Thursday, March 18, 2010

Which is more violent--the Bible or the Qur'an?

I was glad to hear the story today on NPR regarding Philip Jenkins' take on the violence in the Bible. He argues that the scriptures Christians count as sacred contain plenty of texts that justify violence and have been used from the Crusades to modern White Supremacists to justify violent acts. Where his position will upset people the most concerns his belief that the Bible is more violent than the Qur'an.

Both sacred texts justify violence and both religions have extremist elements who will gladly use these passages to justify their horrible acts. The difference in our current time is that it seems to be occurring more often among certain elements in Islam due to the impact of modern technology and secularism upon traditional cultures in the Islamic world.

I've noted any number of times that the bible has its own violence that it justifies and those verses have been used by Christians for millennia to justify atrocities, but usually I've heard responses from people who wish to declare Islam is inherently evil and inferior to Christianity. They fail to see the danger inherent in all sacred texts that the religious authority they are given can be mixed with violent extremism with horrible consequences.

We Christians should be careful lest we ignore the plank in our own eye when it comes to our use of scriptures.

Grace and Peace,


lneely said...

the authority religious texts is often circular, so who can possibly say with certainty that even the most extreme and violent sects are wrong in their interpretations thereof? i contend that, unless we apply our shared cultural values to the interpretation of those texts, we can't objectively judge one way or the other.

... but cultural values are relative, no? what, then, is "extremism?" furthermore, of what relevance is the quantity of violence in scripture as opposed to the spread of superior cultural values? how do we measure the superiority of one to the other? finally, how are those values spread without... well, violence? even our own culture is rooted in war.

*shrug* just some thoughts.

revpeep said...

Often the problem is not that values or modes of interpretation of texts are relative; the problem is that people who make absolute claims about morality or proper belif or "what God says" are often blind to t heir own cultural influences or perspectives. I would argue that a necessary precondition of violence based upon ideology or religious belief is a belief that there is no validity in any other perspective besides the one of the person or group perpetrating the violence.

Perhaps relativity and even circularity are inescapable--I hope not--but perhaps, so I would rather base my own relative circular perspective on scripture (and life?) upon the principle of loving my neighbor as myself and upon the sacrificial and forgiving love exemplified by Jesus. If I'm going to be circular and/or relative, at least I can try to be loving and forgiving and HUMBLE while I'm at it.

lneely said...

i think that's pretty much right, but i don't think i made my point effectively. my point is, i think that comparing the violent content of each book is to approach the issue of religious violence the wrong way, especially when there are much more interesting questions to be answered.

revpeep said...

Agreed--there are certainly more interesting questions than comparing the quantity of violence in sacred texts--such as, why is is that humans continue to use said texts to justify their violence in the first place.

My purpose in posting a link to the story comparing the Qur'an and the Bible was mainly to hold up a mirror to folks in my own religion who demonize Muslims and their text while being unaware of the violence in their own text and tradition.