There is nothing “Great” apart from “Love”

        In response to a recent hate fueled letter received by the Evergreen Islamic Center, as a Christian I am appalled at the ignorant rant that is directed towards members of a shared Abrahamic faith tradition. The author of this letter clearly is not knowledgeable of their own faith tradition as they claim to profess to “God Bless America” yet clearly do not know that Christians, Muslims and Jews all share the same lineage under the same God. What we have here is a product of uniformed religious teachings that have been passed down by evangelicals to demonize anyone who isn’t Christian, much like Isis, this form of Christianity is creating a cosmic divide within religious traditions which is counter intuitive to works of peace and justice.


         

         Due to our current political climate in relation to Presidential Elect Trump, our country is facing an increase in hate related criminal activity. In regards to this criminal activity it is relevant that we look at the notions of the Abrahamic faith traditions to address where our obligations stand in relations to our current political climate as believers in the God of Abraham. When I consider the relevance of our faith I am reminded of our call to justice in action and deed to care for the poor and needy and bring forth the spirit reconciliation for the works of peace and justice.

        As author Dr. Ronald L. Eisenberg discusses in his book Jewish Traditions, Gemilut Hasadim “the giving of loving kindness” is a significant social value within Jewish tradition. Eisenberg notes the practice of “Tzedakah”, which literally means “justice” or “righteousness” which is an obligatory “mitzvah” or commandment where believers are called to practice their faith. Therefore, Eisenberg notes when a person practices their faith in action and deed they are exercising a fundamental part of their faith. So much so that “the poor man does more for the householder (in accepting alms) than the householder does for the poor man” Lev. 34:8.
        In addition, the giving of Loving Kindness is no less valuable in the reckoning of the Christian Faith. Therefore, how be it that Christian’s find it appropriate to ridicule, dehumanize, discriminate and hate on their Muslim neighbors? It is time for Christians to finally reconcile their faith and obligation to Christ in the expression of justice. It is time to recognize that hate and discrimination is counter to the great commission of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves.

       Whether we agree or not with our neighbor’s religious tradition, nowhere does Jesus instruct us to “hate” our neighbor. Much like the prophet Muhammad, Jesus was concerned with “love” expressed through action and deed. As we encounter this era of religious and political complexity let us remember that we are not called to be complacent in the face of hate. For God has called all of us to express our faith through love, for nothing “Great” can be achieved apart from love.

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rape

To be raped is to die within the confines of internal agony and to express our identities within the midst of complete and utter turmoil. At its core rape is the manifestation of the darkest evil maintained within the grips of the betrayed. Rape is generational torture passed down by  the greed for power while denying the very essence and beauty of humanity. Rape is stuck in the grips of systematic injustice, as woman cry out for salvation. Rape is living daily within a world stratified by systematic torture while the invisible rape of woman lays dormant, woman become prisoners of sexual servitude.

All of the woman closest to me have been violently raped. My sister among them was violently ganged raped just blocks from the French Quarter in New Orleans. A wrong turn led her into the clutches of centuries worth of systematic injustice that has normalized the raping of woman. Anger fueled from an oppressive socio-economic platform, young black men leaning against the gun of poverty and exclusion exercised an age-old tradition of using woman’s bodies as battlefield in an attempt to avenge the wrong that had been done to them and their ancestors.

In consideration of Susan Thistlethwaite’s book, “Woman’s bodies as battlefield”, the war on woman has waged. Statistics alone cannot fully express the desperate state of affairs in regards to woman’s bodies as battlefields. When 1 in 5 women are raped in the U.S., it’s time to counter our problematic depiction of woman instead of ranking them as second class citizens and placing them systematically within the realms of inferiority. Woman’s bodies from the onset of civilization have been used as tools of warfare, for the exchange of goods and to negotiate relations.

Therefore, woman’s bodies have been predominantly perceived as sex symbols and not as people with personal agency. Therefore, it is no surprise that African woman in the 18th and 19th century during American slavery were often used as sexual commodities for their masters. This atrocity has been  grossly understated even though rape meets the definition of torture, representational of physiological, psychological and socio-economical connotations. Yet, the rape of woman has been normalized insomuch that woman’s bodies as battlefields have been continually been overlooked.

Therefore, in order to rectify the normalization of rape it is imperative to bring forth the stories of rape victims into the light. Our mother, our sisters, our daughters are at risk. If the normalization of rape continues, the torture of woman will continue unabated. Thistlethwaite states, “to “queer” a subject is to make its very normative problematic……the injuring woman’s bodies, even to the point of death, can be seen as beyond the confines of “normal”. “Seeing” then becomes not the performance of customary but of identifying the criminal” (Thistlethwaite 33). It’s fine time we heeded to the cries of the rape victims and let their voices be heard.

 

Set the Captives Free

homophobia

We can concur that in regards to human behavior, human sexuality has never been strictly heterosexual. People are not made to be homosexual, they just are. It is more than apparent that people are born with very diverse sexual and gender identities. Cultural ideals initiated our sexual norms, but these norms do not include what is truly “natural” nor do they include what God has created.

John Boswell’s book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century challenged the misconceptions of intolerance towards the gay community. Published in 1980, Boswell’s extensive work surveys the behaviors and attitudes towards homosexuality and how those attitudes from the fourteenth century have carried across time into the modern era (Boswell 7).

According to Boswell, homosexuality was prevalent among Roman society insomuch that Edward Gibbon remarked, “of the first fifteen emperors Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct”, meaning heterosexual” (Boswell 61). Boswell cites that homosexuality was so profound within Roman culture that early Christian writers commented on its presence. Minucius Felix comments that it was the “Roman religion”. In addition, Boswell states that the majority of Christian comments in regards to homosexuality spoke to its legality and approval (Boswell 67).

Considering Boswell’s historical analysis, it is likely that early Christian belief did not include homophobia. Christianity was established within the Greco-Roman era when homosexuality was still considered socially acceptable (Boswell 91). In fact, according to Boswell the term homosexual was not even a word until the late nineteenth century (Boswell 92).

What has been commonly used to support the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is the account of Sodom in Genesis 19. Supporters of this theory infer that God destroyed Sodom because the men of the city wanted to engage in homosexual activity with the angels. However, according to Jesus, Boswell suggests it was not homosexuality that was the offense but rather inhospitality. Jesus declares, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say to unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew. 10:14-15) (Boswell 94).

In addition, Christianity formed within a society that was influenced largely by Platonic and Aristotelian concepts of “ideal nature”. They combined the traditions of Old Testament scholarship with the authority of classical learning and established solid doctrines that dictated Christian behavior. Therefore, in the third century Clement of Alexandria deemed, “to have sex for any other purpose other than to produce children is to violate nature” (Boswell 146).

In essence the establishment of what is “natural” was created by popular consent and the influence of a singular interpretation of scripture which manifested into an ethical norm. The deconstruction of such ideological claims in regards to human sexuality is the very essence of our call as Christians to liberate the oppressed LGBTQ community. To love thy neighbor as thy self, and set the captives free.

 

“God was with Ishmael”, why aren’t we?

A closer look at Genesis reveals that God intended to bless all Abraham’s descendants, therefore, the Israeli Palestinian occupation is one of the worst accepted atrocities that Jews and Christians have been misled to believe is ordained by God.

mother-and-son

God’s Covenant with Abram:

Gen: 15:18; “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the rivers of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (NRSV).

The Sign of the Covenant:

Gen: 17:3-4; “Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations” (NRSV).

Gen: 17:7-8; “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for the perpetual holding; and I will be their God” (NRSV).

Gen: 17:18; And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in you sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; and he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at his next season” (NRSV).

Hagar & Ishmael Sent Away:

Gen: 21:10-13; So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac”. The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But, God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because the boy and because of the slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring” (NSV).

God Saves Hagar & Ishmael:

Gen: 21:16-20 “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him”. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow” (NRSV).