Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Koran vs. Bible: Which One Justifies Evil?

Below I have reposted a pop quiz on our knowledge of the holy books.  I do this because there is so much anger fueled by ignorance about the Muslim faith.  I am not a "all roads lead to heaven" kind of guy, but I am someone who believes in informed, peaceful dialogue fueled by respect and a belief that we can learn from one another.  Christians, those who follow Jesus, should be the first to extend radical hospitality to those who differ from us.  Take this.  The answers are below.  Don't peak!

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Test Your Savvy on Religion

Time for a pop quiz.

The New York Times reported recently on a Pew Research Center poll in which religious people turned out to be remarkably uninformed about religion. Almost half of Catholics didn’t understand Communion. Most Protestants didn’t know that Martin Luther started the Reformation. Almost half of Jews didn’t realize Maimonides was Jewish. And atheists were among the best informed about religion.
So let me give everybody another chance. And given the uproar about Islam, I’ll focus on extremism and fundamentalism — and, as you’ll see, there’s a larger point to this quiz. Note that some questions have more than one correct choice; answers are at the end.

1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death?
a. Koran
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads

2. Which holy text declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”?
a. Koran
b. Gospel of Matthew
c. Letter of Paul to the Romans

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?
a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism

4. "Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son.” This verse is from:
a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
b. The Book of Revelation
c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale

5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery?
a. Old Testament
b. New Testament
c. Koran

6. In the New Testament, Jesus’ views of homosexuality are:
a. strongly condemnatory
b. forgiving
c. never mentioned

7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: “repel the evil deed with one which is better.”
a. Gospel of Luke
b. Book of Isaiah
c. Koran

8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands?
a. Muhammad
b. Amos
c. Jesus

9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist?
a. Jacob
b. King David
c. Muhammad

10. What characterizes Muhammad’s behavior toward the Jews of his time?
a. He killed them.
b. He married one.
c. He praised them as a chosen people.

11. Which holy scripture urges that the "little ones" of the enemy be dashed against the stones?
a. Book of Psalms
b. Koran
c. Leviticus

12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave?
a. Koran
b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
c. Book of Judges

13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services?
a. The first Dalai Lama
b. St. Paul
c. Muhammad

1. b. Deuteronomy 22:21.
2. a. Koran, 2:256. But other sections of the Koran do describe coercion.
3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.
4. c. Hadith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet to be revered.
5. All of the above.
6. c. Other parts of the New and Old Testaments object to homosexuality, but there’s no indication of Jesus’ views.
7. c. Koran, 41:34. Jesus says much the same thing in different words.
8. b. Amos 9:7
9. all of them
10. all of these. Muhammad’s Jewish wife was seized in battle, which undermines the spirit of the gesture. By some accounts he had a second Jewish wife as well.
11. a. Psalm 137
12. a. Koran 4:34
13. b. St. Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, but many scholars believe that neither section was actually written by Paul.

And yes, the point of this little quiz is that religion is more complicated than it sometimes seems, and that we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith, especially based on cherry-picking texts. The most crucial element is perhaps not what is in our scriptures, but what is in our hearts.

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As the author advises, I hope that this helps us to see that yanking unjust or apparently evil texts out of the Koran is just as unfair as someone yanking Psalm 137 out and saying that Jews and Christians are in favor of dashing babies against rocks (especially since are are Pro-life and all!).  I would prefer that someone who does not understand Christianity or the Bible or who has hard questions about our beliefs and scriptures to come to me, get to know me, enter into dialogue with me, share with me, etc.  Since I follow Jesus, I am inclined to treat others as I want to be treated.  So, before I send out mass FWDs on the evils of the Muslim faith or the Koran, before I call a radio station making prejudicial remarks against another faith system, I need to ask about those ugly and embarrassing parts of my own faith system, holy book, and history.

I titled this post with a question: Which one (Koran or the Bible) justifies evil?  One point of view could say, "Both!"  Another could say, "Neither!"  Still others might brush over their faith's dark parts and exclaim that the other one is evil.

I want to say that our God is the Father of the Incarnate Son who came to live among, suffer with and for, and to die that we might know life.  That is the kind of life the Bible is to inspire - sacrificial, enemy-loving, self-giving life.  The just and holy and loving nature of Jesus must be the driving center of our reading of Scripture.  I think it is time that I ask a Muslim friend what the driving heart of his book is.  I think it is time that I refuse to say, believe, or listen to uninformed, divisive, angry comments from the mouths of those who do not adhere to that which they comment upon. 

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