As many of my history, literature, and art professors have had to point out, you can't really touch on the history of much of anything if you avoid reading things like the Old Testament or the Qur'an. Generally they have to say this because we live in a mostly-Christian country with people who are incredibly touchy about their religion. You can't just say “Now let's be objective about this,” you have to go on and on about historical context and how perhaps, just maybe, it's possible that some of this stuff either didn't happen or didn't happen the way Matthew, Luke, or whoever says it did. Especially considering King James quite possibly took some liberties when he had his versions released.
So last night I'm reading the section assigned from the New Testament for world literature and I come across a couple of passages that made me pause and consider current events. As a completely non-religious person raised in a completely non-religious household, with only a passing interest in history – no thanks to high school teachers who made me regurgitate pointless dates from ridiculously patriotic textbooks – I admit I really don't know much about Christianity. I took an introductory religion course at IUPUI my freshman year to fulfill a “humanities” requirement, but the course wasn't as exciting as it should have been. My professor was brilliant, dynamic, fascinating . . . a Harvard graduate with a friggin' PhD in religious studies, but surrounded by Hoosiers who had their own ideas about religion. While many heated arguments threatened to break out in our brief exposure to the New and Old Testaments, there were also many people who snickered and out-right laughed at some of the concepts we covered in Hindu people's religions, Islam, and African tribal beliefs.
I was frequently offended in the class and my fellow students did little the shatter the stereotype that many (not all, of course) American Christians are narrow-minded hypocrites with barely a glimmer of understanding of the history of their own religious beliefs, let alone anyone else's.
It wouldn't surprise me to discover that modern Christianity is the only living world religion that does not accept any other concepts other than their own. Referring to how Islam considers Abraham and Jesus prophets, in addition to Mohammed, or how Judaism accepts Jesus as a prophet but not a Messiah, or how Hindu people are actually monotheistic but worship many different incarnations of their god, or how Buddhists are really not so centered on theism at all . . .
Point being, reading the section from Matthew in the New Testament made me consider our current “leader” and his stubborn adherence to Christianity. One particular passage interested me:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.' But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun rise on the evil and on the good . . . ”
In writing this I have to admit my prior ignorance to anything but a few of the ten commandments, and other than a few things I didn't really understand that we read from my intro to religion course a few years ago, total ignorance regarding the Bible.
The entire section taken from Matthew made me ask “How can Bush call himself a Christian if he hasn't even read this chapter?” It's important enough to be included in just a five-page summary from this literature textbook, so he must have read it before, right?