Daily Riches: Religion and Violence (Jonathan Sacks and Dan Clendenin)

“Sibling rivalry is ‘the most primal form of violence,’ and ‘the dominant theme of the book of Genesis.’  We desire what others have, become rivals for it, and then fight to get it in what we wrongly think is a zero sum game. And so Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim to be the one, true heir of Abraham. We fight to be the sole inheritor of the divine promise. The stories are familiar to those who know their Bibles, but in Sacks’s ‘close reading’ of them, he offers new interpretations in which sibling rivalry is revealed and then subverted. With Isaac and Ishmael, God chooses Isaac, but he doesn’t reject Ishmael. The story of Jacob and Esau is ‘the refutation of sibling rivalry in the Bible.’ Recall how Jacob returned the blessing that he stole from his blind father Isaac. The story of Joseph and his brothers who tried to kill him takes up a third of the book of Genesis—in the end, the victim forgives and the perpetrators repent. Rachel and Leah exemplify the ‘rejection of rejection.’ Sibling rivalry is natural, says Sacks, but these stories remind us that it’s not inevitable. Human beings cannot live without a group identity, and religion might be the most powerful of them all. By definition, groups require an Us and a Them. …There’s no middle ground, no subtlety or nuance, only black and white, in and out. By nature, we extend altruism toward my In group, and hostility toward my Out group. Here again the Hebrew revelation subverts our natural inclinations by commending a radical role reversal. Do not oppress the stranger, the people outside your group. Why? Because you know what it’s like to be oppressed as a stranger in a strange land (Exodus 22.21).  …have mercy on them, remember that you too were once aliens. …Protect the weak, care for widows and orphans, help the poor, speak up for those who have no voice. Do justice, love kindness. Don’t long for power, for you can’t impose faith or truth by force. Religion, argues Sacks, is an anti-politics that lives without power. Instead, it persuades by example.” Dan Clendenin

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite,
but love your neighbor as yourself.
Leviticus 19:18

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does your religion subvert the tendency to create “insiders” and “outsiders?”
  • Does your religion persuade by power … or example?
  • Is there any good reason why Jews, Christians and Muslims must fight with each other? Can you imagine ways we might be able to learn from each other?

Abba, help me see others as insiders, included with me in your love.

For More: Not in God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks

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Thanks for reading/following my blog! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Immigrants as Neighbors (Frederick Buechner)

“When Jesus said to love your neighbor, a lawyer who was present asked him to clarify what he meant by neighbor. He wanted a legal definition he could refer to in case the question of loving one ever happened to come up. He presumably wanted something on the order of: ‘A neighbor (hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part) is to be construed as meaning a person of Jewish descent whose legal residence is within a radius of no more than three statute miles from one’s own legal residence unless there is another person of Jewish descent (hereinafter to be referred to as the party of the second part) living closer to the party of the first part than one is oneself, in which case the party of the second part is to be construed as neighbor to the party of the first part and one is oneself relieved of all responsibility of any sort or kind whatsoever.’ Instead, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the point of which seems to be that your neighbor is to be construed as meaning anybody who needs you. The lawyer’s response is left unrecorded.” Frederick Buechner

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor
to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Luke 10:36,37

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “Anybody who needs you” is a pretty tall order. The next time you have the opportunity, can you just help “somebody” who needs you?
  • Do you sometimes put forth reasons to absolve yourself from the need to help someone in need? Would they pass the Jesus test?
  • If someone robbed your son, leaving him unconscious in a dangerous place, would you think passersby were obligated to help?

“Let nothing, O Lord, disturb the silence of this night.
Let nothing make me afraid. Let me wake refreshed,
ready to love and care for my neighbor
as you have loved and cared for me,
and indeed as I love and care for myself.
For if I do not love others
I cannot fool myself into believing that I love you.
I am, I know, as this day ends very far from such a love,
but hear my prayer.
When I see others, let me see you.
Let me show them the same reverence and respect
that I would show you.
If I love them, I will love you
and I will want for nothing.”
Teresa of Avila

For More: Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner

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If you liked this, please share! – and thanks! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: Community, Stability and Spirituality (Joan Chittister)

“Everything in life, contrary to Madison Avenue’s guarantees, can’t be cured or resolved or eliminated. Some things must simply be endured. Some things must simply be borne. Some things must simply be accepted. Community and relationships enable us to do that. …It is in community where we find out who we really are. It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that gives notice to my nagging devotion to the self. Life with someone else, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about his or her shortcomings as it does about my own. In human relationships I learn how to soften my hard spots and how to reconcile and how to care for someone else besides myself. In human relationships I learn that theory is no substitute for love. It is easy to talk about the love of God; it is another things to practice it. That’s how relationships sanctify me. They show me where holiness is for me. That’s how relationships develop me. They how me where growth is for me. If I’m the passive-victim type, then assertiveness may have something to do with coming to wholeness. If I’m the domineering character in every group, then a willingness to listen and to be led may be my call to life. Alone, I am what I am, but in community I have the chance to become everything that I can be. And so, stability bonds me to this group of people and to these relationships so that resting in the security of each other we can afford to stumble and search, knowing that we will be caught if we fall and we will be led where we cannot see by those who have been there before us.” Joan Chittister

“Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you discovering “who you really are” through your life in community – perhaps as a spouse, sibling, parent, roommate, employee, church member, neighbor? What about you needs to change?
  • Have you discovered in your relationships that some things won’t change and “must simply be endured?” Are you doing that well?
  • Are you engaged in community life so that, you are not only learning about yourself, but changing? Is a probationary approach to relationships hindering your transformation?

Abba, help me to submit to this messy but essential part of spirituality.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog.  I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”