Interfaith dialogue

A lot of people don’t realise that Jesus has always been much admired within Islam.  While not recognising Jesus as being an equal of God, Islam holds him up as a paragon of mercy and compassion.  The reason Jesus can not be God is because Islam argues that if God is One, the notion of a Trinity seems a bit nonsensical.  God has no partner, I think is the theology.  But a lot of famous Muslims have recognised Jesus as something for ordinary human beings to aspire to, a “kind of” perfection that is attainable within this very life.

I love Sufism, always have and always will, even if I may only approach it from a rather bookish perspective.  Please don’t bother asking anyone if I know what the heck I am talking about, because I freely admit that I do not.  Still, have a listen.  What I want to do in this post is to give you an example of a Sufi teaching story and contrast it with a story from the Gospel.  I aim not to convert anyone to anything; I am writing about justice and mercy and that is all.

From the Way of the Sufi, a story by Attar.

AN ANSWER OF JESUS

Some Israelites reviled Jesus one day as he was walking through their part of the town.

But he answered by repeating prayers in their name.

Someone said to him:

“You prayed for these men, did you not feel incensed against them?”

He answered:

“I could spend only of what I had in my purse.”

(End of story)  I love this little story.  Now, I want to give a teaching story from the Christian tradition

“They went each to his home, and Jesus to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared once more in the temple; and when all the people started coming to him, he sat down and started to teach them. The doctor of the law and the Pharisees now brought in a woman caught committing adultery.  Making her stand out in the middle they said to him, “Master, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.  Moses laid it down for us in the Law that such a woman should be stoned.  What do you say about it?”

They put the question to trap him, hoping to frame a charge against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they continued to press their question he sat up straight and said, “Let the man amongst you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”  Then once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard what he said, one by one they went away, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was alone with the woman still standing there.  Jesus raised his head and said, “Woman, where are they?  Has no-one condemned you?”  No-one, sir,” she answered.  Jesus said, “Nor do I condemn you.  Go now and sin no more.”

A hero of mine, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom relates the story of asking a parishioner to find themselves in one of their favourite Gospel stories.  The man says, well, I always like the story of the woman who was caught in adultery.  Metropolitan Anthony asks, and who are you in the story.  The man says, sadly, I would have been the only one to cast a stone.

Within Islam, God has many names, one of the key ones being the most Compassionate and the most Merciful.  I agree that Jesus, as a man, can not be more compassionate than God.  It is a logical impossibility.

As Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran plead for clemency, I remind important people of important facts and truths that people in a higher place than me should be paying a little more attention to.  Hey, Kevin, do you want to be Pontius Pilate?  I am not saying that Kevin Rudd can or should do anything.  Or that the Australian government is not doing all they can.  Just make sure of it, guys.  (PS: I use Kevin as a symbol because he holds no major office, and a friend of mine once knew him and I have always tried to believe in him as I have tried to believe in all my representatives in Parliament.)

I really do wish it was as simple as appealing to people’s conscience.  If it was me, I couldn’t fire one of those bullets for the very reason that can be abstracted from this post.  I don’t believe in other governments executing these two Australian citizens for the crime of attempting to smuggle drugs out of  their country and into ours.  Seems like Indonesia would get the better end of that deal anyway.  And what would the nature of the crime be.  I know its drug smuggling, but what does that mean?  Attempted manslaughter?  Big questions.

And I don’t believe in the Australian government not making arguments such as mine publicly.  You guys are doing a great job but you are messing this one thing up.  Surely.

PS:  Been reading Alan Wallace’s seminal text, Boundless Heart, on the four immeasureables.  A promise to my readers, I won’t be this preachy always.  Just wanted to make a few points that matter.  I take themes and run with them.  This was on my mind for a long time and I want to do my bit to make this world better.

My little prayer for tonight: Just as I want to be happy and don’t want suffering, so does Andrew want to be happy and doesn’t want suffering.  Just as I want to be happy and don’t want suffering so does Myuran want to be happy and doesn’t want suffering.

May you guys be well, may you guys be safe, may you guys be happy, may you guys live with ease.  I believe that God desires mercy not sacrifice.  Some of us are praying for you.

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