Violence in the Bible and the Quran
By: Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer
In attempting to write a complete review on this book I find that using short excerpts works far better in giving this author the praise he deserves for putting together such a robust array of information on his choice of topic. I cannot possibly improve upon what he has written. Ten out of ten stars! Kudos!
The chapter notes have proven to be an extraordinary find; a lot of new links to humanitarian organizations will be added to this blog's side column for you to browse as a result.
Superior violence inspires belief. "Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses."(Exodus 14:31). So strong was the connection between God and superior violence that the overwhelming definition of salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures is the defeat of armies.
... One point of undisputed agreement, unfortunately, is that God's overwhelming character is that of a violent, punishing, pathological Deity who uses unfathomable violence to both reward and punish, either within history or at history's end.
The presumption of God's punishment violence also lies at the heart of the Christian New Testament that claims Jesus as Savior and understands the death of Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice. From what, we should ask, does Jesus save us? The classic answer is that Jesus saves us from the consequence of our sins. God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to die for us. Believe this and not be condemned(John 3:16-17).
Many Christians see in these words a gracious God who loves us enough to send his only son to die in our place so that we might avoid our deserved punishment, go to heaven instead of hell, and have eternal life. Brutal images of God remain hidden behind these rose-colored interpretations. If we believe that Jesus died for us so that we will not be condemned, then we should ask, "Condemned by whom?" The answer is, God.
.....The image of Yahweh is not loving or compassionate but violent and unpredictable. Offerings and sacrifices are human attempts to appease a wrathful deity, but success is by no means assured. Abel succeeds. Cain fails. The text doesn't say why. It gives the impression that God is violent, petty, arbitrary, and to be feared."
Toward the end of the book the author gives several examples of how active non-violence has proven time and time again to be a successful way to resist evil and gain justice for people. He tells of the Gandhian movement, Danish resistance to the Nazis, and others.
An Islamic follower of Gandhi named Badshah Khan, is known as the "greatest nonviolent soldier of Islam" and has made much ground in stemming the tide of violence within his religion. He did, in effect, create a new type of jihad: the nonviolent kind. Patience and righteousness are the only weapons used to broker peace.
Gene Sharp wrote,
"Although much effort has gone into increasing the efficiency of violent conflict, no comparable efforts have yet gone into making nonviolent actions more effective and hence more likely to be substituted for violence."Several US Congressmen and Senators have attempted(and still are)to put together a "US Department of Peace," which would focus on nonmilitary peaceful conflict resolutions. So far there is no word on if or when its formation will ever be complete and members dispatched to aid our world.
The final word from the author is for us not to lose hope; to not despair in the violence we see and experience today. There are people who are practicing non-violent resolutions to local conflicts and are also trying to show their society's leaders how to do the same on a larger scale. Non-violence works miracles. If we make a stand within our own minds and hearts to commit to non-violence then we will be saved.
Buddhist concept of "ahimsa": To do no harm to living things.
Note: even the Buddhists have struggled with the inherent violence within their holy scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of a larger work called the Mahabharata.