To respond to my comment on the genesis of the monotheistic religions, Charles sent a link to a talk radio program that discussed what nearly all religious people would characterize as gravely sinful material, namely the enslavement of others.
Do the activities of rapists and slavers somehow nullify the perspective of Abraham the patriarch as the ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? The radio hosts discussed the enslavement of non-Muslim women. Does that show that the God of Islam and the Father of Jesus are not one and the same? One might also ask if the sexual enslavement of children by Christian leaders likewise shows that all Christianity is divorced from the One God. Pile on misogyny, discrimination, and movements against women religious and it seems like a slam dunk: the Christian God espouses oppression, injustice, and even gossip.
For his part, Max is concerned that the details of the various Scriptures are divergent enough to suggest separate gods, none of which he takes seriously. Except as objects of derision and insult.
I think we have to look carefully, and with the eyes of discernment, on all of the possible situations when people of good faith find themselves in deep conflict. What is of God? What is merely human?
God permits great leeway to human beings in their lives. Some would say too much. There should be some divine retribution for offenders in this life. Some sign should be given, it is argued, that the unjust should not be given free rein to flourish while the righteous suffer in comparison. That protest is certainly part of the Jewish tradition, and we Christians still sing of it in the Psalter.
Saint Paul also taught that all, everyone, even the self-styled just fall short of the virtue to which we aspire. Then what is the best limit for a person before she or he is cast off into false godliness? Is murder bad enough? Rape, enslavement, and domination? Jesus also condemned these offenses when they were coddled in our innermost thoughts.
If you’re looking to this essay for answers, take a number. I have as little clue as anyone else. But I’m suspicious of the easy answer. It is easy to suggest that all Muslims have rejected the God of Abraham and somehow in the last fourteen centuries have substituted some red-skinned, head-horned idol with a pointy tail. It is easy to suggest that the institutional Church has headed down the road lined with episcopal skulls since 1965 or 1958 or 1903 or 1870 or even 1570.
It is a great convenience to suggest people who don’t think, look, or act like us have lost God, and therefore are deserving of some advance consideration like a Judgment Day anticipated like some 4pm Mass on a Saturday afternoon.
I don’t buy it.
As uncomfortable as it may seem, IS rapists and predator clergy follow the same God. If one is an advocate for early Judgment, it is easier to deny it. But the truth is that human beings can go very, very far off the rails of justice and virtue, denying the grace of God by making a dark pilgrimage in a completely opposite direction of the Lord of Light. And if we’re convinced their god is not our God, perhaps we might look more carefully at our own lives. If others knew what we knew, would they be as ready to disavow us?