The Lottery – of Birth

I’m lucky.  You who read this post are probably lucky.  You were born into a relatively stable environment. To decent parents. You have an education.  Job.  Family.   Friends.  A religious tradition.  You can travel. And if you get sick, there are doctors to take care of you. The twinkling spark that suddenly became YOU arrived just in the right place.  At the right time.  It was a lottery.  Of birth. 

What if that spark had come to life a hundred years ago. A thousand. For many in those times, they just endured.  Day by day.  Struggling with the things we take for granted today.  Yet even now there are those who are born into a life of abysmal poverty, suffocating hunger and crippling disease.  Raised in countries ravaged by violence, hatred and injustice.  Where every single day may be an arduous, painful and frightening saga.   Do you ever think — that could’ve been me.   

While I go to church on Sunday, I scratch my head over those faith traditions which deny salvation to those not exactly like them.  Can a little boy help if he is born in Totonicapan, Guatemala?  Or to a Hindu family in Rajahmundry, India?  Can we help that we are born Jewish?  Lutheran?  Buddhist?  And if the little girl in Zimbabwe never hears the message of [pick your faith tradition] what does that mean for her eternity?  Her hope of salvation? Is it a closed door?   I wonder how Gabriel might answer that question (see post of 8/25/16).       

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Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Islam, Judaism and Christianity all trace their lineage to a common ancestor  — Abraham.  And before that, Adam and Eve.  Abraham had two sons:  Isaac (by Sarah) and Ishmael (by Hagar).  Isaac begat the Line of David from which Jewish and Christian traditions derive.  Ishmael was the forefather of Muhammad — the Messenger of Islam.  God promises in Genesis 21:18 to make a “great nation” of Ishmael.   

Jesus (Isa) is revered in Islam as a Messiah and is mentioned nearly a hundred times in the Quran.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.  She even has her own surra (19).  Islam accepts the Old Testament as “The Word of God.”  And most of the prophets are mentioned by name.   

Common heritage, common prophets, beliefs and commands.  Yet many in each religious tradition view the differences as irreconcilable.  Islam has 72 insular sects.  Christianity has its own islands of belief and Judaism has various divisions.  Despite common origin, there is distrust, misunderstanding and even violence — all in the name of religion.    While most Christian and Jewish traditions accept and tolerate competing denominations and other religions, the violence is presently confined to Islam.  Though on June 11, 2017, I reported that statistically between 85% and 97% of all violence by Islamic terrorist groups is directed at Muslims.   

In my post of August 25, 2016, I commented on the ecumenical role the Archangel Gabriel – the Divine messenger.  Gabriel has personally visited Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Bahai.   Each faith urges “Shalom” [Peace]; “As-salamu Aleikum” [Peace]; “Peace be with you” [Peace].  You tell me — is God, Allah, Jehovah trying to give us mere mortals an ecumenical message?   

The Quran

[A third – natural – segue.  This from June 21, 2015]

I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I read the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English.  Whew. . . .  

The Quran has an Old Testament attitude (some is pretty dark) with frequent repetition of theme.  Yet there are numerous theological similarities with Judeo-Christian texts.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are similar.  The commands (believe, do good works, charity, pray) are comparable.  There are parallels in God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell).  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran (she has her own sura – 19).  At the risk of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God had a son (Jesus).  Hence the repudiation of the Trinity.  He simply said “Be” and Jesus was conceived (19:35).   Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed wrote the Quran over 23 years after receiving the Word of God through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12).  Third, the Quran – and thus Muslims – consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  Islam is deemed the true religion . . . .   

Notwithstanding, Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and thus related in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So I have to wonder — why all the misunderstanding, strife, violence and hatred?      

Gabriel

(A summer repeat from January 30, 2012)

There are three archangels in religious tradition: Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.  Gabriel is not just a divine messenger from God, he is an uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel was a holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions. In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role.

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel ministered to Joseph Smith.  In his earthly life, Gabriel was believed to be Noah. Some say, Gabriel continues to serve as a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed. And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (Baha’u’llah‘s mystical work Seven Valleys).

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences. Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something. . . . .

Jesus in Islam

When the angel said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from Him whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near to Allah. The Koran – Surra 3:45

His name is Isa Ibn Marium.  He was born of a virgin – Marium – who gave birth to Isa by the miraculous will of God.  It is believed by many Muslims that Isa – Jesus – is a Messenger of God who was sent to guide the Children of Israel with the Holy Gospel.  Jesus is referenced in the Koran as being al-Masih (“The Messiah”).  Most Muslims accept that Jesus will return on the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat the Antichrist (al-Masih ad-Dajjal). 

I have written about religion in earlier posts.  I’ve discussed my journey through the Old and New Testaments.  And I have not been shy about discussing Islam (see 1/30/12; 3/26/12; 8/23/12; and 9/6/13).  Frankly, Islam, Christianity and Judaism have more in common than they do difference. But try telling that to the extremists.  Many it seems – especially Muslims at this juncture in history – seem to believe that they alone have the ear of God.   And among Muslims, the 72 (or 73) different sects vilify one other.  And they vilify Christians and Jews despite our Abrahamic origins – and being Ahl al-Kitab.  But I digress.

The story of Jesus has recurring reference in the Koran.  Mary – his mother – is the only woman mentioned in the Koran.  I’m a good Episcopalian but I read the Koran and other religious texts given that the topic is so fascinating (and historically relevant).  Frankly, religion is a topic more people ought study.  And understand.  Yet among Muslims, regrettably a majority cannot read.  S0 many get their information from imams, madrassahs and politicians.  Who often have a political agenda.  And you know what happens then. . . .   Witness the fires that burn across the Middle East.  Nevertheless, I find it easier to discuss religion with Pakistani cab drivers (see post of 8/19/12) than I do politics with those who are misguided on the subject.    

 

The 72 . . . or is it 73?

I find religion a fascinating topic.  I find it easier to talk about religion with Pakistani cab drivers than to talk about politics with those of other stripe.  Over the last couple years, I’ve posted on the Taliban (12/30/12); Islam, Judaism and Christianity (3/26/12); Ahl al-Kitab (8/23/12); and the archangel Gabriel — the amazing messenger of God ( 1/30/12).  Bottom line — Christians, Jews and Muslims all come from Abraham.  We believe in the same God.  We all read the Old Testament.  And the Archangel Gabriel – the uber messenger – plays a pivotal role in all three religions (as he does in the Mormon Church, the Bahai faith and others). 

But in the Judeo-Christian world, you don’t see Lutherans burning Presbyterian churches.  You don’ts see Jews killing Baptists or Catholics throwing rocks at Mormon temples.  There is no sectarian strife among Christians and Jews.  But just walk to the Muslim side of the world and see how Islam behaves.  Many of the 72 (I believe it’s now 73) different sects hate each other.  With fury.  With passion.  The Sunnis hate the Shiia;  Wahabis hate the Ahmadiyya.  And Salafis and Sufis hate pretty much everybody.  In Nigeria, the Hausa Muslims (Boko Haram) seek out and kill Yoruba Muslims – women and children – wherever and whenever.   

I continue to be bewildered and troubled by this much-vaunted “religion of peace” which has 1.6 billion followers.  All recite the same article of faith “La illah ila Allah Muhammed Rasul Alah” (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger“).  Yet the violence among them — for ostensibly religious (and often political) reason — is mind-numbing.  It is caused mainly by Islamic fundamentalists .(who frankly have no clue about the teachings of Allah).  What is needed are voices of reason and a true ecumenism among Muslims — and all faiths.        

Gabriel

There are three archangels in religious tradition:  Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.  Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.   Gabriel is a messenger from God.  An uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel was a holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions.  In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.   It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role. 

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel in his earthly life was Noah.  Some say, Gabriel continues to be a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed.   And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (“Baha’u’llah’s mystical work Seven Valleys).  

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences.  Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something. . . . .