Monday, March 08, 2010

God versus God -- Sightings

The problem isn't us -- it's our God.  Actually, it's their God.  My God is okay -- nice, lovable, etc.  But the same can't be said of their God, who inspires acts of hate and violence.  Sound familiar?  There is, of course, within most, if not all, religions have had a warrior element to them. 

Martin Marty takes up this issue of the conflicting views of God in the context of the publication of a book by the son of a founder of Hamas, who blames Islamic inspired terrorism not on the perpetrators but on the God depicted in their holy book.  Of course, it needs to be pointed out that the author is a former Israeli double agent and a convert to Christianity.   I'll let Marty tell the story and invite your responses!


Sightings 3/8/10

God versus God
-- Martin E. Marty

We are in for another intense round of “God vs. God,” “Our God vs. Their God,” “Good God vs. Bad God=Devil.”  The current round comes from many readers of Mosab Hassan Yousef’s new Son of Hamas, which reads like a spy novel and whose “gripping” plot needs no publicity from me.  Yousef is becoming almost unavoidable in and on the media.  The work of a son of a founder of Hamas and a top spy for Israel’s Shin Bet, whose espionage efforts and about-faces others can appraise, is interesting to Sightings for its content on a particular subject, the author’s preached view of “The Islamic God.”
Sean Hannity, who may not often be cited here as a mild one, was chastised by bloggers for being unaroused by Yousef’s theology.  The Fox TV host was even criticized by many for being “PC,” too politically correct to join in the attack on Allah when he interviewed Yousef on March 4th.  And attack there certainly was.  Yousef: “There are no moderate Muslims.”  “All Muslims are the same,” namely fanatics.  “They believe in a god of the Koran and they believe that this Koran is from that god.”  More: “The most criminal terrorist Muslim has more morality than their God,” contended Yousef; “Their god is a terrorist and ignorant.”
The March 5th Wall Street Journal featured a page-wide bold-print headline above its interview of Yousef by Matthew Kaminski: “THEY NEED TO BE LIBERATED FROM THEIR GOD.”  Killing can play its part, but, you guessed it, Yousef also relies on spiritual demolition for such liberation.  Yousef says his father is not a fanatic, but “he’s doing the will of a fanatic God…a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God.”  Governments “don’t want to admit this is an ideological war…The problem is not Muslims.  The problem is their God.  He is their biggest enemy.”
Yousef – again, you guessed it – is living in the U.S. as a convert to Christianity.  In his book and in interviews he says nice things about “the grace, love and humility that Jesus talked about.”  It did take courage for Yousef to become an apostate and break with Islam, his family, and the spy-world he served.  Henceforth?  Max Scheler wrote that an apostate “is engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge against his own spiritual past.”  There may be plenty against which to react, but one has to ask what good his demonizing of his neighbor’s God will do in the already mutually demonizing conflicts of our day.  What RenĂ© Girard calls “the mimetic principle” is in action here and these days:  You say something about our God and they say something worse about ours, so we say something “worser” yet about theirs, in a constant escalation which can lead to neither security for us or a better (in our eyes) alternative for them.
“Them” Muslims find texts from a book that serves “us” as the Koran serves “them:” namely, the Bible.  Several titles on my shelf signal the riches available (see below). The warrior God was cited on all sides in World War I, for example, where Christian clergy and laity alike invoked this God on the side of Germany versus this God on the side of France and, with denominational variants, of England and the United States.  World War I is not the last time “we” read a scripture in which “our God” inspired us to do the worst.  Most citizens and soldiers may not have licensed atrocity and indiscriminate mass killing, but “our God” did not help the merciful show grace, love and humility,” and made post-war peacemaking more difficult.


Sample titles about the warrior God in the Bible include Yahweh is a Warrior, by Millard C. Lind; The Problem of War in the Old Testament by Peter C. Craigie; Holy War in Ancient Israel, by Gerhard von Rad; the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, by various authors.

Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, publications, and contact information can be found at
In this month’s edition of the Religion and Culture Web Forum, Sarah Imhoff introduces us to the Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, who weds reggae music with strong pronouncements of Jewish faith and identity.  Imhoff notes that a common concern for music critics and Matisyahu's coreligionists alike resides in issues of authenticity.  Music critics ask if he's "reggae" enough; Orthodox Jews debate whether he's "Jewish" enough. By troubling categories of identity and their relationships with artistic form, Imhoff explores the limits of "authenticity" in aesthetic and religious performance.  With invited responses forthcoming from Melvin L. Butler (University of Chicago), Judah Cohen (Indiana University), Annalise E. Glauz-Todrank (University of California, Santa Barbara), Elliot A. Ratzman (Swarthmore College),and Nora Rubel (University of Rochester). 
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the prime reason I am against our wars and sloppy preemptive attacks. We are killing devout followers as well as the crazy ones. Left to themselves, many would see "the writing on the wall" may not be so totally God inspired. We have been learning this of our scriptures through historical facts, but would have pushed back hard if our noses were pushed into the issue (some do). Let's defend ourselves, not cause entrenchment of their ideology. Too late I fear, David Mc