A must-read for everyone holding to any religious creed.
In his book The Jihad of Jesus – The Sacred, Nonviolent Struggle for Justice, Dave Andrews offers the most coherent and compelling faith-based argument for nonviolence I have ever read. His dedication to detailed research of today’s dominant religions (Christianity and Islam) and the reasons for their propensity for violence in defense of their beliefs, give The Jihad of Jesus the clarity and weight the crucial issue of violence in the name of god demands.
The opening chapters trace the bloody histories of Christianity and Islam. Chapter three reflects on the reasons behind so-called ‘holy wars’, and confronts the reader with the central question of the book:
Are the atrocities that are done in the name of Christianity or Islam true indicators of the nature of Christianity or Islam, or not? … if the answer to this question is, as I suspect, that these cruelties are true indicators – and inevitable consequences – of the way we have constructed our religions, then we have everything to fear from Christianity or Islam in the coming millennium.
Andrews then carefully examined the personal, political, and spiritual issues that can lead good people to commit atrocities in the name of religion, and presented the uncomfortable
question that religious people want to avoid at all costs: that the construction of their religion is not merely an excuse, but actually the real reason that so many Christians and Muslims act in such a disgraceful manner.
In this context, Andrews explored the logical outcomes of both closed-set and open-set religious views, finally wrapping up part one with a correspondence which ought to be required reading for anyone wishing to join the ranks of a religious institution.
In part two of the book, Andrews cited studies on human behavior proving man’s innate revulsion to killing, then examined the ways psychology is being used to “put soldiers under sustained systematic pressure to kill”, and how ideology can transform an ordinary human being into a terrorist.
Andrews then considered the disastrous effects of uniting religion and politics in a closed-set belief system. I found this statement particularly insightful:
“[Muslims, Jews, and Christians] … set themselves up as guardians of their sacred texts, defined and defended their interpretations in terms of separate, competing, and conflicting closed set religions, denounced those who disagreed with their interpretations … and declared ‘not-so holy’ so-called ‘Holy War’ on one another to prove their superiority in the disputes.
The entirety of chapter five was devoted to a thorough examination of the non-violent struggle for justice as outlined in the teachings of Jesus, while chapter six gave real-world examples of what that looks like. In the final chapter, The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, Andrews presented the Beatitudes and Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in light of the subject of the non-violent struggle for justice. His conclusions are as beautiful as the bloody history of the church in the first chapter was ugly.
I hope you will take the time to read this important book. I believed for years that in terms of sin – violence in particular – the Roman Empire makes our world today look saintly. However, as we invent new and more impersonal ways to kill one another, we are perhaps entering a time in the history of mankind that will prove to be the darkest and bloodiest ever known – all in the name of our supposed disparate, angry gods. What I truly fear are the ramifications of a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish faith that has lost sight of love altogether, embracing instead a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality, so focused on securing its own victory that it would utterly fail to recognize the God of peace and love they espouse as lord even were he to show up in their place of worship.
In the all-encompassing light of the God who is love itself, may we learn to wield the weapons of peace, compassion, and mercy as non-violent combatants in the struggle for justice in the world.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.
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About the Author:
Dave, his wife Ange, and their family, have lived and worked in intentional communities with marginalized groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal for more than forty years. He now lives in a large joint household with his wife, children, grandchildren and others in an inner city community in Brisbane, Australia. Dave is particularly interested in radical spirituality, incarnational community and the dynamics of personal and social transformation. He is author of many books and articles, including Christi-Anarchy, Not Religion, But Love, and Building A Better World.
“I can think of no book ever written anywhere – popular or scholarly – that so effectively does three things: 1) Recounts the dark side of both Christianity and Islam, 2) Explores the positive potential for peace in Christianity and Islam, and 3) Shows how the teachings of the Christian savior and Muslim prophet Jesus can make a difference in today’s world. I wish we could buy a copy of this book for every Christian and Muslim young person in the world – not to mention their parents and grandparents.”
– Brian McLaren, Pastor, Activist and Author of Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Muhammed Cross the Road?
– Andrew Pratt, Advisor and Coordinator, Inter-faith Work, Blackburn Diocese, and Former Chief Superintendent, National Community Tension Team, UK