Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Root of the Problem

Jordan's Queen Rania is concerned that Islamic Extremists are painting the Arab World in violent colors. I agree. I have a caveat, though.

Dear Queen Rania,

Here's the root of the problem, your Highness: there is something wrong with your source text. It's the same problem the Christians have with theirs. The same text that hands down your morality is the same text that excuses ISIL's lack of it. Anyone can read the text and pick the verses that reflect his own tendencies, good or bad, and say that his actions have been given God's approval.

I don't expect you to acknowledge that what's good in every moral system comes from our common humanity. ("Do unto others" is simply "give and take," and that predates Christianity, predates religion, even.)  But I would hope that every reading of Christian or Islamic texts takes this humanity into account.

Would a wise, loving, merciful God really inflict infinite punishment for finite crimes? For simple ignorance? Would the same God really  prescribe monstrous behavior toward people who are obviously also his children? Would a just God really prescribe behavior that is so patently unfair?

The texts are broken. Fundamentally so.  Because their human writers--however inspired they were--  were flawed.

Until people realize that their texts are fundamentally broken, this is going to keep happening. Every sect or faction disenfranchised by the modern world will hold more tightly to their text, more specifically to the verses which justify their retaliation against the people who are conveniently labelled "agents of the Enemy." 

Your Highness, here is where we can both agree: education. The same education  that (in conjunction with your position) has allowed you to speak out for women's rights and the cause of international peace: this is what's going to keep us all from killing each other. The more we know about and embrace other peoples, the more we can see our own humanity peeking out from under the foreigner's clothes.