Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Just and Merciful God

. . . That's what I believe in.

I went on a long drive the other day, and once my hand(s) on the steering wheel had become one with the pavement, zooming by as it was, I occupied my ears with the various radio stations whose range I was passing in and out of. Pop, rock, ethnic channels, and of course the CBC. I have recently come to the conclusion that we can stop funding most Humanities courses at the first and second-year level in Canadian universities and just make the kids listen to CBC Radio. They'd probably get a better education, and the savings would more than make up for the lack of advertising revenues that CBC radio wisely abstains from generating.

There is another type of radio station that is ubiquitous, sometimes coming over the border from Mordor, and sometimes from here in Canada - Christian Radio.

I love listening to these channels and will tune into them over Avril Lavigne overplayed glory any day. Sometimes they are genuinely educational - Bible scholars give academic lectures on the Old Testament - take it with a grain of salt, but even if you don't believe it, hundreds of millions of people do.

The rest of the time it's pure demagoguery, with a pinch of hatred. This time a couple of hosts were having a conversation (never a debate, because that implies disagreement, which implies independent thought), on Christian denominations which accept the validity of other spiritual practices.

Their conclusion? They are BADBADBAD! And they're lying about Jesus (peace be upon him). Which makes them BAD!

They argue that Jesus in the Bible tells his followers that none can attain Salvation except through him alone, and that if one does not accept that Jesus has paid for one's sins, then eternal damnation is the only alternative.

The implication is that billions of their fellow human beings, hundreds of millions of whom would have never met a Christian, have all be created only to be damned to eternal hellfire, for failing to accept a choice that was never presented to them in the first place.

This defies any human concept of Justice or Mercy. If billions are consigned to eternal damnation without even a fighting chance, then we cannot call this merciful. The God of Born-Again Christian radio is neither Just nor Merciful

Chauvanism is just an expression of pride. Pride is a sin. Unfortunately, there is a lot to go around.

What is more saddening than this is that it is not just Christians. Far too many of my Muslim brothers and sisters believe in this kind of nonsense as well. I asked one, one day, where he thought all the Jews and Christians who had died in Canada had gone. He said, almost hesitantly, as if he knew I would not like the answer, that "they are in Jahannam."

I handed him the Qur'an, opened to a relevant verse.

He had spent far more time reading it than I had. Nevertheless, I think I gave him a great deal to consider that day.

The Qur'an is clear - God sent prophets all over the earth, to every people, with a message of guidance towards the Straight Path. They all preceded Muhammad (peace be upon him), some by millenia, and so they didn't bring revelations in the same language as he did. They didn't all pray the way I do. But, as it says at the end of Surah Baqara, we make no distinction between them.

There is more than one way to salvation.

Muslims believe in a Just and Merciful God. The sad part is that so many of us don't know it.

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