Anyone who knows me knows that I am not exactly a strong believer in organized religion. I am spiritual, and have always sought my own path to better understanding divinity – often through interactions with, and the writings of, spiritual people of all faiths whose messages resonate with my own particular frequency.
But at the same time, I deeply respect those who find their eternal truths through Judaism, Christianity and Islam, or through the hundreds of other religious faiths around the world reminding us that there is more here than meets the eye. That we are precious and unique, loved and loving, creation and creator, earthly and divine. And that our most important jobs are to love and treat others as we wish to be treated.
So, like millions around the world drawn into this theater of the absurd drama unraveling right now about the Florida “pastor” threatening to burn the Koran – I wonder, how on Earth did we get here? How is it that an isolated fringe lunatic spewing garbage and hate, has a spotlight on the world stage, potentially fomenting another cycle of hatred, fear, misunderstanding and violence in a world already overflowing with it?
Anybody finding their way to this blog will surely feel the same way I do about the danger that religious intolerance engenders. And there’s plenty of commentary and analysis on the subject currently bouncing around the echo-chamber of the 24-hour news cycle to fill you in if you’ve missed it. But really, why do we allow the lunatic fringe to control the debate, when most of us are rational moderates who respect multiple perspectives and ideologies?
Last night, my husband John and I attended high-holiday services at our LA synagogue, and our rabbi, Lisa Edwards, gave a remarkably compassionate and enlightened sermon on the topic, and announced a new Jewish-Islamic interfaith program the synagogue will be sponsoring in an effort to help bridge the destructive chasm forming in our culture among different faiths.
Her main point was that there is such fear-mongering and misinformation happening now, especially in our country around the Islamic faith, that we give power to the crazies like this Florida pastor, to impact world events with the force of a tidal wave when, in fact, their ideas do not even warrant a ripple. The only thing we can do when hate-mongers wish to shroud us in their veil of darkness is to pierce that veil with the light of knowledge and understanding.
So, it occurred to me that simply decrying the idiocy of this pastor’s publicity stunt is not enough. I can easily speak out against it, just like any other sane person can. But I have to honestly acknowledge to myself that as much as I know there is nothing to fear about the Islamic faith (dangerous fundamentalists excepted – but they cast shadows in every religion), I don’t know much about it — really. That makes any impassioned commentary I might make about this Koran-burning fiasco simply another uniformed, angry voice in the crowd. Do we really need that?
The only thing that I can do that will truly make a difference right now is to learn a little more about Islam, so that hate mongering and misinformation cannot play a role in my judgment. So that I can cast a little light on the subject – not more darkness.
There’s a lot at stake. Ignorance has destroyed many a great civilization, and ours is no less impervious. That slippery slope of self-destruction starts with fear. Then, zealously applied misinformation. And frequently devolves into burning books and undermining the rule of law to deprive discreet groups of their fundamental human rights — like the freedom to practice their religion when and where they like. Sound familiar?
So, I just ordered a copy of the Koran from Amazon and promise to give it the ‘ole college try. I don’t expect to really get into it any more than I have the Old or New Testaments (did I mention that I don’t have a terribly high patience threshold for ancient religious texts?). But at least I’ll know what it says, so I can try to shine some light on the subject when the next debate inevitably comes along.