Posted by: sean | September 20, 2006

Christian zionism

National Public Radio’s Fresh Air has a show on Christian Zionism. Terry Gross interviews Pastor John Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel, as well as Israeli journalist, Gershom Gorenberg and American journalist, Max Blumenthal. The interview with Hagee is particularly interesting and disturbing, but it’s a shame that Gross lets him off the hook so easily. She lets statements like Muslims “have a mandate to kill all Jews and Christians” go without being challenged. Here are some verses that go directly contrary to this commonly misheld belief:

Sura 5:69 – Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.

Sura 5:82 – …and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.

Sura 25:63 – The worshippers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”

Sura 28:55 – And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say: “To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we do not seek out the ignorant.”

My guess is that it’s because she doesn’t know enough about Islam to know that that his statements are demonstrably false. But there’s not really much excuse for her timidity in questioning the idea that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment from God because New Orleans had too many homosexuals.

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Responses

  1. Wooooshhh.. From the Vatican to late night Christian right radio talk shows, there’s too much anti-Islam bashing nowadays. It disturbed me enough when Pope Rotweiller chose jaded, old, white, European farts for his immediate Vatican cohort-ministry last year, but the recent accuations of Muhammad being the “Devil’s creature” just cuts the cake.

    In your case, I would be careful about two dangerous assumptions:

    1.) Theological Evidence – It’s usually very unproductive to debate against theologians using hand picked biblical evidence. When Al-Jazeera once asked Bin Laden, “Is it not against Islam to kill innocent people?” His response, needless to say, was pretty good. Bin Laden, in fact, quoted *more* passages from Quran than the antagonistic interviewer could ever dream of. In other words, he chose such passages through *principled* reasoning. The point is that hermeneutics is a dangerous, yet powerful interpretive tool. You’re doing the same thing. Most biblical literature, in general, is full of stylstic wrath in the first place.

    2.) “Islam” as a unitary entity – Not to push the PC envelope too far, but there are many, many Islams out there; we’re talking about a religion which extends from Morocco to Indonesia, and each of which interpret Islam in different ways. Too many dangers to start from this apriori assumption. Take, for example, the absolute fetish in examining “Islamic networks” and how such conceptions lead to our prejudices (academia is pretty bad here). In any case, to say that one “doesn’t know enough about Islam” denies the multiple complexities of “Islam” itself. I don’t want to push this very minor point too far, but I think it’s necessary to bring up some sort of light in our present day dark-room ignorance.

    -KM

  2. 1. There are certain misconceptions, things that people are convinced are in the Bible or in the Qu’ran, which aren’t. When someone says, “the Bible says…” or “the Qu’ran says…” often times, the things they purport to be in one or anther holy text, particularly when it comes to someone else’s holy text, are not actually there. This is no different from if someone said something altogether wrong about the oeuvre of Descartes and another persn “hand picked” evidence from his works to prove that person wrong. That’s what textual analysis is. Sometimes, particularly with holy texts, there is evidence for several, often contradictory, assertations. But not in this case.

    At the end of the day, Bin Laden is not a religious scholar, and if pitted up against a theologian from al-Azhar, I think we would find a lot of his theological musings less than “pretty good.” Just as it might be of interest for a born-again abortion bomber to have a conversation with a professor at Harvard’s Divinity School.

    2. Right, I’ve also read Edward Said’s article in Harper’s, and I’ve seen first-hand the differences in Islams in places like Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Uzbekistan. I’ve been to Sufi Nashqbandi mosques in Bokhara as well as al-Haram as-Sharif in Jerusalem and Shi’a mosques in Lebanon.

    Saying that Terry Gross probably doesn’t know enough about Islam to debunk obviously untrue assertions by a nutjob apocalypse peddler does not imply that Islam is a monolith or “deny multiple complexities,” because before one can interest oneself in the multiple and diverse variations of Islam in the world, one would have to know certain basic tenents of the faith, such as the five pillars.

  3. Late response here.

    Sure, it is absolutely correct that “one would have to know certain basic tenets of faith” if one attempts to evaluate a religion. Yes, one simply does not have the right to even *criticize* Islam-as-religion if s/he does not even know the five pillars, i.e.

    However, I want to stress symbolic *logic* within such texts, and in this sense, it is necessary to distinguish between “descriptive” statements and “prescriptive” measures. In any text, especially classical ones, (Qu’ran, Odyssey, Old Testament, Karma Sutra, or otherwise), one must emphasize *secular* reasoning, rather than fall to the prey of reading such texts as morally advising *both* descriptive AND prescriptive measures; i.e. “thou shall not kill” as a statement IN itself, and a statement FOR itself.

    Now, the whole enterprise of theology requires the complex understanding (rationalism) of religious logic and the very existence of God (take Descartes here). Philosophers and theologians often debate IF Descartes is more philosophy than theology, and vice versa. Yet, it’s silently understood that the pursuit to intertwine theology and secular philosophy just can’t mix, EVEN if they operate as a working synthesis. Finally, it’s been OK to “hand-pick” theological stuff as long as it proves itself rational, and then separate such parts from the biblical “evidence”. The Western Enlightenment took care of that.

    Yet, if we are to make arguments about the “truisms” and “falsities” of a religion, I would only go far as to empirically verify such ideals by elaborating on material institutions that have come about. If a religious text results in some kind of institutional destiny, I would consider that as a real *norm* that came about from religion, for the right or/and wrong reasons. But to say that something in Islam is “right” or “wrong” *through* the text itself results in grand headaches, not to mention pretty bad historical results.

    On the basis that religion can do both great and horrible things, I won’t critize or comment on *Islam-itself*, but I further won’t ever hesitate to bash on fundamentalist institutions. “Your fundamentalist government sucks for all of these real-world reasons… but I won’t ever engage you in a theological debate about what’s right and wrong.”

    -km


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