By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Once again, Jerusalem is a cauldron of religious violence. Israel is a Jewish nation within the ancient Islamic regime of Palestine. The virulent religious conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land is once again on display. Christianity is complicit, having played a major role in that religious conflict since the Crusades and Inquisitions.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam defy reconciliation, despite Christianity and Islam sharing common roots in Judaism. The greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other religions, as we love ourselves, is taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and affirmed as a common word of faith by Islamic scholars.
Religion is the primary source of moral standards for people of faith. The hatred and violence that has characterized the relationship between Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout their history is cultural. It’s a toxic mix of religion, morality and politics that negates a common word of faith in the moral imperative of the greatest commandment.
The way forward toward reconciliation is to overcome the cultural obstacles to a common word of faith with a universal code of morality based on the moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other religions as we love ourselves. But for the exclusivist doctrines of Christianity and its culture, reconciliation would be more likely.
Jews defined God’s standards of righteousness with Mosaic Law, and Muslims did the same with Shari’a. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi whose teachings of love over law are summarized in the greatest commandment. Jesus never claimed to be divine, but early church doctrine asserted his divinity by limiting salvation to belief in Jesus Christ as the alter ego of God.
A universal moral code for the Abrahamic religions would first require Jews and Muslims to acknowledge that their holy laws are voluntary moral standards of their faith, not God’s law; and for Christians to acknowledge that Jesus was the Logos, or divine Word of God, rather than God per se. Jesus taught his disciples to follow him as God’s word, not to worship him as God.
If the Abrahamic religions embrace democratic principles that laws are made by elected representatives and not by God, and that God does not favor one religion over others, then religion can promote universal moral standards inspired by God’s Word rather than holy laws. In a democracy, people are the masters of their own political destiny.
Religion and democracy are interwoven, with moral standards of political legitimacy shaped by religion. Upcoming commentaries will emphasize how religious moral standards shape our standards of legitimacy, and how people of faith can move from relying on God to change the world to how God’s Word can motivate people to change their world.
The following commentaries relate to the need for religious and political reconciliation based on universal standards of morality in civil religion and the Logos:
(12/8/14) Reason and Religion, see
(1/4/15): Religion and New Beginnings: Salvation and Reconciliation in the Family of God http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/01/religion-and-new-beginnings-salvation.html
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
*(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
*(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html
*(1/2/16): God in Three Concepts
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(6/17/17): Religious Exclusivity: Does It Matter? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/06/religious-exclusivity-does-it-matter.html.
(7/22/17): Hell No!
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(4/20/19): Musings on the Resurrection of Altruistic Morality in Dying Democracies
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of the Church and Democracy in America
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(9/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Polarized Politics of Climate Change
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority
(2/22/20): Musings on Why All Politics and Religion Are Local (and not Universal)
(4/4/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of America’s Values
(12/23/20): Musings on the coming of a light that can dispel the darkness of the world.
(1/2/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Making a Covenant with God for the New Year
(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities
(5/22/21): Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America
(6/5/21): Musings on Why Socialism is no Substitute for Altruism in Politics
(10/9/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Relevance of Jesus Today
(11/6/21): Musings on the Need for Political and Religious Reconciliation in America
(12/4/21): Musings on How Universal Heterodox Beliefs Promote Religious Reconciliation
(1/1/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Renewing a Covenant with God in 2022
(2/19/22): Musings on Reconciliation to Resolve the Dilemma of Diversity in Democracy
(6/4/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Relevance of Jesus Today
(12/10/22): Musings on the Evolution of Christianity into the American Civil Religion
(12/24/22): Christmas Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Myopic Methodist Schism
(1/14/23): Musings on Reconciling the Abrahamic Religions with a Common Word of Faith