Saturday, March 04, 2006

True Meaning of Religion?

Recently I receive a forward from a friend that I found quite disturbing and wanted to correct what I could. I'm not trying to be rude or condescending towards him or anyone else for that matter, but true religion and true union with God will never be achieved if we continue to spread biased and un-researched claims around the world about one another's religions.

The forward was a powerpoint that started with two slides of text, "An 8 year old child was caught in a market in Iran for stealing bread. In the name of Islam he is being punished. His arm will be crushed by a car. He will loose forever the possibility to use his arm again. Is this a religion of peace and love?" The powerpoint proceeds to show 6 pictures in sequence of this little boy getting his arm crushed and run over by this truck. The final slide is more commentary ending with "Marvelous religion?"

I just want to answer the question, "Is this a religion of peace and love?" YES IT IS - but the administration and executive power that runs rampant in that country is not one of peace and love and THAT is the problem - NOT ISLAM!! That heinous act is not really being done in the name of Islam and religion. They may claim that it is, but Islam DOES NOT condone this sort of behavior anywhere in the Koran. The true meaning of Islam means “peace achieved through submission to God” (The same God that Christians and Jews worship, according to the prophet Mohammed who said himself that this was the same God of the Jews and Christians). The word Islam means surrender or submission and is derived from the same word meaning peace (all in Arabic) – the word Peace in Arabic is Salaam…

However, the problem lies in the inability to separate Islam the religion from the cultural and political rules and regulations that permeate most countries where Islam is the main religion. Islam is all at once a civilization, culture AND a faith. There is NO distinction made between what is secular and what is spiritual. Faith and politics go hand in hand. So in the same way that a damaging voice politically can do damage to the faith, the same can be vice versa in Islam. How many would have accepted the Bible and its teachings if the “KKK” introduced the Bible to them? THE US Government used scripture in the Bible to support the continuation of slavery in this country, just 100 some years ago. In the same way – people misuse scripture in the Koran to create bogus and horrendous laws which allow this type of action towards 8 year old children. And the problem there lies in the fact that administrations in many countries in the middle east are so heavily infiltrated with misunderstandings of the Koran and the true meaning of Islam, that they continue to allow this to happen. It can be hard to for us understand or comprehend this, coming from the US where faith and politics are generally separated. But imagine this – Imagine if our laws were made and governed by how George Bush (or Bill Clinton, or whoever the president is/was) understood the Bible. Our laws, our fiscal policies, our foreign policies, our policies on education, health care – ALL OF IT – would be based off of how George Bush understood the Bible and his own personal theology. Now I KNOW that George Bush is not a Biblical Scholar – heck I know I’m not even close to one, and I’m in seminary to become a minister – so imagine how it is for countries that practice Islam. Their leaders that they elect may have a misunderstood interpretation of the Koran and the faith of Islam – and therefore so does the entire country, because their entire country is permeated with fiscal policies, foreign policies, welfare programs, education systems – all of them with a possible misinterpretation of the faith they are so adamantly defending. I am involved with an organization here in KY that is actually a national organization – called the interfaith alliance – where members of many different religions, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs – 70 faith traditions in all, as well as many Agnostics and Atheists – all work TOGETHER to promote democratic values, defend religious liberty, challenge hatred and religious bigotry (this act of “punishment”) and reinvigorate INFORMED civic participation. The interfaith alliance is the faith based voice countering the radical right (of all religions) and promoting the positive role of religion. I’m not trying to encourage everyone to love Islam – clearly it’s not the faith for me either, I have chosen to follow Christ – but that is based off a theological well researched and thought out decision, not based off of propaganda (from any religion) that has no basis on the true meaning of their religion. My decision and opinion of Islam is based off the true understanding of “Peace achieved through submission to God” – not what the news is trying to portray or what a disturbed civic leader in a middle eastern country is trying to tell me what Islam means.

I ALSO have to add - that underneath the english in this powerpoint, there is a translation of the same thing in another language - although many may confuse the characters of translation to be arabic (out of assumption because of the content of the powerpoint) they are actually Hebrew - there are very few countries, if more than one where Hebrew is actually spoken on a regular basis. That would be Israel. In case you've been under a rock for the last 50 years, there is a major dispute in Israel over the land it was given by the UN from the area of Palestine. My limited education and understanding of that conflict would however lead me to believe though that this was or is some sort of propoganda that is also being passed around Israel. I know the US has traditionally supported Israel in the conflict, and if people, both in the US and in Israel continue to believe that Palestine is horrible because of its religion, Islam - than the cause of Israel and Judaism will continue to look like the better of the two options. This could be looked at as "one point for them" and their ability to so falsely and incorrectly "prove" the problems with violence in Islam. Now don't put words in my mouth and assume that I am "on the side" of the Palestinians - because like I said, I have limited knowledge and understanding of the issues - but I do have enough to identify propoganda supporting a cause. Yeah for my Hebrew classes finally paying off...

Lastly I will just leave you with this quote. "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." -- Steven Weinberg

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