By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share the same God, but God’s message is different in each religion, and in their infinite variations. The Hebrew Bible requires Jews to obey Mosaic Law, and the Qur’an requires that Muslims submit to Islamic Law. Jesus was a Jew who put love over law and called his disciples to follow his altruistic moral teachings as God’s truth.
The greatest commandment was taken from the Hebrew Bible, it was taught by Jesus, and has been accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith. It’s a universal moral imperative to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves; and it reconciles the mixed messages of God in the Abrahamic religions.
The early Christian church developed exclusivist doctrines of belief based on Paul’s atonement doctrine. It asserted that God sent Jesus as a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of all believers (Romans 3:25); but the atonement doctrine conflicted with the universal teachings of Jesus and opened the door to the many distorted doctrines of Christianity that would follow.
Jesus taught that God’s will is to reconcile and redeem people of all religions (and of no religion) as spiritual brothers and sisters in the family of God. Satan’s will is to divide and conquer, and Satan has done a convincing imitation of God in religion and politics. As a result, Satan is winning the popularity contest for political power in America’s democracy.
The libertarian democracies of the 18th century Enlightenment seem to have run their course. Demagogues like Hitler and Trump have used distorted religious doctrines to exploit mindless masses in Christian democracies to gain political power. They have used religion to polarize politics in democracies and made them as corrupt as authoritarian regimes.
The religions that helped give birth to democracy are complicit in its demise. They could save democracy with a moral reformation based on the altruistic teachings of Jesus summarized in the greatest commandment. But that’s a long shot. Jesus lived over 2,000 years ago, and the human depravity that killed him is as pervasive today as it was then.
Democracy has made us masters of our political destiny. If Americans expect to achieve the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness expressed in the Declaration of Independence, they must overcome their human depravity and end their tribal partisan politics. Americans must learn to love their neighbors, even those they dislike, as they love themselves.
The message of God in our religion and politics is mixed since it has come through humans, not God. God's message has always been one of universal love, and prophets who brought the the word of God in their time and place have come and gone. We need more modern prophets to bring God's universal word of love to our time and place. Any volunteers?
On the greatest commandment and love over law, see:
The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith (1/11/2015)
Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy (1/18/2015)
Who Is My Neighbor? (1/23/2016)
The website for A Common Word is at https://www.acommonword.com/. See also, Muslim and Christian Understanding: Theory and Application of “A Common Word”, Edited by Waleed El-Ansary and David K. Linnan, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2010.
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