by: Huma Munir on December 8th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
Thomas Friedman wrote a recent article for the New York Times in which he extensively quoted a Muslim turned Christian Arab activist, Brother Rachid.
According to Rachid, President Barack Obama should stop being “politically correct” and label Islam as an extremist religion that promotes the views of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab. After all, he says, they are all “made in Islam.”
To add a sense of credibility to his claims, Rachid says he was born in a Muslim household and knows first-hand that the teachings of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) support extremism.
As a Muslim, I fail to understand how Rachid’s view of Islam became so skewed because the Islam I know teaches the opposite of what he describes. I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that preaches love for all, hatred for none. The Holy Quran I follow equates the killing of one person to the killing of the entire mankind (5:32). It forbids compulsion in religion and admonishes human beings from creating disorder on Earth (2:256; 7:57).
The same Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Rachid labels as a supporter of violence said that mankind should suffer no loss at the hands or tongue of a Muslim.
The teachings of the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic scripture seem to be in direct contradiction to mass executions and beheadings ISIS and other extremist groups are responsible for.
by: Ro Waseem on December 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
After I published “15 Progressive Islamic Pages You Should Really Check Out” a couple of weeks ago, I came to observe that there is a somewhat skewed understanding of what “Progressive Islam” really is. People who had come across this particular flavor of Islam for the first time deemed it to be a movement to “Westernize” or “Modernize” Classical Islam, and that Classical Islam and Progressive Islam are completely at odds with each other. This hasty conclusion, if I may call it that, lead to some negative feedback – so I thought it pertinent to address this topic to break some stereotypes & generalizations.
These days, there is no shortage of hatred to go around. Tragically, much of this hatred has erupted into tragic violence in Jerusalem this week, a brutal set of murders in a synagogue that most clearly illustrates the religious, and we may say, biblical nature of this conflict. It is noteworthy that this week’s Torah reading is one in which the growing animosity between Jacob and his brother Esav is described, a rift that the Talmud records as the source of eternal enmity between Jacob, that is, the Jewish people, and Esav, midrashically reified as Rome and thus European society. The reflexive assumption made before reading the texts, then, is Jacob=good, Esav=bad. However, that is a prejudice not entirely present in the text, as we shall see, a text which is extremely ambiguous with regards to who is or is not the hero of this episode. For after all, their father Isaac (Yitzchak), clearly intended to bless Esav, but only through the wily intervention of Jacob’s mother does Jacob hijack these blessings.
Despite the ambiguity in the narrative, the blessings that ultimately are bestowed upon Jacob are read in various ways as prophetic of later Jewish history, and as such are incorporated into the traditional prayers. The Midrash gives many readings of these blessings as pertaining to the Jewish future, but surely Yitzchak had a whole different idea of the blessing’s possibilities, geared as they were in original intent towards Esav. To put this in modern terms, there is a very wide gap here between authorial intent and reader response to these texts. I will present three exegetical approaches to this conundrum, which will be presented in order of progressive radicality in terms of the usual assumptions about this episode.
by: Robert Cohen on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons/ Kathleen Tyler Conklin
I want to talk about difficult conversations. Conversations that could put decades of valuable Christian/Jewish interfaith dialogue in jeopardy. It’s risky I know, but I think the stakes have become too high to shy away from it any longer.
Jewish communities receive lessons in Israel advocacy from our leadership, who seem to think the solution to Israel’s growing isolation can be resolved with nothing more than better presentation skills. Meanwhile, Christian communities are morally paralyzed by fear of causing offense to a people they spent so many centuries persecuting.
But it’s time to stop the Jewish moral denial and the Christian moral paralysis. With so much ethical common ground, why not both stand on it for a change and see what happens?
And who knows, through challenging the current no-go-area consensus on Israel, it could take us all to somewhere more dynamic, truthful and powerful in interfaith relations.
But with all that Israel advocacy training taking place in our synagogues, I feel like my Christian friends need some insider guidance on how to get this conversation going.
So what follows is the Micah’s Paradigm Shift Online Guide to Starting that Difficult Conversation on Israel with your Jewish neighbors, friends, colleagues, and local communities.
Feel free to adapt the following to your local circumstances and understanding.
Students at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, reenact the slaughter.
Who is a martyr? The question comes to mind twenty-five years after what has become known as “the Jesuit massacre” in El Salvador.
On November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of the Salvadoran military forced its way into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, or UCA, in San Salvador. Most of the soldiers had received counter-insurgency training in Georgia, at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. They proceeded to murder six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.
Unlike the martyrs of ancient Christianity, these men were not killed simply because they professed the faith. They were targeted specifically for speaking out on behalf of the impoverished and against persecutions carried out by the U.S.-backed military. Still, in the view of many, they died for the faith no less than the martyrs of old.
This happens to be subject to dispute in some quarters. The argument has surfaced mostly in connection with the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a paramilitary death squad while saying mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital in San Salvador in 1980.
by: Rebecca Shimoni Stoil on November 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
In this week’s elections, the majority of Jews once again voted for candidates advocating more progressive economic policies (higher taxes and more government support for the poor) – 69 percent according to one poll, 65 percent according to another.
Why did even wealthy and upper middle class Jews, whose own narrowly defined economic interests might better be served by tax cuts, lean progressive? Because the legacy of Jewish religious teachings, Jewish history, and Jewish culture all push Jews to side with the oppressed even at the expense of personal financial or other forms of sacrifice. Even the grandchildren of assimilated Jews carry with them the message of the Torah that we have a special obligation toha’ger (the stranger or “other”) and the Torah’s call to “love the stranger and remember that you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.”
I’ve acknowledged in my books Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation and Embracing Israel/Palestine that there is a counter-strand in the Jewish tradition – I call it “Settler Judaism.” These two strands often appear in tandem as though the editors of our holy books could not fully decide upon which of these two voices to confer legitimacy. It’s a dynamic apparent within most cultures throughout history. In the Jewish context, both strands alternate, and which gains legitimacy depends on many extrinsic factors. What’s remarkable is how strong the voice of caring for the “other” has remained given all the traumas of Jewish history and the pressures of a capitalist ethic pervading most aspects of contemporary capitalist society. It’s true that under conditions of perceived threat, many Jews find themselves unable to apply this message to the Palestinian people. But they nevertheless apply it to domestic politics in the U.S.
by: Kevin Daugherty on November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Credit: The Hampton Institute
Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God’s blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even “gnostic.” I don’t think the heretics here are the “gnostics” who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.
Here’s the note a friend sent me on Facebook late last night:
Arlene, now that the midterm results are in, how can the dreams/predictions that you make in your recent books The Wave and The Culture of Possibility come to fruition? How can Citizens United be overturned and democracy be given back to the people?
My dear friend, what a good question! I am sorry for the suffering it reveals, suffering that is widely shared this morning. I woke up with five possible answers jostling their ways out of my brain. I hope one or two of them may help.
1. I never make predictions, but I do write and speak about possibilities. As sad as many of the election results turned out to be, no single phenomenon (such as a seven-seat gain in a midterm election) forecloses possibility. Indeed, the very same information can be given two opposing meanings, depending on what else happens. We know that when a paradigm shifts – when an outdated worldview begins to be edged offstage by a new and more powerful understanding – those who benefit most from the old order tighten their grip. How many times in history have we seen such darkness before something new dawns?
A friend who works closely with elections told me last night that given which seats are up for re-election in 2016, it’s almost a certainty that Democrats will regain the Senate then. That’s his prediction (I don’t make them, remember?). But if two years down the road everyone who is crying this morning wakes up in a celebratory mood, will the nature of reality have shifted? Or just our ideas about it?
by: Isaac Luria on November 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Exodus 33: 13-14
13 [Moses said], “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 G-d replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Credit: Creative Commons/ Guido van Nispen
On a late Spring afternoon two years ago, I vividly remember watching my colleague Macky Alston hold a room of multifaith movement for justice activists spellbound when he recounted his remarkable religious journey. Macky had grown up religious, realized he was gay, and then worked his way back to Christianity.
While I listened, I felt myself grow jealous, wishing I had a compelling story like Macky’s. Then, I felt empty. I may have joined Macky at Auburn Seminary a year earlier, but I still didn’t have a great understanding of why I had taken this new job in progressive religion.
I knew the answer wasn’t simple. My journey was different, my story hidden from view.
They laid his body in the street, in a row with other dead bodies. He was not dressed all in black as he had been dressed on the video where he beheaded an American. He wore street clothes, and his face was naked, visible, recognizable, not wrapped in black. At this place, at this moment, he was just another in a long line of dead bodies stretching from this 21st century Syrian city to the beginning of human history. No breath, no heartbeat, no sign of life, except that his mind was alive. His eyes refused to close, and he could see. He could see the blue cloudless sky, but he could only see up since he could not move his eyes or turn his head.
The men laying the dead in rows tried to close his eyes, but they could not. The dead executioner had no way of communicating that he was alive. He could hear and smell and feel. His skin burned in the sun and hurt. He heard the screams and the lamentations of women mourning the dead. The wailing women called on Allah for mercy and for revenge. Their tears streamed down their faces carving a path through the dust on their cheeks. He could not see their tears but he felt every tear as a drop of fire on his skin. He wanted to scream, but he could not. His vocal cords could not vibrate, still he could feel the pain of every tear, every lamentation.
The bodies were soon to be moved to a mass grave. “I’m alive,” he shouted inside himself. Creation heard no sound. He could not blink, so dust grated against his eyeballs. His own tears were dry, creating another kind of pain. So he concentrated on the blue sky above him, a refuge, and a calming friendly presence. Then he saw a thin silver line, a vertical line from the earth to the sky to somewhere beyond. He was not aware of the tradition that on Halloween, all Hallows Eve, the Day of Death, the silver thread that divides the living from the dead appears and disappears. The dead come back. They return for a reckoning. Suddenly the sky burst in flames and a series of images emerged, the first of which was a headless horseman riding from the sky fire straight toward him. He wanted to run, but he could not move. “I am alive,” he thundered to the Cosmos inside himself.
The headless horseman spoke one word. “Think.”