The former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has written a fascinating book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. * Dr Sacks remains a widely respected figure, and is a man of some wisdom, to whom we would do well to listen. He challenges first of all the contemporary myth that Religion causes violence, a sentiment expressed, for instance, in John Lennon’s Imagine, and that therefore, religion ought to be, somehow, abolished. Some very serious research has shown that both in ancient and more recent history, only about 10% of wars have been religious in some way or another. The overwhelming causes of violence are rather to be found in disputes, big or small, over territory, power, nationality, money, or even sex. (you never hear anyone suggesting that therefore we should abolish money or sex!) While religious affiliation may well aggravate a situation, religion has, from earliest times, proved to be the most effective way of cementing different peoples together, in learning how to live alongside one another, and to value and understand different approaches and cultures. Above all, to be a religious person, whatever one’s faith, is, for Dr Sacks, to commit oneself to want the best for the other person.
Meeting and sharing with people of different faiths has, for me, been a very valuable thing. The true search for God will always take us away from violence, and towards the heart of love. While other world faiths may therefore show me something of God, I do however believe that ultimately God is to be known most fully as he is in Christ, crucified and risen, and that view can be held with absolute integrity alongside wanting to know more of other world faiths. In no faith other than classic, biblical, catholic and orthodox Christianity, has God really, totally and truly revealed what he is like. To say that all faiths are equal, is to deny the death and resurrection of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I am right, and everyone else isn’t, rather it means God is right!
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus sets out our clear Christian duty to love our neighbour. It is the Samaritan, the despised foreigner, who is closest to God. We are not just to be a good neighbour to those who are different, those who challenge us, those indeed, who, in our heart of hearts we do not like, but we are to be prepared to be helped, and loved by them.
Thank you for the human family,
For people of all faiths and none,
Especially those who are our neighbours.
May we learn to promote tolerance and understanding,
And also never be afraid to witness to our faith in Jesus. Amen.
*Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. Published by Hodder & Stoughton