Of The Moment
The Chinese pianist Liu Chi Kung was imprisoned for seven years during the Cultural Revolution, during which time he had no access to a piano. When he returned to giving concerts again after he was released, his playing was better than ever. Asked how this was possible since he had not practiced for seven years, he replied: "I did practice, every day. I rehearsed every piece I had ever played, note by note, in my mind.
--Bernie Zilbergeld
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