A SHORT MEDITATION ON THE RELIGIONS OF VIOLENCE
There are three ‘higher’ religions whose scriptures clearly embed and instigate violence against ‘unbelievers’ – both towards dissenters or ‘heretics’ (from Gk hairesis which refers to someone with ‘a different viewpoint’) within the religion and without )considered as pagans, infidels, heathen, etc). Have no illusions: these religions of violence also prescribe genocide as a solution to taking care of dissenters and unbelievers.
Deuteronomy 13: 13 (12:32) “Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it.
2 (1) “If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, 3 (2) and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said, ‘Let’s follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them,’ 4 (3) you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For Adonai your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love Adonai your God with all your heart and being. 5 (4) You are to follow Adonai your God, fear him, obey his mitzvot, listen to what he says, serve him and cling to him; 6 (5) and that prophet or dreamer is to be put to death; because he urged rebellion against Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from a life of slavery; in order to seduce you away from the path Adonai your God ordered you to follow. This is how you are to rid your community of this wickedness.
7 (6) “If your brother the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or your wife whom you love, or your friend who means as much to you as yourself, secretly tries to entice you to go and serve other gods, which you haven’t known, neither you nor your ancestors — 8 (7) gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near or far away from you, anywhere in the world — 9 (8) you are not to consent, and you are not to listen to him; and you must not pity him or spare him; and you may not conceal him. 10 (9) Rather, you must kill him! Your own hand must be the first one on him in putting him to death, and afterwards the hands of all the people. 11 (10) You are to stone him to death; because he has tried to draw you away from Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 12 (11) Then all Isra’el will hear about it and be afraid, so that they will stop doing such wickedness as this among themselves.
13 (12) “If you hear it told that in one of your cities which Adonai your God is giving you to live in, 14 (13) certain scoundrels have sprung up among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city by saying, ‘Let’s go and serve other gods, which you haven’t known,’ 15 (14) then you are to investigate the matter, inquiring and searching diligently. If the rumor is true, if it is confirmed that such detestable things are being done among you, 16 (15) you must put the inhabitants of that city to death with the sword, destroying it completely with the sword, everything in it, including its livestock. 17 (16) Heap all its spoils in an open space, and burn the city with its spoils to the ground for Adonai your God; it will remain a tel forever and not be built again — 18 (17) none of what has been set apart for destruction is to stay in your hands.
Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward.
Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.
Quran (8:15) – “O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.”
Quran (8:39) – “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion should be only for Allah”
Bhagavad Gita 2.3
O son of Pritha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
Bhagavad Gita 2.4,5,6, 9
Arjuna said: O killer of enemies, O killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?
It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though desiring worldly gain, they are superiors. If they are killed, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood. Nor do we know which is better—conquering them or being conquered by them. If we killed the sons of Dhritarashtra, we should not care to live. Yet they are now standing before us on the battlefield…Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Krishna, “Govinda, I shall not fight,” and fell silent.
Bhagavad Gita 2.10, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36, 37, 38, 48
O descendant of Bharata, at that time Krishna, smiling, in the midst of both the armies, spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna. The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead…Neither he who thinks the living entity the slayer nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the self slays not nor is slain…For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain…As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones…If, however, you think that the soul [or the symptoms of life] is always born and dies forever, you still have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed…One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament…O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being…Considering your specific duty as a kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation…O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets…If, however, you do not perform your religious duty of fighting, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter…Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?..O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination…Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and by so doing you shall never incur sin…Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga…
Of these three religions of violence, the subtlest argument for violence lies in the Gita where the rhetoric is extremely manipulative of Arjuna and all the sorcery of indirect justification of violence is applied.
In the end, all three pathways justify hatred for the ‘Other’ and the annihilation of the ‘Other’. All three pathways are the pathways of the murderer egged on by a murderous G-d who justifies their violence and promises them heaven for their ‘righteous’ deeds of war on His behalf.
Romans 3: 10 As the Tanakh puts it, “There is no one righteous, not even one!
No one understands, 11 no one seeks God, 12 all have turned away and at the same time become useless; there is no one who shows kindness, not a single one! 13 “Their throats are open graves, they use their tongues to deceive. Vipers’ venom is under their lips. 14 Their mouths are full of curses and bitterness.15 “Their feet rush to shed blood, 16 in their ways are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of shalom they do not know.
Isaiah 59: For your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with crime; your lips speak lies, your tongues utter wicked things. 4 No one sues with just cause, no one pleads honestly in court, they trust in empty words and say worthless things; they conceive trouble yep jusand give birth to evil. 5 They hatch viper eggs and spin spiderwebs; whoever eats their eggs dies, and the crushed egg hatches a snake. 6 Their webs are useless as clothing, their deeds are useless for wearing; their deeds are deeds of wickedness, their hands produce violence. 7 Their feet run to evil, they rush to shed innocent blood, their thoughts are thoughts of wickedness, their paths lead to havoc and ruin. 8 The way of shalom they do not know, their goings-about obey no law, they make devious paths for themselves; no one treading them will ever know shalom.
Yeshua Adonai is the one who brings about a radical, paradigm shift away from the religions of violence. To do this, He had to repudiate, or transform, or reinterpret, some of the fundamental premises of the culture and context He was born in as viewed through the misty lens of Hebrew Scripture – Torah and Tanakh. Transformation doesn’t come about through viciously attacking the culture and context one is born in or the Scriptures directly. It takes a subversive mind with a transformative intent to bring about a paradigm shift. This journey is precisely what Yeshua Adonai embarked on, the earliest reference to this being his journey when 12 years old to the Temple, the manifestation of the Law and the Elect, where the doctors and scribes found his precocious intelligence to be a genuine challenge and thorn in the flesh of their intellect and spiritual understanding. Here too, one finds Him being ‘disobedient’ to his parent in His wandering off and leaving them distraught and his cryptic rejoinder to their worried exclamations; Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?
And what was that business?
It was puttting an end, within and through Himself, to the cult of separatism and violence that lay at the heart of the Hebrew enterprise by means of a certain approach to the interpretation of what the Jews imagined were G-d given Scriptures. Embedded in the Hebrew Scriptures, Yeshua understood, were the memes of racism, ethnic pride, fascism, nationalism, freedom of ostracism, privilege of Othering, legalism, pagan terror of G-d, condemnation, judgement, execution, hatred, paranoia and delusions of grandeur, unforgiveness, vengefulness, violence towards those who did not see things the way the doctors and Pharisees saw things. Even to this day, the Hebrews as a collective remain trapped in these ‘virtues’ bestowed on them through the hermeneutics of their G-d and Scriptures.
This heady brew was something Yeshua Adonai had come to deal with specifically. To put an end to the violence intrinsic to the Scriptures, the culture and people he found Himself born among. This He did, you could say, in a most emphatic manner. He laid the axe to the root.
John 8: 37 I know you are the seed of Avraham. Yet you are out to kill me, because what I am saying makes no headway in you. 38 I say what my Father has shown me; you do what your father has told you!” 39 They answered him, “Our father is Avraham.” Yeshua replied, “If you are children of Avraham, then do the things Avraham did! 40 As it is, you are out to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Avraham did nothing like that! 41 You are doing the things your father does.” “We’re not illegitimate children!” they said to him. “We have only one Father — God!” 42 Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on my own; he sent me. 43 Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to my message. 44 You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie! 45 But as for me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe me. 46 Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.”
Without mincing words, Yeshua points out that the Hebrews who are at odds with him are defending a particular interpretation that represents G-d the Father as a murderer, a liar, a thief. One who does not intend to do good to humankind. One who is a hard taskmaster. One who is vengeful, malicious, legalistic and takes pleasure in condemning and punishing humankind.
He goes even further by stating that perhaps the Hebrews had never encountered this Father and, instead, knew only the Devil as Father even while they were poring over the Scriptures and seeking to obey them diligently. And Yeshua was right in his prognosis – for the followers of the one who was a murderer from the beginnning ended up murdering Yeshua Himself. A true Prophet! The Truth.
Yeshua was harking back to the first murder that happened in the spiritual realm – the leaving behind of the Tree of Life which seeks to nurture All and Everything for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the death through the confusion about the binary. The abandonment of the One for the divisiveness of Right and Wrong, stretching into an infinitude of confusions about life itself. This then is SIN – the missing of the mark: the abandonment of “I and the Father are One” for “I and my Knowledge of Good and Evil are sufficient”.
Again, Yeshua took the Law brought by Moses at Sinai to task.
Mathew 5: 38 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! 40 If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! 41 And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him. 43 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Love your neighbor[i] — and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. 46 What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! 47 And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that! 48 Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
For the Law made nothing perfect. In fact, the first action that took place when Moses came down from Sinai with the Law was SLAUGHTER. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was instantly translated into ‘Thou shalt kill’ those who do not understand or obey! The murderous ‘father’ was in control until Yeshua appeared.
So then, how did He bring an end to the relgion of violence he had been born into?
Ephesians 2: 14 For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us 15 by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, 16 and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity. 17 Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby,18 news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
The end of the religions of violence has come about. The murderers and liars rage on. But now the way is open for all of us to find the place of Shalom in the Body of Christ, where he broke down, yea, even destroyed, the wall of separation between Hebrew and Gentile (in other words, the walls of suspicion, anger and hatred that continually spring up in the human heart toward others humans) in His own Body.
This is the place of ultimate rest. This place has found you. Right now! The place is a Person. In Him, you have escaped the Murderer, the Thief, the Liar. You have escaped all religions of violence once and for all. This is called Translation, Transformation, Resurrection.
John 20: 19 In the evening that same day, the first day of the week, when the talmidim were gathered together behind locked doors out of fear of the Judeans, Yeshua came, stood in the middle and said, “Shalom aleikhem!” 20 Having greeted them, he showed them his hands and his side. The talmidim were overjoyed to see the Lord. 21 “Shalom aleikhem!” Yeshua repeated. “Just as the Father sent me, I myself am also sending you.” 22 Having said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Ruach HaKodesh! 23 If you forgive someone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you hold them, they are held.”
Shalom! May you be blessed. May you escape from religions of violence. Ameen.
ROWAN MOSES COMMENT
I don’t think the ancients understood “religion” the way we understand it as subjects in a modern state. The One who liberated the Hebrews from the power of the Pharaoh who was the son of Ra the sun god demands that there should be no other god because every other “god” enslaves but this God redeems. The problem in the text is not to do with punishing the “pagans” but pushing the one who wishes to propagate a pagan style domination system. I think the prophets stood up to tyrants and those who neglected the outcast, the foreigner and the widow. (Btw Moses means child unlike Ramses who’s the son of Ra). The problem with the Gita is that it promotes a system of order (much like the Pharaoh’s religion) through dharma. The concept of Dharma is linked to the “eternal return of the same” (much like the cyclical death and resurrection of the sun god) in which reality which is itself a fall from “the eternal self” should be “managed” through domination systems and social hierarchy, any entity who questions this order should be dealt with. Buddhism emerged as a critique of this form of order around the belief in God or gods still holding onto the “pagan” notion of karma and here reality is still a fall and liberation from this fall is the quest to prevent accumulation of actions (karma). I think an enlightened Hindu or a Buddhist can still murder (as long as they are not attached to that deed in any way- Nishkama karma style) and remained enlightened whereas a Jew or a Christian must not murder at any cost and if he/she does murder then he realizes that God is not on his/her side and must be reconciled with both God and the victim. I think this is the lesson one learns from David’s interaction with Nathan the prophet. In Christianity if Christ died the ultimate death for everybody then murder is unnecessary and if one still murders then one does not believe in that the crucified Christ is the fulness of God and is always on the side of the victim and not the perpetrator of violence.