Sunday, September 11, 2011

Religion in the 21st Century: Thoughts on 9/11

In the 20th century, Christian theology was indelibly shaped by the impact of two World Wars. Many of the great theologians of this era were German, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed by the Nazis for his part in the resistance movement. It's difficult to fathom that any Christian could reflect seriously upon the Holocaust and not have to re-imagine Christian-Jewish relationships to protect our future from history's mistakes.

At the start of the 21st century, 9/11 and the subsequent 'war against terror' should have done the same thing for Christian-Muslim relationships. If anyone is expected to take religion seriously in the future then we have to be unequivocal about disowning those who use God to justify acts of violence.

It's also time we realised that rather than wait for the next time, we should be actively pursuing new interfaith understanding amongst all religions. Any belief structures, including Christianity, that claim an exclusive right to salvation will challenge this dialogue but they can't be an excuse for apathy, resignation or worse still, arrogance. Christianity is under threat and in some cases rightly so. We are being judged by our worst failures rather than our best successes. All the more reason to come humbly to the table of discussion with our brothers and sisters from different traditions all around the world.

I've written a number of times on this blog about Christianity and non-violence. At this time of reflection, the need for a broad recommitment to non-violence by religious people is clearer than ever. Christians have no excuse in this arena - reread the gospels if you're unsure about Jesus stance on violence and what happened to him. We should abhor violence with every part of our being. I don't buy the arguments that say that we sometimes need to use violence to stop violence. That's Caesar's way, not Christ's way.

It's time to step away from violence and warfare and to reaffirm all that is good about religion. The Charter for Compassion is a great start to this task. As we reflect today about what's happened over the past 10 years, let's commit to putting aside every form of tribalism and find new ways to come together for humanity's future.


The Horse said...

Interesting view on the matter, somehow or other I don't think anyone is going to want to give up their ideals of one true GOD. Yes it makes sense to acknowledge others and their beliefs but that doesn't mean that everyone is going to agree with it.

The use of religion for extremist ideals is nothing new, our history is full of religious wars, and persecution of others. It sometimes seems to be something we are good at.

I however don't think just a religious combining of minds will end the global issues. We must address inequality and oppression before a meaningful dialogue will be any more than lip service.

JDK said...

Totally agree Horse - talk is not enough and certainly no substitute for action. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.