Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Need for a Revolution in Religion and Politics

 By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

What if Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were to meet today?  Would they promote the exclusivist and contentious religions that have evolved in their names, or would they seek reconciliation and find consensus in a common word of faith?

Judaism, Christianity and Islam have already identified a common word of faith in the greatest commandment to love God and to love their neighbors as they love themselves, and their neighbors include those of other races and religions.

The greatest commandment is actually two commandments from the Hebrew Bible.  The first is the Shema, or Jewish confession of faith: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (see Mark 12:29-30, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-5)  And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. (see Mark 12:31, taken from Leviticus 19:18)

That begs the question: Who is your neighbor?  Jesus answered that question with the story of the good Samaritan, in which a Samaritan stopped to help a wounded Jew after several Jews passed him by. (Luke 10:29-37)  Jews detested their neighboring Samaritans, who they considered to be apostates.  It was like a Muslim stopping to help a Jew or a Christian today.
 Islamic scholars have embraced the greatest commandment as a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.  Islam means submission to God, as does the Jewish Shema.  Both Judaism and Islam define love for God as obedience to God’s holy laws as set forth in their ancient scriptures, with God rewarding the obedient and punishing the disobedient.

Judaism and Islam share a deontological orientation that equates loving God with obedience to God’s laws.  The teachings of Jesus have a more teleological orientation that puts love over law.  While Moses and Muhammad were political leaders who used holy law and violence to enforce their leadership, Jesus was a peaceful, if not subversive, Jewish prophet.

Moses, Jesus and Muhammad never addressed issues related to democracy, human rights and the secular rule of law.  Those political concepts were introduced in the Enlightenment and were not relevant to their ancient times.  Even so, they would likely agree that love for others, including those of other races and religions, should be the rule in both religion and politics today.

If Jews, Christians and Muslims were to promote universal love for others as a governing rule of faith in today’s world, it would create a revolution in religion and politics.  But if the past is prelude to the future, institutional and exclusivist religions will likely defeat the revolutionary and inclusive power of universal love and die a slow death.  Their decline is already under way.

Religious fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is an obstacle to loving those of other races and religions.  Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the fear of change based advances in knowledge and reason.  They counter that fear with exclusivist beliefs in the absolute truth of their ancient scriptures and condemn those who do not share their beliefs. 

Beyond fundamentalism, most forms of Christianity and Islam continue to subordinate the moral imperative to love those of other religions to belief in exclusivist mystical doctrines.  Religious exclusivism opposes God’s will to reconcile and redeem all humanity and promotes Satan’s will to divide and conquer.  And Satan does a convincing imitation of God in the church, mosque, and in politics—as was evident in the election of Donald Trump.

It will take a revolution to reconcile our religions, and the election of Donald Trump may have been the catalyst for such a revolution.  It may motivate enough Jews, Christians and Muslims to challenge their exclusivist religious beliefs and promote a politics of reconciliation to preserve the fabric of democracy.  That would be a revolution in both religion and politics.

Notes and commentary on related topics:

On the greatest commandment as a common word of faith, see

On love over law: a principle at the heart of legitimacy, see

On Jesus meets Muhammad: Is there a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims today? see

On religion, the Pope and politics in the real world, see

On the future of religion: in decline and growing, see

On Jesus meets Muhammad on issues of religion and politics, see

On religious fundamentalism and a politics of reconciliation, see

On religion and a politics of reconciliation based on shared values, see

On irreconcilable differences and the demise of democracy, see

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