Pax Tecum, Pax Tibi

Rusted Anchors[i]

rusted-anchor

“Anchoring or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.”[ii]  How many rusted anchors are holding you down from accepting new and contradictory information to previously held assumptions?  In a recent NYT article on Donald Trump the author raised the issue of “race and racism, cognitive traps that psychologists call anchoring and what we call first impressions”[iii]

The article discusses Trump’s doubling down the guilt of the central park five despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and convictions wrongly obtained being overturned.  His actions there are a different issue.

How many “Rusted Anchors” are his supporters holding onto based on his 1) false first impressions from his primary debates with fellow establishment republicans and his presentation now, 2) the success of his businesses without revealing his taxes, 3) his honesty now that Trump University suit is moving forward, or 4) what he says about how he treats people and what women and prior small business people say about him?   A good number have finally jumped ship.  The weight simply became too much.[iv]

I would argue the weight became so much that it threatened a different kind of anchor (for some) that relegated political party and affiliation secondary to principle.  Sadly some may have done so for political expediency, but I hope most listened to the anchor of their soul.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”[v] Hebrews 6:19

 christian-anchor-symbol

This is an entirely different anchor that needs protecting and care.  “Epitaphs on believers’ tombs dating as far back as the end of the first century frequently displayed anchors alongside messages of hope. Such expressions as pax tecumpax tibiin pace, or “peace be with you” speak to the hope Christians felt in their anticipation of heaven.”

Anchors can be bad or good.  It requires constant vigilance and discernment – both in the political and religious realm.  How many religious leaders are selling their faith for favor (or donations) from Donald as even their devout congregations are pulling away?   What are your anchors?

I have long been a Democrat as democrats support a diversity of social justice issues that are low on the republican ticket (excepting pro-life).  My position is “Choose Life.”   The Catholic vote has been in play like it has never been before due to Trump’s behavior and the inclusivity preaching of our beloved current Pope Francis.[vi]    I try to discern my values, my social justice concerns, my recognition of the dangers of pharisaical preaching, the risk of pride, of intellectualism, and the traps of false anchors (religious, political, cultural, and herd mentality).

With undue suffering (perhaps a vintage anchor of catholic guilt) a vote on either side of the ticket is not a vote for idealism of catholic ideology.  It is my imperfect guess on what is best right now with the given choices on all the issues (without grandstanding, without a public audience, without demonization, without rationalization of the many imperfections of our system).  A large focus of mine given 26 years of social work experience is related to liberation theology themes and hearing the cry of the poor.[vii]

There are too many issues to address them all here.  However, one issue can be addressed.  Your anchor is defined by you.  You define it by feeding it accurate information, by discerning sincere dialogue and information, and by continuously refining and caring for your thoughts, your actions, and yes your vote.

If your vote be different than mine after you have did your due diligence (minus the poison of the brightest rhetoricians, the simpleton good ole fellow routine, or fear mongering fire and brimstone types)[viii] I trust our God will find grace for us both according to our needs and deeds.

Disclaimer: I have a responsibility to direct you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church[ix] for official church doctrine – I am wholly unqualified to represent or pretend to represent the intricacies and the mystery of the faith and my wayfarer journey as a believer.    I have sought out personal guidance on some of these issues from clergy and found my anchor on some issues – but the journey and the struggle never ceases.

journey

Peace Be With You….

Footnotes:

[i] https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS495US495&espv=2&biw=911&bih=425&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=steel+rusted+anchor&oq=steel+rusted+anchor&gs_l=img.12…21325.25860.0.28241.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1c.1.64.img..0.0.0.wRrETletl1M#imgrc=lMZfG87VC3QPfM%3A

[ii] https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/anchoring.htm

[iii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/opinion/why-trump-doubled-down-on-the-central-park-five.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-4&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

[iv] The same argument can be made for Hillary supporters I am sure.

[v] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/what-is-origin-of-anchor-as-christian-symbol-and-why-do-we.html

[vi] http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/

[vii] http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/social-justice/2010/01/do-you-hear-cry-poor-liberation-theology-today

[viii] You also have a responsibility to not spread false anchors or misinformation – the poisons of solid anchors.

[ix]http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

 

Abortion and Politics

The Conservative Christian (Republican) 10 point inquiry:
 
I am interested in “Pro-Life” single ticket voters that are for criminalizing abortion. This single issue item is perhaps the one thread that staunch Evangelical Christians and Catholics raise when other policies or the candidates themselves become untenable or unsupportable. The rationale is “I have to support the lesser of two evils solely on the abortion issue for strategic reasons for pro-life cause.” Assume the pro-life position is without a doubt the correct and moral decision of the land so we do not have to address the debate on when does life start and the value of all human life.
If you are one of these voters please respond to these questions on how a conservative Supreme Court, presidency, and house would address the following issues?
Premise: Abortion is murder. Our laws will prosecute anyone murdering the unborn child directly by performing abortions, anyone indirectly assisting with abortions, and any accomplices involved in the execution of the unborn child. If you had an up and down vote on this law, would you support this premise (assume some exceptions for medical emergencies that threaten women’s life and consensus on time frame from conception)? Yes or No? (If no, do not answer any more questions. You would not qualify as true “Pro-Life” supporter. The difficulty with religion is we deal with absolutes – we are answerable to the ideal. If we apply our religious standards to our law the answer cannot be half-way?)
1) Juries in the United States have given life sentences to 43% of convicted murders and death sentences to 4% of this group. Do you support sentencing the person who performed the murder of the unborn to the death penalty, a life sentence, or a very long sentence? Yes or No?
2) Accessory to murder conviction rates vary depending on if it was pre-murder or after the fact. Given our legal system, any abortion could lead to convicting the principal performer (doctor), the women, and any accomplices (father or person who helped pay/transport). All would face significant jail time. Do you support this law? Yes or No?
3) Do you know that Rose versus Wade was decided by a conservative court and that Harry Blackman, appointed by a republican president is the primary author of this famous court case? Yes or No?
4) Given that, do you have confidence that a republican president will appoint a Supreme Court justice that would support your views and change the law given a conservative court ensured that a woman has the constitutional right over her own body? Yes or No?
5) Before “Roe versus Wade” 17% of all deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth was the result of illegal abortion. Abortion has been happening since and prior to the life of Jesus Christ. Knowing that reversing Roe versus Wade will not stop abortions, will create an industry of illegal abortion, and lead to many deaths of women, and are you prepared to still criminalize abortion? Yes or No?
6) What steps are you willing to take to ensure this law treats all citizens fairly? How will ensure the wealthy (and others) do not subvert their economic privilege to have abortions safely from medical providers outside governments reach? If you cannot do that you have misapplied justice and unfairly criminalized the marginalized in our society. How can you address this issue?
7) Women’s ability to defer pregnancy by use of contraception and abortion has given women the ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation while still being able to have intimate relations the same as men. If women are to lose this right to govern their own bodies what laws are you willing to legislate to ensure they are able to keep equal access to economic and social life of our nation (paid maternity leave, equal pay, stronger non-discrimination laws)?
8) Theologically, can you enlighten our readers on the scriptural basis that promotes criminalizing abortions from the New Testament only and provide us your knowledge on abortions during Christ life time?
9) Since 1980 on abortions have gone down under democratic presidencies and up under republican presidencies as they pursue different social and economic policies that affect people’ access to health care, safety nets, education, and employment. You can research it. Can we not find the political will power to promote education, job creation, access to cultural development, and overall promoting of a humanistic and spiritual society without resorting to criminalization of something Christians and Catholics are not adhering to despite their beliefs?
10) How do we hypocritically promote criminalization, support defunding planned parenthood, when a bulk of our faithful are driven to utilize abortion and medical services – in part due to a deep failure in our social contract to have equal access to what our society has to offer?
There are many more questions than answers. This is not a pro-abortion post. It is a “Choose Life” post. But I do really want to hear from conservative Christians and Catholics how you would address the aftermath of a Roe versus Wade decision?
Many Catholic Democrats have weighed these issues and came out of the tunnel recognizing using the courts to address this issue is the least effective option to addressing all the other issues and winning the day by love, compassion, support, and modeling. The questions above deserve serious answers if we are to imprison people and take away a woman’s rights for an unborn child’s right.
In the end – the answer to reducing abortion or ending abortions is not a single-item or single party issue.

Addiction and Spirituality

 

mindbodysoul

“In my experience, nothing torments us more than longing.  Some people have been so violently shaken in their lives from the earliest days that they cannot now, so to speak, allow themselves any great longing or put up with a long period of tension, and they find compensation in short-lived pleasures that offer readier satisfaction.”  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer* was writing his family from his prison cell reconciling his anticipated release of December 17, 1943 was not to be.  The longing he was referencing was homesickness – but the message he conveyed was at the great human condition of substitutes being an ill-advised remedy for human relationships and spirituality.  In this five to six page letter he expresses his own struggles to remain whole, as much as he can be, without succumbing to despair and escapism:  “there is nothing worse in such times than to try to find a substitute for the irreplaceable.  It just does not work and leads to greater indiscipline, for the strength to overcome tension (such strength can only come from looking the longing in the face) is impaired and endurance becomes even more unbearable….

As far as I know Dietrich was not an addict, gambler, or alcoholic.  However, how much of addiction is driven by shattered lives and/or longing?  Many are aware of causality factors that increase the likelihood of addiction vulnerabilities like early childhood trauma (see ACE study) or genetic predispositions.  While these are not to be ignored many fall into the same trap without any evidence of these factors being present.  Look at the recently released story of news caster Elizabeth Vargas. ( http://abcnews.go.com/Health/abc-news-anchor-elizabeth-vargas-long-battle-alcoholism/story?id=41980399).

How many substitutes do we have for meaningful human relationships?  How much time do we allow ourselves and others to nurture these relationships?  And assuming there is a God, humor me here if you are an atheist, how hollow must our existence be if we have walled off such an immense and unimaginable source of love, joy, mercy, hope, and peace? How much time do we allow ourselves to explore our higher being, our ethics, and our shared humanity?  Even without a higher power – surely we have higher human values that what we exhibit today.

It is abundantly clear the devastation of alcohol, drugs, gambling and other addictions is thunderously rampaging through our communities across the nation.  These devastated lives are further damaged by societal ignorance and denial, self-loathing and shame, and an absence of understanding existential longing and needs.  How many people have tried recovery and failed?  How many have supported loved ones only to be disappointed?

There is a place for professional help.  Get it.  There is a place for self-help. Get it.  These can be very effective bridges but are not a substitute for finding the answer to longing, to sitting with conflict and pain, and to connecting to the essence of what makes you whole.  Address little things and big things – no stone is too small to bring you happiness.

 “Let pass, dear brothers, every pain;

What you have missed I’ll bring again.”

Eph 1:10

Dietrich explores this passage in-depth in his letter.  He explains with faith in Jesus Christ he will be made whole again.  This gives him sustaining strength.  But note, this sustaining strength is after and above his actions:  he is paying attention to the details of his everyday discipline in thinking, reading, physical exercise, attention to detail, appreciation of loved ones, demonstration of kindness to others, forgiveness, and prayer.  Belief in God and Recovery are not passive activities.

I am at my best when I am open to love from others, open to spirituality and grace, accepting of the uncertainty of life, and humbly enjoying the present moment.  It is not easy for me and I venture to say it is not easy for most.  If you are open to God, find time with him.  If you are spiritually suffering find a spiritual advisor.   You need not have an addiction to enjoy a spirituality filled life!

If you are not open to God, find what you are open to that sustains you while “doing no harm to self or others.”  This motto is good for both the believer and unbeliever!

Here are some ideas that you can do while searching for your way down the path to wholeness:

  1. Give blood today.
  2. Sign up to be an organ donor.
  3. Go to the library.
  4. Volunteer at Habitat Humanity or other local organizations.
  5. If you need help – call someone.
  6. Smile with eye contact at people you pass – just briefly (don’t be creepy)!
  7. Reply to my post with ideas that people can do without any cost to feel good and seek peace, tranquility, wholeness, and happiness.
  8. Share with others if you think it will help.

God bless, and if you have read this post, may you find what you are looking for safely and with expediency.

purpose

 

*For more about who Dietrich Bonhoeffer was please visit this site for a start: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416760/awe-inspiring-heroism-dietrich-bonhoeffer-st-karnick

 

Simplicity

I had plenty of adversity today.  But that is not my focus.  Only a hundred pages into a  novel, Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War, and a cord strikes home:

 “After dinner they read books, sitting on either side of the fire.  They went to bed early in the room at the back of the house.  Isabelle had painted it and sewn the curtains.”  

The novel is on loan to me from a person who appreciates literature, loves family, and knows a portion of life’s secrets, the intersection of suffering and joy.  That escapes many. These two lines in their simplicity define the complexity of finding true happiness.

Today I bought to work 12 DVDS that a number of my staff listed as their favorite films. Thanks to amazon and microwave popcorn I was able to create a quick thank you to my staff.  Leaving today half of the films were taken home by staff and popcorn for relaxation.  A small deed — but so gratifying.

Another staff person stopped me today to tell me how a gentleman enjoys the chess game that is facing the walkway out front of our office.  Myself and a colleague have a game set up with one or two moves a day for all to see.  Many people stop on the walkway and study the game.  It is shocking, given the community has a stigma of being rough and other undesirable names  that many stop and enjoy the complex game.

Our plants were dying a slow death.  Beth only left a few weeks ago and already the plants have succumbed to neglect.  A neighboring business had a person who catered to their sites plants and saw our plants dying.  She grabbed one of my staff and asked to save our plants.  They have been rescued and will be returned by anonymous.

Everyday I am surrounded by wonderful people and opportunity to enjoy life.

A day in the life of Joe.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Freaks: Martyrs: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus: The Ultimate Jesus Freaks by DC Talk

“There are more Christian martyrs today than there were in ad 100–in the days of the Roman Empire. Now in the twenty-first century, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, more than 150,000 Christians are martyred around the world every year.”

When I think of modern-day martyrs I think of burning monks who set themselves afire as more than a 140 Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire (gently called self-immolation).  The first historic “burning monk” was a photograph taken 53 years ago on June 11, 1963, depicting the dignified yet horrific death by fiery suicide of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in Saigon by photographer Malcolm Wilde Browne:

downloadBurning Monk

In recent years these Buddhist Monks have won my admiration for their pro-active self-sacrifice.  Their oppressors try to oppress without visibility to deny martyrdom – so these Monks denied them invisibility.  Our Christian culture does not teach self-immolation.  It does teach being prepared to sacrifice for your faith as the greatest Martyr known to mankind did for us.  And many are paying with their lives.  This is just so depressing (after anger jolts thru the veins).  How have we not learned anything from the Holocaust?  How do we not make the same mistakes in our own outrage and fear?

Jesus Freaks is written for teenagers and raises awareness of scripture and history of Christian Martyrs up to and including current day Christian Martyrdom.   As a book it gives short, easy to read stories of past and present Martyrs – mostly past.  It is also short on evidence and written more in an oral tradition manner.  It finishes with a call to pray and advocacy and, as it is a christian book, a call to Jesus Christ. It spiked my interest in just how bad is the world today for Christian believers.

Our Christian understanding in America is limited to perceived oppression that we may have with secular law and the blurry division of church and state.  However, the Pew research center reported in 2014 that “Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group, with persecution against them reported in 110 countries.” Open doors reports that 322 christians are killed each month for their faith.

Can this be true?  Every month?  If so. every Christian must “Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don’t forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them.”  Hebrews 13:3

Two links below track Christian persecution.  Other sites track all religious persecution across the globe.  The killings and torture are persistent and to disturbing according to these sites.

“According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.”

We are anesthetized to the violence by repeated exposure both to our own violence within our country and to international horrors as well.   How do we stop these atrocities I do not know.  One answer to stopping persecution and violence, both home and abroad, starts with each of us having a voice and not being silent.   Another answer is…….

pray

Pew research link:  http://cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-boland/pew-study-christians-are-world-s-most-oppressed-religious-group

Voices of Martyrs Link:  http://www.persecution.com/public/aboutVOM.aspx?clickfrom=%3d6d61696e5f6d656e75

Charity rater link:  http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4700

Open Doors:  https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/

 

 

Isenheim Altarpiece: A Portrait of Agony; a Message of Hope

300px-Grunewald_Isenheim1

I cannot imagine caring for patients with “St. Anthony’s Fire” in the 1500s.  Our medicines have come along ways and palliative care nurses are by the sides of those facing unremitting symptoms, torment, and anguish.   Nevertheless, patients with serious conditions are faced with their own mortality and the instinctual drive to defy our destiny with ashes.

When to fight on, what medicines to accept, when to let go, how to reach an integrated decision reflective of the self, of the spirit, and of your loved ones amidst uncertain medical prognosis.

The painting above captures the agony of the crucifixion, the friends and family by Christ side, saints on the side panels, and the release from earthly suffering on the bottom panel. It served the patients at the Monastery of St. Anthony four centuries ago who were facing certain death by providing hope and faith.

Yesterday I prayed the twenty-third psalm in a hospital chapel for a patient I did not know.  The chapel was far removed from patient care and barely adorned.  A janitor in the backround drove a wax floor cleaner maintaining the appearance of cleanliness and order in the corridors of acute care.  The sanitization of death, illness, and suffering somehow only increases suffering.

A corridor or two away my wife, a palliative care nurse, spent two hours that evening being present to acknowledge agony, clarify prognosis, and guide a family to reach an integrated decision.    Some recover from the immediate health crisis, some postpone its inevitable outcome, and some prepare for the end without further recourse.  Theresa brings the artwork to life in practice despite its absence in the hospital santuary.  It is a calling.  We all have one.  What is yours?

In the artwork above is something for each of these trajectories.  None of us escape this earth without suffering and without dying. If we are lucky we will be connected to life’s depth of mystery and spirituality.  If we are lucky, when we are facing our own mortality, we will have an angel of mercy at our side guiding our decisions, alleviating our suffering where possible, and sharing our pain.  If we are lucky this will provide us enough peace to face whatever crosses we have to bear today and the remaining days we have on earth.

Post inspired by Theresa’s work and NY Times article on Altarpiece.    References below.

psalm23

 

A psalm of David.

 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

“Sculpted by Niclaus of Haguenau and painted by Matthias Grünewald in the 1550s, the altarpiece was made for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim, which had a hospital that treated, among other ailments, the skin disease known as St. Anthony’s fire. (Today the altarpiece is on view at the Musée Unterlinden in France.)

The altarpiece, Mr. Atkins said, spoke to both the hospital’s often terminally ill patients and those who treated them. On the panels, Jesus’s Crucifixion is depicted as especially grisly. His skin is riddled with blemishes, and his fingers are grotesquely curled. On the ground, witnesses to his death are anguished.

“Many of us can relate to this on an individual level, or knowing someone who has fallen ill and had to grapple with all the pain,” Mr. Atkins said.

But the altarpiece also shows Jesus’s ascension into heaven. And therein lies salvation. “The pain is temporary,” Mr. Atkins said. “There is release.”

NYT article with illustration commentary: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/travel/isenheim-altarpiece-musee-unterlinden.html?contentCollection=weekendreads&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=c-column-middle-span-region&region=c-column-middle-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-middle-span-region

History of the art piece:  http://www.stanleymeisler.com/smithsonian/smithsonian-1999-09-grunewald.html

The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor

A 600 plus page fictional story of an Irish family and Father Kennedy’s pastoral life. Fascinating use of Irish humor and Russian pessimism from an American author.  I would like to say a hidden gem of American literature – but it was published in 61 and won the pulitzer prize in 62….so perhaps only hidden from me.  Captures a generation of relationships thru the eyes of Father Kennedy, including the shallowness of a Seinfeld character to the depths of life’s search for meaning.

Rating:  10 of 10 for Catholics (must read).  8 of 10 for everyone else.

Review of Resistence to Evil

June 26 marks the birthday of one of the great pioneers of liturgical reform in North America: Virgil Michel, OSB (he was born in 1890— happy 126th, Virgil!). He made a great many contributions to the liturgical movement throughout his career, but arguably the most significant was the connection he relentlessly drew between liturgy and […]

via Justice, Evil, and Worship – Remembering Virgil Michel, OSB — Daily Theology

The Energy of Prayer: How to deepen your spiritual practice by Thich Nhat Hanh

A renowned Vietnamese Zen master dicusses the power of prayer and meditation and its impact on the self.  Draws from all religions (Budhism, Christianity, Islam) and secular taught meditation.  Hammers and chisels away  at the limiting words we use to define the creator, the ultimate absolute being and where we may direct our prayers: G_d, Yahwey, Buddha, Allah.
Regardless of your chosen faith he makes the case for deep, conscientous, practiced prayer and meditation.  He even at one point reviews The Lords Prayer line by line to pullout mindful and insightful thought on each line.  The three great religions are monothiestic.  Lets assume they are all right.  Our paths to a universal absolute being may vary, but our aim the same.  In the end, compassion, love, and present moment awareness and action reign supreme.  How to live this way takes practice.  Rating: 8

“Odi ergo sum. I hate therefore I am” : The two sides of Islamic belief

“Odi ergo su.” is a quote  from Umberto Eco, author of The Prague Cemetery (I book and author I do not know).   It is easy to see how extremist in our society and around the world thrive on hatred.  Below is a critical and biased view of Islam based on several readings I have read the last two days.  It summarizes I believe why and how non-muslims fear (and sometimes hate) Muslims.  It is biased and raises questions that when raised  people accuse the questioner of being prejudicial.  I accept that risk and ask that if you respond please do so with kindness, compassion, and information that can help all readers understand Islam.  I also request that non-muslims reading this not use it to promote hatred as well.  It is an amatuer review.  A starting place.    Is Islam a religion of peace or of violence?

The Story of Mohammed Islam Unveiled by Harry Richardson is a 99 cents purchase that I bought by error while attempting to buy another book (The Sealed Nectar | Biography of Prophet Muhammad) which is only 3.99.   Unfortunately the latter book is quite long and may take me awhile to review.  Perhaps the easiest review of Muhammad and Catholics is “Understanding Islam:  A guide For Catholic Educators[i].   Obviously not an unbiased source but I am obligated to provide it given my own faith.

Richardson’s book is a compilation of attacks on the origins of the Prophet Muhammad.  He provides a two prong attack that is quite successful despite a somewhat amateurish presentation (that also can entice unprepared readers to accept his positions uncritically).  His premise is if the world was educated on Muhammad’s true biography they would understand better the threat Islam presents to society and freedom.  Prong one looks at Muhammad’s use of warfare and Jihad.  Prong two looks at present day Islam and it’s conundrum of moderates being silenced by the actual scripture of the Koran and other books and the Prophets teaching.  I do not recommend this book, however, it has ignited my interest in how society in general and Muslims in particular, can explain and detail the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The book also cites multiple examples of how Islam and the Prophets name are utilized to promote conquest, violence, oppression and other atrocities.  If I were looking to be anti-muslim this is the book.  One reviewer put it this way:

“Now, if you are however an Islamophobe, you will LOVE this book, because it will give you what you want to believe, even though the information in it is contrary to the truth of what Islam is and Muslims are. This book succeeds in making Islam the enemy, and for people who need an enemy to reinforce their identity, this book will make Muslims as morally repugnant as is Islamophobically possible.  Odi ergo sum- I hate therefore I am – really sums up this book.”[ii]

For a counter check I watched a 42 minute video on Muhammad that treats him as a Prophet.  This film is clearly an apologist pro-Islam film.  Angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and gave a new message of hope and serenity.[iii]  Born in 570 0f the Common Era according to history channel video on Muhammad?  Note the dropping of 570 AD.  He was raised as an orphan within a culture of Arab spiritual beliefs that honored many Gods.   He officially became God’s messenger in the year of 610 as a father of 5 daughters.  He received several revelations from God.  From his received revelations came the Koran – God’s Holy Book.  Armed with the Koran and Muhammad, the poetry of the Koran began to win followers from other tribes.  The words became music.  Muhammad claims return to one true God – Allah, the God of Abraham, of the Jews, the God of Jesus Christ.  The video describes him a mild mannered merchant!  Monotheism is back.  Islam as an act of surrender to God’s will.

Muhammad faced criticism from the clerics of the day.  Violence and torture ensued.   Arabs were divided.  His wife and uncle died.  His followers were being persecuted.  On a night in 620 he received another vision of all previous prophets (a unifying vision) that led him to leave Mecca.  He fled just as the other sects agreed to assassinate him.  Medina is born.  A community bound together by a faith and by agreement.  The Torah and the gospels have become distorted.  Pray towards Mecca not Jerusalem.

Now, the new prophet, Muhammad, serves as messenger of God for Islam and as head of state.  The video at 24 minutes in gently prepares why and how Muhammad became to lead an army for the defense of Islam.  Jihad is born.  Justice and armed defense is now back.  It is used as a struggle for the survival of Islam – to establish peace.  Respond as necessary with financial, military, whatever is needed to defend Islam.  For Muhammad, having left Mecca with his followers and going to a new land without resources, he (by decree of Allah), turned to Jihad of attacking and raiding other tribes as a “defense” of Islam!  The battle of Badr Muhammad shows both military strength compassion at the same time!  Muhammad reportedly prayed:

“God this is Quraish. It has come with all its arrogance and boastfulness, trying to discredit Thy Apostle. God, I ask Thee to humiliate them tomorrow. God, if this Muslim band will perish today, Thou shall not be worshipped.[iv]

Islam uses this battle today as part of their foundation of being predestined, being the truth, the one way.   It seems to sidestep the idea that they were not being attacked but were attacking a caravan with intent to plunder and steal resources.  Medina and Mecca would war for a few more years – and the video presents this as Medina struggling for its survival.  Again it ducks the issue that it is Medina that was the aggressor against Muhammad’s former home.  In the year of 630 Islam marched on Mecca.  He destroyed 365 Idols and vanquished falsehoods.  He brought peace to Arabia.  Islamic enlightenment and the word of Islam spread and blossomed!  Muhammad’s life remains the ideal for Islam.  The video ends with how extremist misuse verses of the Koran for violence and leave out Muhammad’s message for compassion and forgiveness.  However, the video ducks the question of a vision of Islam that only allows for compassion and forgiveness for those that accept Islam?

“If they were polytheists they could resist and be executed or enslaved, or they could accept the message of monotheism and recognize Muhammad as the prophet of God. Jews and Christians, since they were monotheists whose prophets were recognized as forerunners of Muhammad, were given the possibility of submitting to Muhammad’s authority and paying a special tax, the jizyah, based on the qur’anic verse in Surah 9:29, in return for the freedom to practice their religions within certain limits. This became the practice of Muslim conquerors in the centuries following Muhammad’s death.”[v]

That being said:

“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.[vi] 

And Muslim leaders have responded in kind with a “Common Word. “[vii]

Despite these overtures of our leadership in both theological paradigms, there remains the conflict of Islam’s actions and development as a nation of peace and compassion.   Our own Pope is limited between the olive branch and the reality of Islam today.[viii]  At the root of Islam is a drive to conquer and establish Islamic rules that promote a just and peaceful society as defined by Islam.   The ends justify the means.  While Christians made the same error at times thru the Crusades and other acts – they did not have justification from the Gospels.  Islam has justification built into the Koran and the life of Muhammad.

As for it being the religion of peace “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.[ix]  And its early growth was based on armed conquest.

Islam does not have one leader or one body and cannot address this conflict of presentation.  I believe most Muslims are peaceful and compassionate people and are taught the fundamental peaceful aspects of Islam – but lurking underneath is this fundamental oppressive theology that drives belief on repression, conquest, and limiting freedom.   Non-Muslims are treated as the enemy.

Perhaps “The Sealed Nectar” will provide me greater insight into Islam.   Perhaps educated theologians or Muslim believers will provide response that enlightens this contradiction.

[i] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[ii] Review by ReemK10 @ good reads

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w4TH-giaps

[iv] https://www.al-islam.org/articles/battle-badr

[v] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[vi] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

[vii] http://rissc.jo/docs/20-acw/20-ACW-5.pdf

[viii] https://www.jihadwatch.org/2016/05/hugh-fitzgerald-pope-francis-islam-and-christianity-share-the-idea-of-conquest

[ix] http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

 

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