I appreciate President Obama’s gesture of going to a mosque. I really do. It’s historic. And at the same time, I think there’s some things missing – some reality. He continue to repeat the line “Islam is a religion of peace.” I get the idea – we’re not interested in a religious war, or banning Muslims or being anti-Muslim here. It’s a good sentiment and I agree with it. But the line is a bit nuanced. There are bad people in the world using Islam to do some bad things and people know it.
This reminds me of an article I read from a Lutheran pastor titled “Why Grumpy Pastor Thinks Islam is not a Religion of Peace…”
Before you jump to any conclusions about the article, let me assure you that it would be best to read the entire article. The pastor is not being anti-Islamic here. He’s pointing out something important.
Here’s a takeaway from the article:
The other day someone asked me, “Pastor, is Islam actually a religion of peace like they say it is?”Grumpy tilted back his head, did a deep quick-think and sighed. These kinds of questions are the kinds of questions that make GP’s eyes hurt and his stomach churn. GP thought he ate a romaine salad with Thai vinaigrette and nuts for lunch, but now it felt like a combination of poison ivy leaves, WD-40, and nails. GP answered. “No. Islam isn’t a religion of peace.” But Grumpy didn’t stop there. GP continued. “…and neither is Christianity.”
He goes on to use plenty of example to back up his point that no religion is a religion of peace. There’s a powerful picture of a Christian church altar with Nazi swastikas all around it.
For me, the pastor’s response speaks truth to a painful reality without inciting hatred towards people that are different from ourselves.
The point is that religion is an institution. And with most institutions, power becomes important – who’s got it, how are they using it and whose trying to take it away. People in religion can be very peaceful. Christians have their Mother Teresas and other saints. So do other religions. But these are individuals who decided to take an understanding that their religion gave them the best means of living peacefully. Really, it comes down to the idea that they have an understanding of God that tells them that God is about peace and love – at all costs.
There are plenty of others who come to different conclusions and will spout hatred and division in the name of religion and God too. Some will go so far as to kill in the name of God.
Yet, this isn’t new. It’s been going on since, well, since forever. In Christian and Jewish theology, we can read the Hebrew Bible to see plenty of examples of this. And in that same Bible, we can see the other examples of people who live peacefully as a way of life.
Islam is not a religion of peace. And neither is Christianity, or Judiasm, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, or any religion. Let’s be honest about this. At the same time, we can be honest about the fact that followers of these religions can be peaceful. They don’t have to be violent. They can live beside each other. It’s happened before. We can to choose to be peaceful, regardless of our religion, regardless of the voices of leaders within our religion.
Part of that means letting go – letting go of the need for everyone else to comply with your way of living, thinking, believing, and being. Letting go of the idea that everyone has to fall in line with your version of purity. Letting go of the idea that orthodoxy is the most important thing in the world. Letting go of your own egotism and self-centeredness that says that only you are the arbiter of what is right and wrong. Letting go of a narcissistic tendency to believe that the world revolved around you and everyone else has to adjust their orbits to be around your way of thinking. Let go of self and be embraced by God.