I’ve been listening to Son of Hamas audiobook, and got to thinking…
Hassan Yousef (one of the seven founders of Hamas) was as “Christian” as St Francis. In his heart–he knew deeply and practiced all that was holy, kind, merciful, just, good, humble. In a word: selfless love and honest integrity. He is a devout Muslim.
“Walk towards God and He will run toward you.” I read that in 2002, on an introduce-the-highschool-class display case in a Chicago suburb. It was the favorite quote of a beaming girl in a headscarf, the only one in the whole class to bravely identify herself as Muslim, in the post 9-11 tensions. Walk towards God and He will run toward you!
He does come. He doesn’t only answer his favorite clan, or those with the correct theology. He does not desert any of His children who look up, calling to Him. He comes. So the postmodernists who say all religions lead to God, are on to something. We all turn, in our various ways, to a Higher Power who is Goodness and Love. And He comes to us, for He is gracious.
But Hassan Yousef couldn’t condemn terrorism. He couldn’t stand up to Islamic men of a different kind of religious fanaticism, one of killing (and torture and paranoid sexual fantasy– the same as sixteenth-century european witch trials). Like tolerant westerners, he too could say that personally couldn’t stomach the killing–but he couldn’t judge/condemn/rebuke those who did. He had no theological backing.
And that is why doctrine matters too. The heart can learn all from God, by just yearning towards him in a selfless life. But the mind must be given words, words of truth, to fight the violent perversions of faith and twisted men.
Because those violent perversion of faith eat humankind. They destroy the sacred (ripping and stomping upon Torah scrolls, cutting the throat of child after child, meting out ‘justice’ by rape, burning to death non-virginal teenage girls, ripping an infant limb from limb, etc.).
Nowadays we call it ‘genocide’….at a conference on genocide studies at Penn, I heard a woman describe how genociders typically attack what she termed “life-force symbols”, that is (1) the aged of the community (its history), (2) the young of the community (its future), (2) their sexuality (gang rape, or force them to act out with eachother in aberrant ways, etc), (4) their spirituality (ripping Torah scrolls, smashing gravestones, urinating on Bibles, sexualizing religious sanctuaries, etc). And yes, I had to flee in the middle of the presentation when she started citing examples.
But it struck me: it was all a desecration of the Holy, a defilement of the Sacred. Grandmothers, babies, sex, sanctuaries — reverently approached in their fitting place — those are the dearest and most beautiful things in this world. The things that give meaning to everything else in life, and are hence life itself. The Sacred.
And for every rapacious thug-horde that have defiled those things in sheer greed of conquest, there are also those who have done the same for twisted ideologies, some of them claiming to be faiths serving God. It is sickening to see how religious faith can be twisted to such perverse postures — but then, so can sexual and familial love (for example, incest). Of course it is the most beautiful things that can be twisted into the most horrible things.
So yes and no. All faiths — when reaching out to the Higher Power through goodness and love — do lead to God. But we need doctrine and truth too, to defend the sacred — specifically, the doctrine of the Incarnate Christ, who became flesh like us, deifying every human being (who thus must be treated as such), who demands perfect holiness of us and yet bled on a cross to fulfill it, who charges us to forgive every sin, who calls us all to follow him and abandon everything, and who says “whatever you do to the least of these–you do to me.” Who makes Holy what was defiled, who gives life to the world.