Friday, July 17, 2015

Religion, Violence, Spirituality and People

I don’t have time to reflect much on these two quotes, both of which I stumbled upon this week (well, I walked carefully into the Stackhouse quote, having decided to watch Q&A because of his appearance on it, and, though I did stumble upon the Reza Aslan quote today [I spotted a link to the video on Facebook], I’d actually seen and very much enjoyed the interview last year some time, and I’m pretty sure there were no stumbles involved in that experience either. I don’t want to seem too clumsy. I’m really quite good at not falling over), so I’ll quickly pop them here and then dash away again.
The first quote is by Reza Aslan, made during an interview on CNN. Aslan was asked, “Does Islam promote violence?” He replied:
Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace, Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent. There are marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children – does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not! People are violent or peaceful, and that depends on their politics, their social world, the way that they see their communities, the way that they see themselves.
And on Q&A this week, John Stackhouse* responded to the question, “Does religion create conflict rather than peace?” by saying:
…what is, of course, striking about spirituality is how it fits the temper of the time. Religion is something given to us. Some imam, some rabbi, some priest tells us what to do. There’s a historical tradition. You kind of take it or leave it, whereas spirituality, it can be what you like, it can be as powerful as a life shaping force. It can be a tingle in my toes when I look at the sunset. So it really does suit us in as much as we want it to be suited and part of our lifestyle. So as to whether it, in fact, encourages violence or peace, of course, it’s up to the individual. It’s entirely up to you.
Actually, now that Ive read those two quotes one after the other, Im reminded of something Rachel Held Evans writes in A Year of Biblical Womanhood:
For those who count the Bible as sacred, interpretation is not a matter of whether to pick and choose, but how to pick and choose. We are all selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed? …

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not, what does it say?, but what am I looking for? I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.
* I haven’t heard John Stackhouse’s name for an awfully long time, but seeing him pop up on the Q&A panel this week reminded me of the mind-blowing, world-tipping effect that reading Finally Feminist had on me, and of the fact that he once took the time to reply very kindly to an email I wrote to him.



    1. Having now seen your Facebook pic, I'm quite certain you're waaaaay too cool for me!

      (But we really should meet. I'll have my people talk to your people.)

  2. oh believe me, I am not cool at all!
    One day Sonia will have an event which we can both make it to!

  3. Do you own Finally Feminist? I'm keen to read it.
    On another note yes I will do my friend setup and introduce you two sometime soon. Do you both want to meet at HSC Showcase?

    1. I forgot to respond to this! I do own Finally Feminist, although it's quite possible I'll never see my copy again (I lent it to a friend in 2010). I think maybe you're beyond the book's argument now, though - it was liberal compared to the Christianity I knew, but now I wonder if I'd find it too conservative.

    2. P.S. Am I too late for the HSC showcase thing?