Time for another God is dead debate resurrection
Hope can be elusive when you’re recovering from a couple of surgeries; one planned, the other definitely not.But slow recuperation does allow time for reflection, and in that slow time I have found a flicker of hope.It comes in a report out of Beirut, Lebanon, by New York Times reporter John Kifner. In it he details a growing and increasingly public self-criticism on the part of many Muslims to the actions of Islamic extremists.This past week’s horrific killings of so many innocent children, parents and teachers in Russia was the catalyst for a surprisingly frank round of religious analysis in the Arab world.The general manager of one of the Middle East’s most-watched satellite television stations went on the air to proclaim: “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.”
Many of us in the West have wondered aloud why our brothers and sisters within mainstream Islam have not spoken out more vociferously on this very point. Self-analysis is a critical component in the health of any organization and it has been extremely painful to see it apparently ignored by one of the world’s major religions.Indications are now that this may be changing. Indeed, given that this all-important piece of news was found only at the bottom of page 8 rather than under a major headline on the front page, makes one wonder if such self-criticisms have been occurring much longer than we have been made to believe.In any case, I find a hopeful flicker here and, having the time to ponder it, I allow it to lead me on.In the 1960s a religious movement was born that asked the provocative question: “Is God dead?” It was met with outrage from Christians worldwide and those who had posed the question for honest debate were deemed heretics and worse.But a remnant of that fledgling movement lives and many of us are still asking questions including this one: “If God isn’t dead, shouldn’t he be?”
The proposal posits the possibility that the image of God that has shaped civilizations for more than 2,000 years is fraught with liabilities that include: the defense of the wholesale slaughter of innocents, the oppression of various groups of people including women, blacks, homosexuals and more, the legitimization of the invasion and conquest of sovereign nations, and more, much more.Isn’t it long past time that we reject this image and allow this pervasive and terribly destructive myth to die along with Zeus, Hercules and all the rest who once served a purpose but eventually were laid to rest by the combination of personal reason and public responsibility? Surely the time has come for folks, both religious and not, to let go of ancient practices and presumptions that are no longer effective in solving the complex problems of a dramatically changed world.We Christians are shaped by the myth of death and resurrection. At the very heart of our faith lies the conviction that even the most beautiful of divine treasures dies, painfully and publicly, but out of that death something new and even more beautiful arises. It is time, I believe, for another death of God.I call on religious folks everywhere to enter into this grief process, to recognize the time has come for us to let go of the God who has served us well perhaps in the past, but is not prepared for the future.Allowing for another resurrection that may bring forth a new myth of unity and compassion, hope and happiness for all people, is the only possibility, it seems to me and a growing number of others, for peace in the world.
This proposal will be seen as foolhardy by some and dangerous by others. The very thought that we control the destiny of God is anathema to our current image of the Almighty and may seem ludicrous to most readers and downright blasphemous to others.But I make it in good faith as one who has tried to be a faithful follower of the Prince of Peace. The one who, I believe, was willing to die in order that something new could be born. May that death come soon. May the borning begin.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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