A peaceful Faith, perhaps wishful thinking!
It was Albert Einstein the man that gave us mathematical formulas and scientific solutions that equally attempted a definition of peace when he articulated “peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice of law of order – in short of government”.
Our world is a conflicted mosaic in proverbial claim of cloth perhaps tearing at the seams. Amidst the carnage and mayhem rained in diverse pockets of our collective globe at the hand of those who have earned a right to inflict violence and death on others, one is compelled to pause and ask where is this located, what is its cause.
Naturally if this question is posed to a thousand people we likely to receive a thousand different answers. I have been mulling over the critical aspect of religion or faith and its role in this our denigrating society. I wish I could not write these my thoughts, yet the contemplation compels me to ask some tough questions.
We all regardless of Faith persuasions uncritically claim a natural peacefulness of our faiths. We must desist the temptation to conveniently and narrowly define faith / religion as that which is formalized by way of organized set of doctrine, faith creeds etc. We must accept that even those who reject what is considered a formalized faith practice their own interpretation of faith described as a form of atheism portends a Faith nevertheless. Hence when I talk of Faith I include all whom consciously, subconsciously and inadvertently subscribes to a belief system, which they live by. We are all therefore believers for not believing another’s is to believe your own.
Whilst we all will resist any form of challenge to our Faith articulated as violent. Yet, I must ask at what point does a Faith claim to being peaceful or is to own up to being violent?
Is the claim of a peaceful Faith a natural truth or a make belief reality, where our innate desire for peace compels us to make this claim stand though often on crutches of questionability?
I ask again what makes for a peaceful Faith persuasion, what could be the benchmark for a peaceful and or alternatively a violent faith?
Exactly what informs this peace in the peacefulness, we espouse? Yes, Einstein reminded us peace is the presence of justice of law of order – in short of government, meaning the measurability of peace for Einstein is a recognition an cognizance of presence of justice which finds an efficacy in law and order as framed in governance. Yet the questions are many, whose justice, what law and how is order actualized. Lastly what government, does this imply a democracy, but the world is not a democracy in its totality. So before we can embrace the oft-quoted Einstein we will necessarily need to first arrive at a common epistemology on the basics of what such justice, law, order and government constitute.
When we talk of peace it must compel us to ask do we share a common epistemology on the existence of such peace, perhaps the bigger question is have we afforded ourselves the space and time to develop a common teleology of this assumed peace.
Peace is also “commonly understood as the absence of hostility and retribution, peace also suggests sincere attempts at reconciliation, the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all.”
In recent times the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis has been at pains to preach a message of tolerance one for the other therefore enabling a coexistence of believers of diverse persuasions of Faith expressions. Yet as necessary and noble as this call from arguably the biggest Christian Church expression in modern society may portend, it does not help us to engage what is tolerance in a context where our individual Faiths contest a space no different to any other expression of our society for example economic life in a capitalist society. And we know how violent that economic contestation presents.
How does this tolerance engage the axis of our collective aim to win others over as wayward and in need of being saved?
It would appear to me that though we claim and advocate peace, the fundamentality of our persuasion dictate that we exist to convince others who different to us must needs become like us.
The Christian Faith obligates me as a believer to advance the cause and intention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That in a nutshell suggests I must work tirelessly to spread through prognostication and modeling the message of the Cross of Jesus evidenced in love with Christ as the ONLY Redeemer who died once and for all exemplified in a common humanity.
As noble as this conviction and persuasion may portend, it imbibes unintended and inadvertent assumptions.
Key to this assumption is the belief that others are wrong. If I therefore seek to advance the cause of the Gospel I will increasingly be finding myself engaged in proclaiming Christ as the only way, for rightfully so. This firm conviction on my part necessitates a plausibility if not probability that others are completely wrong and my core task in life is to bring them to the understanding of what I subscribe to regardless of experience of theological persuasion. This calls for praxis in bringing them to an awareness of Christ.
History is replete with examples of this need to persuade others, which resulted in force and ultimately violence. We know it is the same zest and verve that gave rise to a very sad era in the Christendom where the Crusaders in pursuit and persuasion of their Faith compelled others to either accept their advocated faith or face the inevitability of death. According to those who led this Crusade the aim was to advance the Gospel, yet it warranted a sense of grave violence. Let us not forget
Adolf Hitler’s claim of being a Christian opposed to Jews and Judaism was anchored on his conviction that it was the Jews killed Jesus Christ. As crazy as this may sound in our after the fact reasoning, it is not far off if we follow the events of that Paschal in around 32/33AD.
Though Jesus Christ died at the hand of a Roman government who could execute in the Holiest week of the Jewish Faith calendar, the time of Passover and a remembrance to be forgiving, he Jesus a Jew by birth became the subject of a cooked up trial of drummed-up charges. His rights were compromised and all sensible reason discarded for the sake of some who in defense of their faith of Judaism considered him a threat therefore worthy of punishment answerable and only understood in the death of the Cross of Golgotha.
When the gospel as advanced by the Christian Faith came to Africa it came contaminated with a civilization and identity of superiority as advocated and lived through its primary evangelists the missionaries.
The violence of a Faith is made self-evident when see this from a citation in which Sparks (2003:281) remarks on “the difference in colour” described by DF Malan in 1954 to a group of Reformed Church clergymen in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who had asked him to explain the harsh apartheid laws then being enacted: “it is merely the physical manifestation of the contrast between two irreconcilable ways of life, between barbarism and civilization, between heathendom and Christianity, and finally between an overwhelming numerical odds on the one hand and significant numbers on the other”. To survive in such a situation, to avoid being submerged in the black heathendom of Africa, Malan said, the white minority had to “throw impenetrable armour of racial purity and self preservation”.
When we therefore understand Hitler which may sound like an oxymoron, the point is we see a convoluted defense of what we as Christians whether we want to admit to it or not must collectively accept as actioned by someone whom we cannot deny or dispute his claim of being a Christian, at least seen from his vantage point. He amongst others claimed to be “ acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator”. In a 1922 speech he asserts “ my feelings as Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter […] who […] recognized these Jews for what they were ad summoned men to fight against them”. He goes on and says, “ We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity…. In fact our movement is Christian, and to have been chosen by providence.” I guess I am trying to argue the plausibility of the aspect of violence embedded in our faith as actualized by those who call themselves believers.
When we see the actions of ISIS, Boko Haram and all other Islamic groupings we are not confronted with a new reality as we easily and conveniently claim. We are dealing with the same fundamental conviction of a faith stream and persuasion that fundamentally and undeniably associate with Islam as its premise and doctrine. ISIS as quoted in Shoebat asserts “we say to the defenders of he cross, the US, that future attacks are going to be harsher and worse… The Islamic state soldiers will inflict harm on you with the grace of Allah. The future is around the corner”
As in the case of the Christian Crusaders and a Hitler, we dare not deny their claim to their faith from our collective false embarrassment, we dare not claim a right to excommunicate those who profess a common faith with us. When these faith practitioners or as we call them fundamentalists kill the other it is because fundamentally the other represents the ‘infidel’ the ‘kafir’. The same whose food you cant eat, who is defiled regardless whether your immediate neighbor or not. The other is not willing to accept their identity of being Muslim and therefore the doctrines and didache of such Islam lifestyle.
Perhaps our biggest sophism in this season as in all others is to contend, Christianity, Judaism or Islam or any other faith as peaceful. Is it not here that we deceive ourselves? When the lifeless bodies of those infants in Palestine are found on the beach or those who got maimed and scarred for life at the hand of Israeli Army it is in defense of a faith tradition and value system. It is not out of this advocated peacefulness of a faith that Israel shoots but out of a firm persuasion that those on the receiving end are impure and not worthy of a common humanity. When MOSSAD one of the worlds most advanced armies deploy technology to reach people on the other side its not in awareness of their faith as co equals but in denigration of the other whose humanity and faith has long not deserved a right to a common existence.
Equally when the families of Jews are killed by mortar bombs, scud missiles and rocket launched armory from the side of Hamas, it is not with a peaceful intent but to sow carnage and destruction against infidels, the same whose common humanity is questionable and whose faith is irrelevant not deserving any place.
In all the above cases cited the common denominator is not what we see as peace but a faith conviction that has predetermined others not worthy and thus a mission field.
Our season and times necessitates the further question on our claimed faiths can a peaceful faith transition and become violent faith and why? Would such a faith have betrayed itself in praxis?
I am about to conclude that perhaps all our faith share an inherent plausibility for becoming violent, when we are persuaded the cause of our faith assumes a natural preeminence over all and others whom we have determined constitutes a mission-dei.
Perhaps if we honest enough to engage this historical as shown and present truth as experienced in many places in our 2015 world, we arrive somewhere in assisting our appreciation or dismay for what is unfolding today!
It is simply not anymore acceptable to claim any faith as peaceful- for it appears at the epicenter of this gregarious claim lays the impending need to argue what we mean with peaceful when we have not yet engaged that peacefulness as a common obligatory responsibility. It is therefore not far-fetched to ask of us all who share a faith conviction as to what we really mean when we say our faiths are peaceful?
Perhaps we in this season are compelled to have this discourse devoid of the usual emotion and obsession to defend ourselves, which often confirms our misplaced thinking in refusal of hearing others, therefore seeing others easily as enemies!
I admittedly do not purport to have the answers; I equally admit my exploration leaves me personally unsettled since the awareness of the probability that my work to fulfill the Great Commission hold the plausibility of a violent act on my part.
Yes this a musing, and yes I do not know where it will end; yet it is perhaps a socio-critical analysis of Faith as practiced reality.
Let me then close again with Einstein, “The most important endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity for life”
I pray this night, that we all at individual and collective sense find the moral compass to that common morality in which the totality of humanity is respected and celebrated in an equality where my choices for my Faith does not become the weapons against others.