Did God Die?
I know that this is a provocative, and to some even sacrilegious, question. But I am inspired by two things. First, another great posting by More Light Than Heat continuing a study of the history of the Islamic world. A study that, may I submit, we all need to embrace in order to truly understand a whole segment of the world population that is sorely missing from the regular courses that most of us take in our educational process. The second catalyst for my thoughts today comes from a day spent with my two brothers in observation of Thanksgiving yesterday.
In reading More Light Than Heat’s insightful posting on the birth of Muhammad and his subsequent founding of a new religion, it was pointed out that Islam, Judaism and Christianity ALL worship the same God. The current breach among the three stems from a couple of ancient family feuds. The first of these feuds can be found in the pages of The Old Testament of The Bible. It goes clear back to a common ancestor that the three religions and those that follow them claim as their birthright to Heaven itself. That man was Abraham. Seems that Abraham and his wife Sarah were unable to have a child until such a time came that Sarah could no longer bear children. In her sorrow at being unable to help her husband further his line, Sarah offered up her slave Hagar to her husband so that he might have a son. From this unconventional coupling, by today’s standards, Abraham’s first son, Ishmael was born. Then after some time passed, Sarah miraculously gave birth to her own son, Isaac.
In time both grew to manhood and began to vie for their Abraham’s affection and estate – egged on, I might add, by their mothers. Through a little trickery, Isaac managed to get his father’s blessing and became the inheritor of Abraham’s holdings, the land we believe today to be Israel. Ishmael, as a consolation prize, so to speak, was sent out to become the father of many nations. Today we believe those nations to be those of the Islamic Middle Eastern countries. But the birth of Islam came much later on.
In the meantime, Abraham’s children resided off and on in The Holy Land and endured many tribulations along the way, including several notable exiles and triumphant, miraculous returns. So while not the offspring of the firstborn, they were the heirs to Abraham’s world. They were assured that they were “God’s chosen people,” and considering all they’ve been through, that is a dubious distinction at best. No offense intended. So for metaphorical purposes, I will call the Jewish faith the “first born.” But in the early days of the Roman Empire a “second born” religion sprang up among Abraham’s children, Christianity. In its early days it was considered to merely be a sect of Judaism, but in time was embraced by the Roman Empire as its state religion, giving its followers dominion over the Holy Land from which the Jews had been exiled for the last time in the second century by the Romans.
But bearing no resemblance to the geniality between siblings displayed on the popular television show of my childhood, My Three Sons, a “third born” came along in the form of Islam. And while the Jews remained powerless guests in the houses of their two brothers, “Christianity” and “Islam,” they watched as those two brothers fought back and forth for control and dominion over what had once been the home of the Jews. Each felt that they had a God-given claim to Jerusalem and Palestine and contested the region for centuries.
By the 20th century, Palestine had become an Arab population state governed by Christian Great Britain. But in a fit of remorse and shame, the Christian West, those who were the victors of World War II, brought about one more miraculous return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland. Of course, in his pompous, I-know-what’s-best-for-everybody way, the “Second Born” didn’t concern himself with the can of worms he was opening between the “First Born” and the “Last Born,” because by this time the Second Born was the richest of the three brothers and felt he was being extremely generous by giving up a piece of what he felt was his land. Oh, boy!
All hell broke loose in 1948, and the Western World has been in chaotic turmoil ever since. And of course one only need turn on the television today and see that our feud has spilled over into the rest of the world as Mumbai, India, is ablaze with a terrorist attack. Of course, God the Father seems to have a certain wicked sense of humor as He watches his jealous offspring clash over who is His favorite. And in the last half of the 20th century, one of his gifts to the children of Ishmael was a much-needed commodity, OIL! Oh, boy! And Oy Vey!
As an American, I must admit that I didn’t understand this family feud. If the oil is in the Arab nations, why is everybody so interested in the physical land of Israel? In 1999 I was fortunate enough to go to the source of the turmoil and find the answer to that question. In a gesture of love toward my Pentecostal mother, I took her on a trip to what she calls The Holy Land and what I call Israel. While there, our expert tour guide summed up why the tiny region has been so important from the beginning of time: WATER. It seems that a gigantic aquifer runs under the ground occupied by Israel. And a trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem or Masada will tell you all you need to know about how important that is in a desert so barren that it makes Death Valley look like an oasis. Palestine had, and has, water. To a man who is thirsty, oil is of little importance.
Then there was one other factor that added to its value. Like all good real estate, it was blessed with the three most important considerations: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! A quick glance at the map reveals something that I totally overlooked in my jet-age mindset. Palestine/Israel sits at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia. In the age of overland trade routes, no place was as important to the World at large than what we call The Holy Land.
So those are the physical reasons for all this intense conflict between the three brothers. But then comes the one that really stirs the passion of the hearts involved: RELIGION! All three of these great religions were born with great joy and hope for mankind, but each religion has claimed supremacy from its inception, each loudly claiming, “Daddy loves me best!” Now, for centuries these brothers have argued over who is right and who is wrong, who is relevant and who is not, who owns The Holy Land and who does not. Instead of being a bunch of insecure children bickering over who gets to sit in Daddy’s lap at the end of the day, they have grown into a bunch of arguing old men bickering over who gets Dad’s house.
“BUT WAIT A MINUTE!” Dad shouts. “Did I die and nobody told Me? What? Are you planning to send Me to some sort of nursing home and duke it out over MY house? Can’t you boys wait until the reading of the will to settle this? I’ve told each of you I’ve got it covered, yet you take it into your own hands to settle something that is out of your control. All three of you bring shame on MY house!”
I saw all of this in my mind’s eye as I gathered with my brothers yesterday. I love my brothers and they love me and each other, BUT we are now a bunch of old men who bicker over who is right about this, that or the other. Each of us thinks in our own big-headed – or should that be empty-headed – way that we alone know what is best for everybody else. The truth is, it is all just opinion. And a funny pundit whose name I don’t know opined, “Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s got one.” And so it goes. As we view our nation and our world, all too often we see a bunch of old men with opinions about what is best for everybody else. Hopefully, the new “young man” who is coming to the White House will be able to bridge the gap of these opinions and lead us into an age of enlightenment where we realize that we don’t have to agree to get along. Wouldn’t that be something to be thankful for? My opinion is: YES, IT WOULD, and YES, HE CAN!
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent those of any other person or entity.
KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!