Saturday, August 30, 2014

One God-One World-One Book

Theologian Marcus Borg says there “are no intrinsic conflicts between the intellect and Christianity, reason and religion.” In his book Convictions, Borg assigns such perceived differences to “a misunderstanding of religion and its absolutization or the absolutization of a nonreligious worldview.”

If true for Christianity, is it not also true of the perceived differences between Jews, Muslims and Christians? The Quran calls the adherents to these three faiths “the People of the Book.” The Abrahamic faiths share much including monotheism, calls to love God and one-another, to help the poor, and the value of prayer.

Muslims hold Jesus in high regard as one of the important messengers of God. Jesus lived and died a devout Jew, studied the Torah and preached it during his ministry. They also share a reverence for many of the same holy places.

In spite of commonalities, Jews, Christians, and Muslims adopted separate canons each claiming to be “the Word of God (or Allah).” The Divine is big enough to inspire more than one book. But multiple books are sources of division. Imagine a world where the three Abrahamic faiths agreed on “One God, One Word.”

A new interfaith council should be convened to write a common book. A task this awesome requires ground rules.  

Of the peoples of Earth, 31.5% are Christian, 23.2 % Muslim, and 0.2% Jews. Given the historical explanation of why there are so few Jews, it’s unjust to apportion by those data. All three make reasonable guesses about the nature of God and have a long historical record of rationalizing their beliefs. Each community should come with an equal number.

Don’t seat them at a triangular table. That will only heighten the divisions. Seat the delegates at a round table reflecting the shape of the planet the Creator started with.

The task is to unify scripture. Start with an updated opportunity to be heard. I don’t know about synagogues and mosques, but there are approximately 13 million more women than men in churches. Worship attendance isn’t a good method to apportion. Apportion the sexes roughly the way God did, equally dividing delegates between women and men.

Providing opportunities for everyone to be heard shouldn’t stop there. Delegates should reflect racial characteristics not of their faith alone but of the world as well as sexual orientation, cultural adhesion, and economic status. If a text is to accurately reflect God’s voice in the world, those who discern that voice should fully represent the make-up of that world.

Admittedly there’s a risk of a Tower-of-Babel-like experience. In the Spirit, there’s also a good chance for a Pentecost-like experience where all will be filled with the spirit of the Divine, speaking in other languages, hearing one another as though they spoke their native languages.

A threshold issue is whether to produce a science book or mythology. The lack of clarity on that important matter among those who wrote or read existing holy texts causes no end of arguments. My preference is mythology. Mythology explains more. An understanding of God seems to lend itself far better to mythology than to science.

Abandon numbered verses. Using numbers to divide the story of the Divine leads to picking and choosing. We should look for the Divine’s big story, not the ability to memorize a sentence taken out of the context to prove a point.

Without a deadline this could continue into eternity. How about 40 days, a symbolic period used in all three texts. Shouldn’t take more time than Jonah spent preaching in Ninevah for people of faith to figure out what they agree about.

Being faithful to God or Allah is not about having what Marcus Borg calls “an intellectually correct theology.” It’s much more about our common core, i.e. love God and your neighbor as written in Hebrew scripture, taught by Jesus, and commanded in the Quran, “Worship Allah and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, neighbors, companions at your side, and travelers.”

As John Lennon said, “Imagine.”

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