The group dynamic shifted when one of the pastors invited us to get out of our seats and sit next to someone we didn’t know. Things changed. Conversation was sparked. We relaxed. One of the imams made fun of himself for his tendency to talk too much. A pastor made light of his own wordiness. It wasn’t much, just a glimpse, but it was there. The start of something different, seeds of peace were being sown.
Soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus – the Prince of Peace. Most of us reading this will do so in relative safety. We will read about wars and rumors of wars but for most of us, those are a long way off. And yet, according to historian Will Durant, there are only 29 years in all of human history in which there wasn’t a war somewhere. In the 20th century more people died because of war than in all of history combined. So much of the violence has been religious violence. Unfortunately, the prospects for the 21st Century don’t look much better. Violence is baked into culture.
It’s also in our sacred texts.
If we were to read the Bible from cover to cover this month, it would be the most violent, bloody book we would read all year! Game of Thrones has nothing on it. According to Philip Jenkins, who has authored books on religious violence, the Quran is less bloody and less violent than the Bible, but both texts have plenty to spare.