Saturday, September 18, 2010

Holy War

Quote from the Holy Qur'an:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors."
Al-Baqara 190

Quote from the Holy Bible

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?"
The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands."
Judges 1:1-2

In the middle of what many would consider a Holy War, it is quite dangerous to even approach this subject. So many of us have invested in one side or another. Death to America! Kill the Taliban! Each side has its own standard for violence. A military organization must operate as to not completely obliterate its countries international image while at the same time defending the people residing within its borders. They are motivated by defense of country and protection of the ideas for which it stands. The terrorist organization is has no regard for image and cares deeply for the message and ideas that for which it stands. They are motivated by defense of country and protection of the ideas for which it stands. Even if they country they stand for has not yet come to be.

In these two passages we see violence that is permitted by the Creator. Each author presents their side of the story when it come to just war. In the past for the people of Israel it was just because the land belonged to them. Whenever somebody entered the land of their fathers they had a "divine" right to kill all of those occupying the area, including on some occasions women and children. Permission is given to the Muslim to attack only if they are first attacked, specifically attacked because of their beliefs as it is mentioned elsewhere. The odd thing is that in their just war passage there is a limit set down, not to transgress what is acceptable.

In my honest opinion from what I have read in both books, at this point my money on the "correct" mode of operating a religiously motivated conflict would lie with the writers of the Qur'an not the Bible. Mainly because Christians spend so much time attempting to explain away or integrate the stories of the Old Testament into the loving message of the New Testament. The issue has been been dealt with almost perpetually and is always detrimental to the faith of the critical follower, because it makes no sense. This is coming from a Bible scholar. It would make much more sense just to say that these passages in the Bible are obviously ethnocentric and provide a "divine" defense for the actions contained therein.

However, this view of the Bible is considered heretical. In fact by my suggesting it I am certainly risking my employment, or at very least will be requested not to share my personal belief. This is where holding a hard line on belief becomes an issue. In the american church there is a witch hunt for people like myself. Those who would seek a more moderate view of the messages contained in the Bible or perhaps use a different interpretive method, like allegory the favorite of Church father Origen. It is acceptable to love him and his writing but not to read the Bible the same way as he, even when it makes much more sense at times.

As for my saying that the Qur'an makes more sense, I am certain there are many objections. I believe it makes more sense because it is far more honest that the command contained in Judges. It allows for conflict where normal human conflict occurs. Along with this allowance it places limits upon it. Limits that assume the natural moral boundaries of humanity. The only need to kill the enemy is if they are killing you. There are latter commands to kill those you capture but nowhere does it speak of murdering children or women. Textually it is the better command, the more moral. There is even condemnation for those who operate outside of the law set forth. How it is executed and interpreted is obviously in stark contrast to the original words, but if words are incorrectly interpreted do is the blame on the speaker or listener. If someone in your life hears you speak ill of another person and then decides to hit them with a car in your honor does the fault lay on you or your friend?

It is obvious that both of these books have followers that act out of misinterpretation. First, it is the Christian that decides to detonate an abortion clinic or protest military funerals. Then, it is a Muslim detonating themselves inside of a gas station or public venue. Or, it could be both groups viciously waring with each other for hundreds of years. Throughout history the anyone who has started holy war has truly been outside of the will of their particular book, relying more on their feelings and interpretation that what is written. Warfare is a nasty thing, it is a shame that either of these holy books make personal exceptions for their followers, and that those followers believe that there is not mistake in their book. However it is clear to me now, both the Bible and Qur'an explain how we ought not act, as well as how we ought to act.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I remember reading that passage in the Qur'an but I never really thought about it in comparison to the biblical accounts regarding violence. I thought your conclusion was right on the money. We should avoid violence perhaps at all costs, but if we're going to evaluate these texts with the mindset that violence is sometimes necessary, then you're right the Qur'an does seem to take a more balanced approach. Way to write with conviction.