Thursday, September 19, 2019

Not in God's Name

Not in God’s Name

Jonathan Sacks’ Not in God’s Name is rather interesting discourse on sibling rivalry as the cause of religious violence.  His discussion is based largely on the Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud.  He analyzes the story of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Esau and Jacob, and the sisters Laban, Rachel, and Leah.  Sacks points out that what is important about these stories in Genesis was the fact that they led to blessings and redemption of all concerned.

Deuteronomy contains the word ‘love’ more than any other Mosaic books.  To Sacks ‘memory’ has also become a moral force that is found both in Exodus and Deuteronomy.  But the virtue of ‘love’ has to be tempered with ‘justice’ for laws and rights of the poor, and destitute to be upheld.  He addresses the Islamic prediction and divisions that resulted with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.  And Sacks envisions that the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam should be able to live in peace.

It was interesting to learn of the ‘commonalities’ of the three Abrahamic traditions.  Yet Sacks shows that the reading of scripture calls for study and reflection.  For the ‘Word of God’ is subject to different interpretations, and much depends on time and place.  He states how the Hebrew language differs than that of Greek, and how believers in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have differed in their beliefs.  Yet he argues that there should be no place for fundamentalist beliefs in society.  People should do unto others like what they would like to be done to themselves.  And they ought to love God, their neighbor, and the stranger.  For divine living is all about ‘forgiveness’ and ‘reconciliation.’  So why nations can’t heed these principles and live in peace?     

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