Published in Huffington Post, Posted: 08/19/2013 6:34 pm, All Rights Reserved, Copyright
"The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has
record have been committed under the cover of religion." -- Mahatma
Whether its jihadi terrorists, crusading rapists or holy conquerors,
it seems that our history is replete with great religions creating great
suffering. As peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians wage in
Washington, the media loves to tell us stories of the "Jewish" state
committing heinous crimes against the Palestinians and the "Muslim"
terrorists committing murderous atrocities against the Israelis.
Apparently, this intends to accentuate the ethnic and religious nature
of the territorial conflict. It seems that we are witnessing yet again
one religious group of humans fearing, hating and killing another group
of humans in the name of the Creator of all humankind. As George Carlin
said "Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course
they pray to a different invisible man than you."
This was my inspiration for creating this comic. To remind the world
that it is not "Jews" vs "Muslims" but criminals vs criminals. In other
words, I believe that it is not the inherent religion that spawns
religious warfare but the corrupt leaders who twist their peoples
doctrine to serve their own agenda. The true face of religion is the
love, peace, and spirituality that is taught through the various
individual prisms of her origin, culture, and rituals. The terrorists
who decide to use religion as an excuse to bring hell upon this world do
not deserve the title of "Muslim," "Jew," or "Christian." Remember that
not that many years ago, it was the Muslims who welcomed and saved the
Jews from the marauding Crusaders. Yet now we see it is the Christian
nations of the world that welcome and support the Jewish state against
its Islamic enemies. Obviously, the dogma of the religions didn't change
as much as the vision of the religious leaders. When religious leaders
with a new vision rise to grace, the distinction is palpable to us
although they may follow the same rituals, practices, and scriptures as
their predecessors. Recently elected Pope Francis may be a case in
point. When we can start envisioning a world where we care for more than
just our pack or our flock, then we can truly enter a messianic utopia
of peace where "the wolf shall lie with the lamb." (Isaiah 11:6).
You might challenge this sentiment and retort "Stop being so
stubbornly naive as to the inherent hate that is preached in religious
scripture itself?" Does not the Hadith state
"Wherever you find [infidels] kill them; for there will be a reward for
their killers on the Day of Resurrection."? Does not the New Testament
state "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over
them -- bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27)? And
doesn't the Torah state "However, in the cities of the nations the Lord
your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything
that breathes." (Deuteronomy 20: 16-18)?
To this I have one thing to tell you. You are right.
Although just a rabbi, I believe that my Jewish, Christian and Muslim
brothers and sisters share a similar view of a Creator who created this
amazing world for love. I believe that we, who are "created in the
image of the Lord" (Genesis 1:27), have been placed upon this earth to
pursue peace and "love they neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18). I
believe in a God who placed a holy soul into my flesh to "Turn from evil
and do good; seek peace and pursue it." (Psalms 34:14).
So, when I read these verses, I am presented with two logical
options; dismiss it or reinterpret it. Dismiss it as fallacy of a
man-made conjuring or reinterpret it to strictly refer to a specific
time, person or place.
But there may also be a third option. One that is illogical. One that
is irreverent. And one that has been modeled by one of the greatest
religious characters of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
To be like Moses who criticized God for His purposed immorality
against the sinners of the Golden Calf (Numbers 14:12). To use our
God-given brain to argue morality with God. To understand that it is not
blind dogmatic adherence that Moses modeled but an audacious trust in
his own intrinsic moral sensitivity that caused the Creator of All There
Is to say "I have forgiven them, as you asked." (Numbers 14:20). This
passage is one of the most glossed over yet most precious passages of
the Bible. The moment where a finite human mind relies on its limited
intelligence to successfully persuade the Infinite Intelligence of All
Time. As Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein of Vanderbilt Chabad once taught me, "It
is not so much the dogma of religion that we desire but the ever
evolving relationship with God that is our greatest treasure."
Therefore, I'd like to conclude with a call that the Jews, Muslims,
and Christians of the world who believe in a God of Peace unite together
to openly denounce all forms of violent extremism that has poisoned the
true vision of our religions. That Jews be like Moses who said" Why are
you hitting your friend?" (Exodus 2:13). To be like Mohammed who said
"Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms, and prayers?
Making peace between one another." (Sayings of the Prophet Muhammed).
To be like Jesus who said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall
be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9).
CORRECTION: The following quote was incorrectly
attributed to the Quran: "Wherever you find infidels kill them; for
whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection." It
comes from a Hadith, a report of the sayings or deeds credited to