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Jesus is Still Weeping: Religions and the Way of Peace

The Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is told in each of the four Gospels in the Christian Bible. If you don’t know the story I highly recommend it. If you do know it, I recommend looking at it again, as if for the first time.

The setting is a tense one. Military forces have just arrived in the capitol city of Jerusalem, along with the Humvees of the day—war horses. Impressive war horses outfitted with impressive armor, mounted by soldiers with equally impressive armor. Then Jesus arrives. He’s riding a donkey. No armaments, no armor.

That part of the story, alone, is very interesting. But then the Gospel of Luke takes it a step further. As Luke tells it, we get this added detail:

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!

I can well imagine that Jesus is still weeping. Weeping at the dead and the deserted and the disenfranchised. And weeping at the religious leaders that maintain—and fan the flames of—the sorts of rhetoric that makes for division, fear, and war.

I have been away for the last several days. I came back to two things:

1) On our campus, a creative, loving, energetic Kidz Camp at which about 30 elementary age kids and high school counselors are learning about God’s creation in all its (ecological and human) diversity, and

2) In my mailbox, a booklet sent to me with “critical information” for my “review” by Christian Broadcasting Networking. The booklet, so the cover letter says, was prepared by a group calling itself “The Truth,” which has researched “authentic” Hadith and Quran texts and arrived at the conclusion that Islam “confronts freedom” and demands “submission.” The final sentence and a half of the enclosed booklet are, “…there is only one inevitable outcome. The answer is war.”

I am humbled and blessed to be the Senior Minister of a faith community which plans, promotes and facilitates the sort of truthful activity evident in number 1), above. AND I am keenly aware that as a faith leader I am part of a group that, in the popular culture, so often promotes the sort of misinformation and hatred evident in 2) above.

As in Jesus’ day, so in ours, there are religious leaders and religious movements willing to abuse their calling in favor of power and wealth. What drives Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and other religious organizations to actively promote such hateful and harmful (mis)information? One could speculate almost endlessly. This much is clear—CBN, like so many of its ilk, either doesn’t know how, or doesn’t care, to recognize “the things that make for peace.”

Are there hateful and radical movements that ground their violence in Islam? You bet. ISIS, nowadays, is a horrible example of such. Does that suggest that Islam is somehow a religion of war? Of course not. No more than the fact that hateful and radical movements that ground their violence in Christianity prove the same about the faith community that I am blessed to lead.

The very word “faith,” as in “faith community,” has to do with living in a relational, trustworthy manner. The very fact—utterly horrific as it is—that in just the last few weeks centuries-old communities in which Christians and Muslims have lived side by side in Iraq have been leveled shows that “faith” communities can and do live faithfully—faithful to their own traditions of co-existence and caring for the whole environment (ecological, human, and religious).

Any group who would destroy is NOT faithful and not worthy of the given religious label it claims. Of course any radical group that kills in the name of Islam is not worthy of the label Islam—as any number of statements condemning such killing by Muslim leaders AND as deeper (than that provided by CBN) reading of the Quran and Hadith and other Muslim scholarship indicates.

And, of course, any Broadcasting Network that would promote and disseminate false, misleading, and fear-mongering information about another religion is not worthy of the label Christian. I hope that Christian Broadcasting Network changes its name to something more accurate, and leaves the label “Christian” to those of us who care to identify, and live out, “the things that make for peace.”