Lesson 3: Ben Laden’s Assasination

Bob is quite right when he warns that our response to the actions of those we oppose too often plays into their hands. You see this in many of our reactions to 9/11. All three of our reading groups repeatedly brought this up. They wanted to talk about Islam more than any other subject, and usually this was in the context of some group’s attack on that religion. Most recently the college young people wanted to discuss the celebrations that took place on their campuses after the assassination of Ben Laden. I wrote the following paper as a discussion starter. You can check out their discussion in the comments section.

Ben Laden’s Death in the Context of the Three Western Abraham-based Religions

The assassination of Ben Laden raises a number of questions for religious people. Does Islam teach the violence associated with Al Qaeda? Does Christianity support killing him? Does Judaism claim that God gave them the Holy Land lead to Ben Laden’s call for terrorism?

Answering these questions should begin by examining what it means for the three Western religions to claim Abraham as their common father. Let me offer a few biblical observations that might get us started.

The history of salvation accepted by all three faiths begins with God making promises to Abraham. God has created a good world that humans corrupted. He now begins the healing process that will eventually restore the goodness. He starts with one person and eventually will save the entire creation.

This story involves thee critical elements. First, it means we do not have to accept evil, because that is the way of the world. If we are dealing with that which was once good, it can be corrected; and we should participate in this correction.

Second, the means of restoration include compassion and law. All three religions support this, even though they might balance the two values differently. Judaism’ understanding of law can be summarized as justice, Christianity’s as love, and Islam’s as total submission to God’s will. All of these can be found in the Abraham story that begins in Genesis 12.

God is caring, like a father who desires good things for his children, Humans are called to be just as caring in dealing with one another. The primary example is hospitality that involves treating even strangers as family- That is exactly how Abraham and Sarah received God and how Sodom and Gomorrah did not.

Third, salvation is initiated and ensured by God whose participation in our history gives it purpose. In all three religions Abraham is lauded for his faith in God’s promises that is counted as righteousness. The near sacrifice of his son is used an example. Righteousness here is being in a right relationship with God and other people.

One of the differences between the three religions is that Christianity and Judaism use canons that are based on many sacred books written over many centuries by many people. Islam uses one book written by one man in one historical period. That means the first two allow more diversity. Christianity does not even insist on one way to accept Jesus. They approve four Gospels that give four different responses.

Peaceful relationships are especially difficult at this time, because all religious are experiencing fundamentalist movements that insist believers must accept one and only one interpretation. Christian fundamentalism claims the Creed must be read as 1) the inerrancy of scripture, 2) the deity of Christ which is defined as biological virgin birth, 3) the substitution atonement of his death for our sins, meaning God’s law demanded someone had to be punished for the sins of humanity, 4) Jesus’ literal bodily resurrection from the dead, which must be defined as believing in Jesus literal return in the second coming, and 5) the objective reality of all the biblical miracles. One form of Jewish fundamentalism is Zionism that demands the land grant was an essential part of the promise made Abraham. Islamic fundamentalism reacts to the humiliation of colonialism by defining jihad as violently forcing others to submit to Islam rather than an internal spiritual struggle.

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  1. Pastor Fritz Foltz says:

    All of our young people reported being disturbed at the way their campuses responded to the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. They felt this was used as just another excuse for the partying that goes on at the universities. One was especially concerned, because he had befriended a number of Muslim students who were afraid for their safety. The discussion began by sharing opinions whether Christians should rejoice at the death of any one, even an enemy. It moved on to ask questions about the violence of Islamic Fundamentalists. Interestingly, most of the young people believed a Muslim was by nature more religiously observant than a Christian.

    The value of studying abroad was proven when a young woman who had spent time in a Muslim nation reported she found their observance just like ours: some practiced, some did not. She mentioned that when the call for prayer went out, those around her went on about their business. The occasional observer would retire to a back room to pray by himself. Our group believed too much of our response to 9/11 had been tailored to gain votes rather than to build peace.

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