A day or so before Christmas, Hubby received a small, securely wrapped package in the mail. Not unusual before Christmas, but neither of us could imagine what it could be as it was so unexpected. Then we remembered he had asked some Mormon friends how he could get a copy of the Mormon bible without signing up with the organization and risk getting conversion visits. He was just curious, he said, and wouldn’t want to mislead anyone that he, Hindu born and bred, had any interest other than simple inquisitiveness.
He glanced through it, and the two of us began seriously looking at and comparing the other bibles in our library, the St. James version and the paraphrased “Living Bible” after our interest peaked on reading an article online about the incompatibility of democracy with both the Christian and Muslim religions, a strong argument for a non-theocratic government.
I admit to reading only reading Bible story books when I was growing up–in the church, southern Baptist in the beginning and even more fundamentalist churches later –because the Bible was too confusing and hard to read. The rest of what I learned about the old testament came from the pulpit from different preachers over the years–some far better and some far worse than others.
No wonder I was scared as hell all the years I was growing up! Most of what we heard was hell, fire, and damnation! What does a 5 or 6 year old do with that stuff? What we do to our kids in the name of God, is atrocious! I went to bed more times than I can count worried sick that either I or one of my parents or brothers or my sister would not wake up the next day. Far worse punishment than my father and his brothers suffered at the hands of their own father when they acted like the children they were and messed up or didn’t properly perform the jobs they were expected to and did at the very tenderest of ages. Although he’d mellowed some by the time I was born, my grandfather was considered a difficult man, but he was a pussycat compared to the God I was reading about in Leviticus.
Organized religion, you can see then, was fresh on our minds as we watched television Sunday night. I’m glad we stayed on to see “In God’s Name.” I hope you saw it too, or have the opportunity to see in reruns. It was a documentary by Jules and Gédéon Naudet who were filming a documentary in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
They were caught in the collapse. Jules was shooting inside when the South Tower fell. He said, “On Sept. 11, we faced death and thought we had lost each other. This harrowing experience was the first step in a journey that would take us around the world searching for answers to the meaning of life.”
They went to Egypt, England, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Russia and the Vatican, as well as Illinois and South Carolina, to interview 12 leaders from the various religions about the world, to find the answers to the questions they’d heard repeated over and over during the chaos of that fateful day, “Where was God when this was happening?”
These 12 religious leaders are seen in segments throughout the film during their normal daily 24-hour routines, speaking out about violence and hatred, revealing their own thoughts about faith and peace, unity and tolerance, and hope. One very interesting and surprising–to me anyway–observation with what these 12 leaders had to say was how closely aligned to the fundamentalist view of one of the Muslim leaders the southern Baptist viewpoint was. They both hold similar views of a world in which the devil (evil) is in constant battle with God (good). The God they bow to gives orders like these:
Both thy bondsmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
The verses above are from Leviticus, Chapter 25, Vs. 44-46 of the old testament. All I will say here is, I’d never want to believe in God as he’s portrayed in the old testament, and I know that’s going to make a lot of people who may read this as mad as hell but I don’t care. People who tell you they literally believe every word in the Bible are either crazy or haven’t read the it at all but won’t admit it. Clearly, as stated in the online article mentioned above, the bible can be used by either group to “prove” whatever they wish to prove to their advantage.
Whether the Naudet brothers found God or the answers they were looking for, the diverse and powerful voices on this documentary offer a provocative and enlightening perspective on myriad issues in our post-9/11 world, including the rise of terrorism, fanaticism, intolerance and war. I’m personally looking for, it isn’t the God of Abraham, the one that keeps turning up everywhere I look.
Listed here for anyone who may be interested is the list of the 12 religious leaders who contributed to this documentary with links for further information on each. In alphabetical order, they are: the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexei II, Hindu spiritual leader and “hugger” of the masses Amma; head of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Benedict XVI; spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists Dalai Lama; Shiite Muslim leader Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah; the president of the Lutheran Church Bishop Mark Hanson; the high priest of the Shinto Grand Shrine of Ise Michihisa Kitashirakawa; chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger; the President of the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Frank Page; Sunni Muslim leader Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi; (Hindu) Sikhs high authority Joginder Singh Vedanti; and the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England Dr. Rowan Williams.