Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: church

GUEST POST: Modernity, Maternity and God

aa graphicAllāhu Akbar!

The phrase literally means, “Allah is greater”, but can be generalized to mean “God is Greater”. As a call to action, it is a consistent part of daily Muslim prayers.

When talking to CNN, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva had this to say about her sons’ deaths: “My oldest one is killed, I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And I don’t care if I am to get killed too, okay? And I will say Allāhu Akbar!”

The public condemned this statement. How could a mother be so callous about her children’s lives? Is she even human? Is this not proof that Islam is a religion of pieces, rather than a religion of peace? (This stupid pun follows in the grand intellectual footsteps of “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”) My problem with these questions is not their sentiment, but the hypocrisy that their context reveals. The vaguely racist, forced connections from immigration to religion that underscore this discussion are violent, and ignorant. Religion is the ally of child sacrifice. The religious doctrines of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all applaud child sacrifice.

Genesis, Chapter 22, beginning at Verse 1 (KJV): “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Aside from that fact that God is said to be tempting, and not testing, (which makes him something less than perfect or good), this incitement of murder is pointless and evil. God recognizes Abraham’s love for his son before demanding the child’s death. This immoral mockery is wholly undeserving of praise. Abraham asks no questions, and Isaac’s only concern seems to be that he can’t seem to find the animal of sacrifice. His father ties him to the altar. Isaac offers no protest. Abraham shows no reservation. The most chilling line of Genesis, save for the floods and violently wicked exultations and bursts of anger from a ‘perfectly just and merciful’ God, is verse ten of the same chapter. “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” God chooses this moment to put down the popcorn and intervene. After egotistically claiming that his only desire was to ensure the fear of his subjects, (I can feel Job wincing), God kindly releases Abraham from the devout act of killing his only child. Unrealistically, the son in question abstains from flipping the capricious deity the bird. The Quran takes the story even further, claiming that the boy’s hands, (almost definitely referring to Isaac), did not need to be bound and that he chose sacrifice willingly. This version of the story is more toxic. The idea of child sacrifice ought to be abhorrent to both parent and child, but the willing sacrifice of a child that goes undisputed by his parent is evil. To advocate this view is to champion inhuman cruelty and vilify familial loyalty.

Temptation, fear, and apathy define the God of Genesis. Orwell taught us the perverseness of being forced to love someone that you fear. Child sacrifice is evil. Those who condone it are immoral. The Christians who claim that Abraham’s faith in God was so great that he believed that his son would be brought back from death are being impossibly revisionist. I default to Christopher Hitchens for the final word on the subject.  Speaking about his children, he says: “If I was told to sacrifice them to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do, and admire the man who said, ‘Yes, I’ll gut my kid to show my love of God’, I’d say, ‘No, fuck you.’”

The proud outrage of the religious at Zubeidat Tsarnaeva’s pitiless piety is hollow. Her insistence that her sons are innocent and not terrorists is made irrelevant by her defiant exultation of “Allāhu Akbar!” Her ideas are loyal to a vile principle present in all three major monotheisms. As a human being and an American, I’ve had enough of à la Carte religion and the baseless moral condescension of the faithful. Allāhu Akbar is an abdication of responsibility. The final reminders given to the 9/11 hijackers included “Shout ‘Allāhu Akbar’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers”. The Iranian flag has the phrase “Allāhu Akbar” written on it twenty-two times. Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat screamed “Allāhu Akbar!” and handed out candy upon hearing that her son had killed five people as a suicide bomber. Nidal Malik Hasan screamed “Allāhu Akbar!” before opening fire at Fort Hood. This deadly idiocy is the battle cry of piety. Their love of God is just as dangerous as their fear of him. It empowers disembodied tyrants while cheapening the lives and intellects of human beings. No mother should value her faith above her sons. God is not greater than family. God is not greater than humanity.

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Soft Targets

The events in Boston today are still raw, the embers are still burning, the wounds are still being dressed and the limbs are still being amputated.

When did living in America become a balancing act between freedom and paranoia? When did we decide that churches, schools, movie theaters, grocery store parking lots and marathons should no longer be considered integral parts of our daily life but “soft targets?”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle will call for prayers now. The gun lobby will ignore compassion and state that if only a “good guy with a gun had been there” blah blah blah, and nothing will change. We will wring our hands and shake our heads, call for justice and ignore the facts, demand vengeance and persecute the innocent in misplaced bloodlust, run to Wal-Mart to purchase our assault weapons and hunker down in our bunker waiting for the end of times.

And then our fickle little minds will forget and move on to the next crisis where we will wind up our public outrage for a new group of victims.

What happened to compassion and empathy? Are they so anathema to the personal success and safety in America that we are doomed to suffer for our arrogance? When did celebrity and instant gratification replace intelligence and hard work?

I am heartsick to learn that the final mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the families of Newtown affected by the evil events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Sickened to learn that there may have been another device under the very VIP viewing section in which they were seated.

I refuse to live in a society where we gauge our potential activities by some weighted average based on their “soft target” quotient.  I should not have to sit in a movie theater with an eye on the best route of egress, or view the pole obstructing my view as “cover”, or worry if I need to use the restroom whether my children will be attacked while I’m gone. I should not have to worry at a sporting event that I am in a large group and therefore a great target for mass casualties. I should not have to worry that when some student who did not prepare for an exam in college calls in a bomb threat and when my children congregate with a large group of students waiting for the “all clear” that they represent a soft target.

America used to be the land of the free, now we are the land of the paranoid, where 300 million guns exist to “protect” us from our own government and fertilizer is no longer used exclusively to feed the world, but to detonate and kill, where politicians disgorge vitriol and fabrications in order to make the evening news and Congress enjoys a 13% approval rating. We blame the President, Congress, the education system, parents, the environment, the weather, any other country and everyone else with certainty, but we never look in the mirror. The golden rule has been bastardized to be “Do unto others before they do unto you.” We harden ourselves and avoid soft targets. Can’t we do better? Don’t we want better? Shouldn’t we demand better? We continue to burn holes in the calendar. Am I whistling alone in the hurricane?

It’s a Girl!

In honor of Christmas, let’s play a holiday game.  Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to get up and go outside.  There will be no caroling.  In fact, this game is easier than Nintendo Wii.  You can just sit there.  This is a mental game.

As with all games, there are rules.  These are the assumptions of our game:

  1. God exists
  2. God is the god of Christian faiths.
  3. Jesus was the son of God

Now, here’s the wrinkle and basis of our game: Let’s pretend that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a girl instead of a boy.

It's a girl!

It’s a girl!

Aside from the jokes of the manger having been decorated or Joseph and Mary demanding that baby girl Jesus be taken inside to a Hilton rather than remain in the manger, what would have happened during this girl’s life and what would her legacy be 2,000 years later?

At first blush, this twist raises more questions than assurances.  For example, would a female Jesus have commanded the same respect that the male Jesus did?  Would the disciples have even followed a woman allowing that the same divine claims and actions took place? Would the Jews or the Romans have taken her protestations and actions seriously and seen her as a threat to the established paradigm? Would she have been crucified or would another punishment have been meted out, say stoning? And if so, what would everybody wear around their neck and pray to at church if not a tortured man nailed to a wooden cross and left to die? Would she have even been taken seriously or would she have been the first victim of a time and date removed Salem witch hunt?  Would the disciples have followed up her death with the establishment of the Christian faith?  Would it have spread throughout the world and been the basis for the Roman Catholic Church in Rome? Would Popes be women, would there have been female priests? Would her teachings of peace and deference prevented the Crusades? Would females have become the leaders of the world and males simply the brute tools to their vision? If so, would the world have seen the development of societies and civilizations as they have occurred or would some other world evolved? Might this have prevented all of the wars the world has seen? Might maternal guidance have eclipsed testosterone driven bravado and intransigence leading to cordial debate and discourse rather than gunfire and bombs?

Once you ponder the possibilities and changes the world may have known, then consider if Mohammad had been born a woman, that  Buddha was a woman (that all the deities revered in the world had been women) and that God was personified as a woman rather than a male. What might have happened?

Just something to think about.