War and Religion
Francis Fukuyama wrote a book in 1992 called The End of History and the Last Man in which he asks the questions: With the fall of communism, could the world embrace total liberty and equality, both economic and political, and thus produce a completely stable society? Would man, at last, be free of war and completely satisfied? The book received a lot of national and international press, and its predictions rang true until 9-11.
Communism is gone, as a source of war. But it has been replaced by a new threat, the war of religion. The current holy war, or jihad, being waged among the people of Islam, Judaism and Christianity is a conflict among cousins.
A new book, Walking The Bible by Savannah native Bruce Feiler, explains the intricate relationships among the three religions. Abraham was born 2000 years before Christianity in Mesopotamia. His father was Terah and his mother was Emtelia. When he reached maturity he took a beautiful woman, Sarah, as his wife. In Genesis, God promises Abraham he will build a nation with their first son. Abraham migrates to Israel and wanders there for most of his life.
Sarah’s beauty would cause Abraham problems. In two different kingdoms, Abraham tells the local king that Sarah is his sister. Both kings take her for themselves, but when they discover the truth, they return Sarah to Abraham along with a rich bounty of sheep, oxen and cattle. These two events make Abraham rich. Sarah is barren, so Abraham sires his first son, Ishmael, by his slave, Hagar. God then rewards Sarah with a child named Isaac, the long-promised heir.
The patriarch’s succession is confused so Sarah asks Abraham to cast out Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham is troubled by this request but God tells him, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.”
As for Ishmael, God continues, “I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”
Ishmael’s is the direct line that Muslims cite to say they are God’s chosen people, because he is directly descended from Abraham.
Three of the world’s major religions formed as a result of Sarah’s expelling Hagar.
Judaism came into being when Isaac’s descendent Moses made a covenant with Yahweh. Later, Christianity evolved from Judaism — Christ is a direct descendent of Isaac. Ishmael’s direct descendent Muhammad, born near Mecca around 600 A.D., founded Islam. Moses, Christ and Muhammad are all from the direct line of Abraham.
The views of war from the three cousins’ religions could not be more different. The God of Moses, Yahweh, is a violent and stormy deity. He appears in the form of fire and lightning. Yahweh wreaks havoc on Egypt, and when Moses leaves Egypt for the Promised Land, God threatens to destroy the Israelites and begin anew with a different people. Exodus says: Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
Christianity takes the opposite view. In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ tells his flock, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Later he says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) declared that war was just provided that the cause was just and that it was waged with “right intention” to achieve good or avert evil.
Islam taught the necessity of submission to Muhammad’s teaching and demanded that its believers take up arms against those who opposed them. The ideas of Islam, which means submission, helped make the Arabs a military people. Some Muslim people believe they should not fight each other, but should fight all other men until they say, “There is no God but God.”
Today these three religions are peaceful in nature. However, the warlike fringes of Islam have taken over a major part of the Middle East. This fringe is al-Qaida, and their rise to power has become a major threat to our way of life.
For this fringe group, Islam is a creed of war. They will not stop until they make us true believers in their teachings.