Saturday, January 23, 2016

The intermixing of religion

Massive snowstorm on the East Coast this weekend.  Everything closed, no reason to go out.    Listening to Yes, the Fragile album while typing.

Interesting articles the last two months in the Smithsonian.  One called "The Power of Mary", the other "The Search for Jesus". 

What I found particularly interesting is the intermixing of the faiths, especially Christianity and Islam, in perspectives about Jesus and his Mother.  According to the article on Mary, she is mentioned far more in the Quran than in the Bible.  When naming the best woman to ever live, it is documented that Mohammed named Mary (Maryam as she is referred to in that religious book).  In fact, the 19th chapter of the Quran is called Maryam, and it tells her story, including the virginal conception that resulted in the birth of Jesus.  She is considered just as strong a mother figure in Islam as in Christianity. 

Jesus is also mentioned in the Quran numerous times.  He is considered a Messenger of God,
al-Masih, which means the Messiah, in Islam.  His miracles, teachings, and life are recounted just as in the Bible.  It is only in the ending that the two religions differ.  Jesus is not crucified (for our sins) but is instead raised up to God, alive.  This is important to the Muslims in that their end of days scenario features Jesus returning to Earth to die a natural death before being raised to life again on the day of judgment.  

However, this is not the main points of the "The Search for Jesus" article.  The article instead focused on the search for historical Jesus from the standpoint of how the people lived at that time.  The search for Magdala, the town where Mary of Magdalene lived, its proximity to Jerusalem and Galilee.  What was the life of a young Jewish man at a time when Rome ruled the area.  The places they worshipped, foods they ate, their jobs, their relationship with the other peoples of the area.  As the article states, "the deepest insights have come from millions of small finds gathered over decades of painstaking excavation; pottery shards, coins, glassware, animal bones, fishing hooks, cobbles streets, courtyard houses and other simple structures".

Two great religions, with so much in common in their regard for two of the most important people to ever live.  Yet all we here today, is how these religions clash, how they differ, how one is better or inferior to the other.  Would it be so horrible, or so bold, for Fox to air a series on Jesus and Mary in the Quran?  Is it so preposterous to think that the true believers of both faiths share a respect for all life through the teachings of their prophets?  And, is it not true that the ideologues of both religions belie those beliefs with messages of hatred and intolerance?

One last point, as made in the Smithsonian article concerned Jesus as a Jew.  He was born, bred and raised in that tradition, notwithstanding our attempts to pretend otherwise.  But, whether called prophet, Messiah or the Son of God, whether depicted as beardless or bearded, dark skinned or light,  a healer or good shepherd, his message transcended religion and religious dogma.  Wouldn't it be nice if those who claim to worship and admire Him, put aside their steadfast hold on institutional structure, and focus instead on the spirit of the man, his message of Love?       



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