Maria Hussain: Is there Peace without God?
- Is there Peace without God?
November 4, 2007
And [on account of] their saying: "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of
Mary, Messenger of God." They did not kill him and they did not
crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about
him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just
conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. God raised him to
Himself. God is Almighty, All-Wise. (Quran, Surat An-Nisa', 4:157-158)
Jesus is a symbol that pre-dates Christianity. He is the man who stood
up for the truth and no one could kill him because even in his alleged
death, his message prevailed. And that message was clearly reasonable.
Those who are killed for speaking the truth are never dead. They are
the very soul of mankind.
There is a problem within the anti-war movement, which is that the
most radical peace activists are so aggressively hostile to the thing
in life which gives the majority of humans on the planet a sense of
peace. Obviously, if my personal focus in life is to strive upon a
path of purification of my worship, and the other person views me for
this reason on some level as a stupid idiot or mentally ill, we do not
have an equal relationship. If I am politely avoiding saying "Praise
the Lord!" in your presence and never mentioning my personal
relationship with Jesus so as not to upset you, but you feel like it's
ok to disrespect God, or to devalue someone's Faith, we don't have an
equal relationship. Our "peace movement" is stuck in a rut.
I personally cannot claim to be part of a Muslim, Christian or Jewish
tradition-based community. My faith has never been group-oriented but
rather came as a result of personal meditations on various readings of
the sages as well as the direct experience of life and its karmic
lessons. What I am more interested in is to study what the books say.
I like to approach the Bible and the Quran as meditational literature.
Whether you believe in religion or not, theological texts are the
collective property of mankind and as such are worthy of being
studied, in order to understand the foundation of reason (or sometimes
lack thereof) upon which our human society is based. I am inspired by
the anti-Zionist church movements, where folks are switching to
home-based worship and dropping out of the Zionist churches. I am
inspired by Moses, who told his followers to transform their homes
into temples, to repudiate the tyranny of the Pharaoh.
I want to promote non-denominational, intellectual analysis and
light-hearted brainstorming about the similarities and differences
between the way the Bible and the Quran approach various concepts and
legendary stories. For example, we could look at the story of Noah's
Ark in both books and see how they compare, and search for the
theological and historical reasons for the differences. We could also
look at different English translations of the same verse. It would not
be necessary for a person to be religious at all to enjoy such a
discussion. I am envisioning a very non-demanding "liberal arts"
approach. This Quran-Bible discussion idea has nothing to do with
trying to get anyone to become religious or more religious. Many
Americans do not actually know what the scriptures say. Or some are
very familiar with the book of their tradition but not at all aware of
the intellectual connection with the other books. Yet, the spiritual
Path has many basic features for all religions.
I envision some kind of local and neighborhood oriented revolution.
There are many people from diverse ethnic backgrounds who live on my
street that go to church. The problem with the dominance of the
Ashkenazi ethnic group on the "progressive politics" scene is that
there is a very dogmatic forced conformity which demands that people
put their religion aside or else they will be reviled by the group. It
is very much similar to the level of forced conformity in the orthodox
religious Jewish community. It is simply an ethnic trait that has been
adopted by the entire peace movement, which I believe is destructive
because at least 80% of Americans believe in God. So that is a big
part of why I think the peace movement up to now has been a
self-defeating political movement. We need to acquire a language that
we can use to connect with people who are very different from ourselves.
Most of all, we need to train our minds to get beyond ourselves in
order to let go of what we know and let our deeper unconscious give us
the solutions to our problems both personal and global. Clearly, what
we consciously know right now is not adequate to run this planet
smoothly. But I believe that humans have the answers within our DNA.
We have to create wisdom. We have to create it out of ignorance. That
leap is a miracle.
Most of the peace organizations are co-opted. Dorchester People for
Peace for example accepted grants for the sake of enmeshing Black
youth in Save Darfur through "Project Hip Hop" -funded if you look
into it essentially by US tax dollars recycled through the Jewish
So that was why I was wondering if it might be a good idea to start a
regular kind of neighborhood Quran-Bible study as an alternative to
"progressive politics" and maybe change/unite hearts and minds of the
community that way. We need to have some reason to meet regularly that
is not stressful, where we can meditate on ideas. Individual opinions
about the meaning of religion to oneself and family is really totally
irrelevant to attending a Bible and Quran as Literature class or study
group. My idea has to do with engaging with people on a civilizational
level, including expanding outreach to build anti-war sentiment.
Maybe only a certain "class" of people want to discuss "the Classics,"
or to meditate on the core questions of existence while drinking tea.
This is traditionally what Palestinians do for fun too, you know, when
they are not being besieged.
In High School I took a very interesting Bible as Literature class
from a Jewish atheist lesbian teacher. She made it really amusing and
interesting. I also benefited from Presbyterian Sunday School, which
used the philosophical, self-exploratory, psychological validation
approach to the texts. People who have never read the Bible lose out
on benefiting from the entire history of western civilization.
My main reason for wanting to have an academic sort of theological
discussion about religious texts is precisely so that those people who
engage in the anti-religion/anti-Gentile polemic won't come, so that
new potential leaders and organizers, letter-writers and shleppers for
the movement, fresh blood, can come in. There are so many people who
have been marginalized by the peace movement because they can't open
their mouths without having to deal with all this intense, blind,
secular fundamentalist dogma. So what I'm looking for is an
emotionally safe environment free of anti-God hostility, where the
Meek can speak quietly.
There are ways to align your mind with the forces of the universe to
maximize your effectiveness and joy in life. My Zen teacher referred
to these methods as "spiritual practice." The disciplining of the mind
to polish the mirror of the heart through meditation on eternal
questions is just like raking leaves. It can be done with or without
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