Posts Tagged ‘Judaism’

God is not a Christian

December 13, 2011
In Him was life and the life was the light of men - Lalo Gutierrez

In Him was life and the life was the light of men - Lalo Gutierrez

lady of Villers-Carbonnel

lady of Villers-Carbonnel

God is not a Christian. – Desmond Tutu

If the triangles made a god, they would give him three sides. — Montesquieu

Quite a profound statement by Desmond Tutu: God is not a Christian.

Three religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, all recognise the same God. So what is God? A Jew, a Christian, a Muslim? All three, none of these?

For many Christians they are having problems getting their heads around Jesus was a Jew.

To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees

At two thousand years old, Christianity is a relativity new religion. Far older, Judaism, Hinduism. Far older still, the spirits of the forest, of the trees, the wind.

A recent find in France is of a small figurine, typical of the Middle East, a Mother Earth figurine, large breasts, large hips. Thought to date from somewhere between 4300 and 3600 BC

The earth mother of all neolithic discoveries
Six-thousand-year-old earth mother statuette found on banks of the Somme is named ‘Lady of Villers-Carbonnel’

The Somme “earth mother” appears to have broken into five or six parts while she was being fired between 4300 and 3600 BC. She was found in the ruins of a neolithic kiln at a French government “preventive” archaeological dig near Villers-Carbonnel on the banks of the river Somme in the département of the same name.

After the Romans left, Christianity has a struggle regaining a foothold in what is now England. Paganism was the dominant religion. Eventually rather than trying to defeat it was assimilated, many Pagan Temples became churches or their scared sites became Holy Sites, the festivals were adopted.

Christianity A History: Dark Ages

We cannot know God, we make guesses in the dark.

A man lives in a cave. All he sees is the shadows. One day he comes out. Who are these people? He does not recognise them for all he has seen are their shadows.

We are arrogant when we think our religion is superior to another.

Religion is man made, an attempt to know the unknowable.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The light was not brought to Christians, it shone on men.

Or as made more explicit in other translations

New Living Translation: The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

International Standard Version: In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity.

GOD’S WORD Translation: He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity.

Good News Bible: The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind.

The light was not reserved exclusively for Christians, it was for everyone.

In the Koran is recognised that there are many religions and they are to be treated with respect, especially those who are the descendants of Abraham.

The Jewish sect established by the followers of Jesus was just that, a Jewish sect, but it was not exclusively Jewish, it welcomed Gentiles.

Rich poor, black white, gay straight, male female, war criminal genocide victim, we are all members of the human race, part of humanity, there are no outsiders. All are God’s children.

What I do effects those around me, what they do effects me. As individuals we are networked to form families, communities, society. In turn these networks sustain us and provide the environment in which we grow.

No one religion has absolute truth, though they may think they do. They may even claim what they say is superior to others. They may even tell you that you will go to Hell if you do not accept what they tell you. They of course always being by their own definition of the Chosen Few.

God, or G-d as some would write out of respect, is no more Christian than he is the old man sitting on a cloud answering prayers like a friendly old grandfather handing out sweets to the children.

An infinite entity cannot be known by a finite mind any more than by a finite man-made religion.

Those who try to tell us otherwise are at best misguided, at worse bigots and fundamentalists.

Sacred text were not set in stone, they were written by man, rewritten by man.

Most people recognise the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led what could be seen as a moral enlightenment, he influenced Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela. He was also a Hindu.

Rob Bell writes of an art exhibition where someone posts a note that Gandhi in Hell. Are they sure? How do they know? How kind of them to tell us.

There are those who see it as some sort of failing that Dalai Lama has not converted to Christianity.

Does God, the Christian God, have a conversation and say, sorry guys, I know you have done a lot of good in the world, but not quite good enough, you are not Christian, you belong to the wrong club, so you have to be sent to the fires of Hell for all eternity?

Complete and utter nonsense, but that is what Christian fundamentalists, bigots by any other name, would have us believe.

Tutu: The Authorised Portrait
The shack
Love Wins
Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
What is wrong with the church?
God is
Where does religion come from?

What is the Role of Faith in Your Life?

June 9, 2011

‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ — Jesus

A talk by five people of five different faiths on the role of faith in their life.

Nabil Mustapha (Baha’i faith): Faith is a covenant. Medicine is a noble profession, to be practised to help others, not to earn lots of money. The Baha’i faith is a choice to be exercised, a choice not to be exercised until one reaches the age of sixteen.

Mark Bishop (Buddhism): Grew up in India then UK in the Protestant and Catholic tradition. Did not become a Buddhist until late in life. Belongs to a sect that has no monks. Chant a mantra half an hour before breakfast then again in the evening.

Ray Traynor (Catholism): Taught in many countries. Chance conversations, chance meetings, led to these opportunities. Like Santiago in The Alchemist, risks were taken.

Irene Black (Judaism): One is born a Jew. It is who your parents are that determines that you are a Jew. Difficult to say what the impact of faith has on ones life. Easier to say what the lack of faith means, life would have no meaning. A close parallel between Hinduism and Judaism. Faith is seen through action. There are as many interpretations of Judaism as there are Jews.

Adel Sharif (Islam): We all have faith. Religion is man made. Prophets are messengers of God, their names in Arabic reflects their function. There is only one Koran, but many interpretations. Translations are often bad as the translator does not understand the Arabic. Muslims recognise the same God, the same prophets as Jews and Christians. The Quran is a continuation of what went before, not something new. The Quran tells believers of the One Faith to recognise Jews and Christians. Believers are seekers after truth. A scientist is a seeker after truth. Education should be for the betterment of mankind, not to earn more money. The proposed Multi-Faith Centre at Surrey University is to be renamed the Faith Centre. [also see The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations]

Gifts: We all have gifts. We should share those gifts.

Peace: Something we should all strive for.

Prayer: God listens. Maybe we should heed the advice of St Benedict and learn to listen. Prayer is two-way communication. We have to learn to read the signs. [also see Does it matter how we pray?]

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho describes those who say their faith is the only way as religious bigots. A devout Catholic, at his St Joseph Party in Istanbul he quoted from the Quran. He invited his guests to join him in prayer. Prayers were said in several languages by people from different religious backgrounds.

In The Shack Jesus is asked: Do you have to be a Christian to follow Him? He replies no, as even He is not a Christian. He adds, Jews, Muslims, even Buddhists, follow him.

Publicity: The meeting was very poorly publicised. Even St Joseph’s lacked a poster on the church notice board! As an absolute minimum posters and flyers in local churches, libraries, Guildford Institute.

Meeting hosted by Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum at St Joseph’s Church in Guildford (Eastgate Gardens). 7pm Thursday 9 June 2011.

Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum is an informal collective. For more information on future meetings please contact Bernard Jones (bernard.jones@btinternet.com).

Upcoming events

Midsummer Feast with Eden people – evening Tuesday 14 June 2011 – Allen House Pavilion, Guildford.

George Abbott’s Guildford. A talk by Mary Alexander at St Mary’s Church in Guildford. George Abbott was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, a contributor to the King James’ Bible. 7-30pm Tuesday evening 28 June 2011.

Creative Arts @ Costa, a celebration of music, word and the visual arts, takes place at Costa in Swan Lane in Guildford on the first Tuesday of the month (same day as the farmers market). The next event is Tuesday evening 5 July 2011. There will be no events in August and September. Swan Lane is the narrow lane that runs between the High Street and North Street at the lower end of the High Street. With Eden People, a Christian collective.

The Keystone Spirit is a regular meeting of Eden People at The Keystone Pub (3 Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU2 4BL).

What a Rabbi Learns from Muhammad

March 31, 2011
Muslim and Jew

Muslim and Jew

I first studied Islam when I was a student at UCLA almost 50 years ago, Then again while I was in Rabbinical school. Over the years I continued to read the Qur’an and other Islamic books. I read these books as the Prophet taught his followers in a Hadith “not as a believer, and not as a disbeliever”. What does that mean? The Qur’an, of course, is sacred scripture for Muslims. A disciple of Muhammad named Abu Huraira relates, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” Following Muhammad’s teaching I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. If I believed in the Qur’an I would be a member of the Muslim Ummah (community). But I cannot disbelieve in the Qur’an because I believe that Muhammad is a prophet and I respect the Qur’an as a kindred revelation, to a kindred people, in a kindred language. In fact, the people, the language and the theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth.

I would like to begin by sharing my understanding of several Ahadith that have taught me about my own religion. My understanding is reflected in my application (gloss) of each insight from my perspective as a Liberal/Reform Rabbi. They are all from Bukhari: Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded. (Volume 1, Book 2, Number 38)

Gloss: The statement against becoming extremists needs to be taught in every house of prayer in the world. This applies of course, to political extremists as well as religious extremists who always prefer the stricter path to the more lenient way. For example, both Islam and Judaism teach the importance of sacred slaughter of meat, and the avoidance of certain animals for food. In Islam the rules are simpler and fewer than in Orthodox Judaism. Most Liberal/Reform Rabbis regard the increasingly restrictive developments in kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), especially for Passover, as a counterproductive, overburdening of the people. The expansion of restrictions on Shabbat activities over many centuries is also seen by most Liberal/Reform Rabbis as a counterproductive, overburdening of the joy of Shabbat. Muhammad wisely differentiates between extremism and striving to be near perfect (no one is perfect) which involves a rejection of extremism. Just trying hard to do well will be rewarded.

Narrated ‘Aisha and Ibn’ Abbas: On his deathbed Allah’s Apostle put a sheet over his-face and when he felt hot, he would remove it from his face. When in that state (of putting and removing the sheet) he said, “May Allah’s Curse be on Jews and Christians for they build places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” He intended to warn (Muslims) from what they (i.e. Jews and Christians) had done. (Volume 4, Book 56, Number 660)

Gloss: Allah’s apostle strongly opposed any diversion of reverence or worship to anyone other than God. Christians, and even Jews, had started worshiping at the graves of holy men, saints and prophets. Although they claimed to be only worshiping God, their feeling that prayer was better or more effective at such sites was cursed by Muhammad. In later centuries, Muslims also began worshiping at the tombs of holy men and building places of worship near their graves. Liberal/Reform Rabbis would agree that such activity at grave sites should be condemned and could be seen as a curse. Allah’s apostle must also have realized that even the Muslim community would also produce people whose piety would lead to such errors for a Hadith on the same page says,

Narrated Abu Said: The Prophet said: “You will follow the wrong ways of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of an animal, you too will go there.” We said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Who else?” (Volume 4, Book 56, # 662)

Gloss: Muhammad criticized the failings of many in the Jewish and Christian communities (as did the prophets of Israel) but he realized that people are human, and most do not seem to learn from the failings of others. He hoped that Muslims would retain their original purity, but he foresaw that with time and power; corruption, decay and falsification were inevitable. Allah’s apostle would certainly attack the false tradition of female genital mutilation in Africa today as sharply as he attacked female infanticide in Arabia in his day. It is a shame that many Muslim leaders in Africa today do not aggressively condemn it. But then, most Jewish leaders in the west do not aggressively condemn the Orthodox for not allowing Jewish woman to divorce their husbands. We all have to do a better job.

Abu Huraira related: Two men, a Muslim and a Jew, abused each other. The Muslim said , “By Him Who gave superiority to Muhammad over all the people.” At that, the Jew said, “By Him Who gave superiority to Moses over all the people.” The Muslim became furious at that and slapped the Jew in the face. The Jew went to Allah’s Apostle and informed him of what had happened between him and the Muslim. Allah’s Apostle said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses, for people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first to gain consciousness, and behold! Moses will be there holding the side of Allah’s Throne. I will not know whether Moses was among those people who became unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or was among those exempted by Allah from falling unconscious.” (Volume 8, Book 76, #524)

Gloss: Allah’s messenger is so well known for his sense of justice that a Jew can appeal to him even in a conflict with a Muslim who has attacked a Jew. It is only natural for Jews to think that Moses is the best, and for Muslims to think that Muhammad is the best. Muhammad rebukes the Muslim, telling him not to claim that Muhammad is superior to Moses because even on the day of Resurrection, Muhammad himself will not know their relative merit, for although Muhammad will be the first to be revived, Moses will already be standing there holding the side of God’s throne. Muhammad teaches us that comparisons of religious superiority are wrong, for no one in this world, and perhaps even in the world to come, will know who is the best.

Most Americans that I have spoken are amazed to hear such liberal and flexible statements coming from a religion that they think is ridged and fanatical. But the politicized Islam that has captured so much attention in the Muslim world today is the outgrowth of two recent factors. One is an anti-western reaction and scapegoating due to the great upheavals occurring in all modernizing societies in the 20th and 21th centuries. This reaction is inflamed as the result of several previous centuries of socio-economic decline that took place in the Middle East. Also Judaism and Christianity have already had reforming movements that took generations to bare fruit.. Islam is just starting the process of revival and reform. The Prophet had predicted that over the centuries Muslims would also become more rigid and orthodox, just as the Jews and Christian had. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: You will tread the same path as was trodden by those before you, inch by inch and step by step, so much so that if they had entered into the hole of a lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Do you mean Jews and Christians? He said: Who else?” Muhammad was wise enough to realize that even his own ummah was subject to the circumstances of history.

Nevertheless as a Reform Rabbi, I realize that in many ways Muhammad showed seventh century Jews in Arabia how to reform Orthodox Judaism to bring it back to the simpler rules of the Torah..

Unlike Orthodox Rabbis, Liberal/Reform Rabbis accept the doctrine of nullification – which teaches that one verse in scripture can nullify another, and that rulings can be changed due to changed circumstances. Muhammad provides an excellent example of this principle in the following account. The Prophet originally told women not to visit graveyards, but toward the end of his life, he said to them: “I had told you not to visit graves; now I am telling you to visit them.” The reason was that Arabian women used to wail at graves. The Prophet wanted this practice to be stopped. Therefore, he banned women from visiting graves to start with. After sometime, when Muslim women were better aware of how Islam wants them to behave in different situations, he allowed them such visits. In fact, the Prophet encourages visiting graveyards because such a visit reminds the visitor of his or her own death and the fact that they would have to stand in front of God when their actions are reckoned to determine their reward or punishment. Scholars like Ibn Qudamah, of the Hanbali school of law, make it clear that since this is the purpose of visiting graveyards, both men and women need such visits.

Another important teaching of the Qur’an is that God chose not to create human beings as one nation or with only one religion so that each religion could compete with the others in order to see which religion produces the highest percentage of moral and loving people. As it is written in the Koran [5.48] “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah, so He will let you know (after Judgement Day) that in which you differed.” This is a wonderful further development of the teaching of the Biblical prophet Micah (4:5) that in the end of days-the Messianic Age “All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.”

There is no conflict, nor can there be any conflict, between Judaism and Islam. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a territorial dispute. There are people who would like to make this territorial dispute into a religious one in order to rally support for their side. We must resist this. I believe that the Koran itself predicts the return of the Jewish people to the Land God gave to the descendants of Abraham and his two sons. I believe the reference in the Koran to the land of Israel in Sura V, where God says to Moses and to the Jewish people: “O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has decreed for you”, Koran [5:21]. More important for us today is the statement “WE SAID TO THE ISRAELITES AFTER HIM “DWELL SECURELY IN THE LAND OF PROMISE (THE PROMISED LAND) BUT WHEN THE SECOND OF THE WARNINGS COME TO PASS WE GATHER YOU TOGETHER IN A MINGLED CROWD BANI ISRAIL, Koran [17:104]. This refers to the return of Jews to the Land of Israel that is part of the great upheavals that proceed the age of the final judgment. The age we live in. The mingled crowd refers to both the Palestinians and the Israelis who will share the Promised Land together.

Neither side can claim it has the only right to the land or that its view is the only true one for as we have learned from the Hadith narrated Abu Huraira:The Prophet himself taught that even in the world to come it will not be clear if Moses or Muhammad is the supreme Prophet. Each is supreme for his own faithful community. A Muslim is one who submits to the will of Allah and believes that Allah has sent many different prophets to the many peoples of the world. As a Liberal/ Reform Rabbi I believe that Muhammad was the Prophet sent to the Arab people. I believe that the Qur’an is as true for Muslims as the Torah is true for Jews. Indeed, I love the Hadith Narrated by Abu Huraira that says, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” Following Muhammad’s teaching I repeat that I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Koran. I do respect the Koran very much as a kindred revelation to a kindred people in a kindred language. In fact, the people, language and theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth. The strong support that the Qur’an gives to religious pluralism is a lesson that is sorely needed by the religious fundamentalists of all religions in the world today. As a well known Hadith says, “Prophets are brothers, sons of one father by co-wives. Their mothers are different but their religion is one.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

— Rabbi Allen Maller

Originally posted on The Islam Awareness Blog.

Rabbi Allen Maller is now retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. The introduction to his website shows he is no ordinary rabbi.

We welcome both Jews and non-Jews to our website. People are interested in becoming Jewish for many reasons. Being saved by believing in Judaism as the only true religion is not one of them.

Please explore the various articles on our website and feel free to ask questions. Indeed, if you do not have a questioning spirit Judaism is not for you. Many people find blessings through becoming a part of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Others find they are coming home. You may be attracted by your contact with a Jew or your study of Judaism. However you come to us we welcome you.

At his press conference to mark St Joseph Day, Paulo Coelho stated religions are not in conflict.

As Rabbi Allen Maller notes, the Koran recognises and preaches tolerance of other religions. Those who believed in the one God and did good had a special place, theirs was the path to salvation.

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in the last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from the Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

It is only bigots and extremists who preach intolerance, who think theirs is the one true path.

The Quran places an obligation on learning. Women were granted rights.

The Golden Age of Islam saw a flourishing of the sciences, of the arts, of poetry. Those who made advances in these fields were also devout Muslims, they saw no conflict.

The Prophet was far-sighted and wise enough to see his reforms would become fossilized in dogma and warned against this happening.

Saudi Arabia denounces pro-democracy protests as ‘un-Islamic’
Women and Islam
Reconciliation
The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations

Though the fig tree does not bud

November 14, 2010

On my last night in Iraq, I went for a walk with an Iraqi Christian. It was a wonderful warm evening, the stars were shining and there was a bright full moon. I asked my friend “How can you keep going when everything seems so dreadful?” Without hesitation, he replied with some words from the prophet Habakkuk (3:17-18) — Canon Andrew White

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

— Habakkuk 3:17-18

Canon Andrew White (aka Vicar of Baghdad) was in Iraq as Director of the IRC at Coventry Cathedral, established following the German Bombing of Coventry which destroyed the mediaeval cathedral 70 years ago today.

He was in Iraq during the period of sanctions, The Twin Towers had been demolished and war with Iraq was inevitable.

It was his last night in Baghdad on the eve of the war. He went for an evening walk with an Iraqi Chistian. It was a lovely warm evening the stars were shining.

Although the future seemed bleak, the Iraqis looked forward to better times ahead.

Canon Andrew White flew back to England the next day fearing the future, but hoping that a horrible ending would be better than unending horror. He hoped in vain.

As we walked back to my hotel, the gigantic crossed swords of Saddam’s Victory Arch seemed to reach the sky. Here, heaven and hell met. As I flew back to Britain the next day, I felt intense fear for the people of Iraq. I just hoped that a horrible ending would be better than unending horror. I hoped in vain.

Iraqis are very proud of their Christian heritage. Their country has descended into hell on earth. They are petrified and many Christians have fled Iraq, but those who remain still go regularly to church, such is the strength of their faith.

Also see

Habakkuk 3:17

Iraq

The children of Iraq have names

Dinner with Canon Andrew White

The Fifth Mountain