The Rev. J. Kerry Presnell, First Christian Church of Platte City: I have always found it interesting how people of various religions interpret or “choose” certain Scriptures or passages to justify their actions.
For example, Deuteronomy 7:2 of the Old Testament says, “…and when the Lord your God gives (these nations) over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show no mercy.”
Yet the book of Jonah says that God changed his mind about bringing calamity upon foreigners of Nineveh. “Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people…?” God asked Jonah.
One can point out similar examples in the Qur’an. The Qur’an says, “Fight them, and God will chastise them at your hands and degrade them, and he will help you against them…”
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However, it also says, “The servants of the All-merciful are those who walk on the earth modestly and who, when the ignorant address them, say, ‘Peace.’”
Once again, the choice is to be merciful and peaceful or be an agent of destruction. It depends upon what fits our ideology.
Even though certain leaders have promoted violence while calling themselves “Christian,” violence was not a part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. His ways of compassion and love and peace were always first and foremost in his life.
As Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew, “All who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”
So the enemy of peace is not religion itself, but those who pursue acts of trepidation and savagery against the innocent in the name of religion, who interpret from texts in a way that fits their own particular principles and dogma.
The Rev. Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on the Plaza: Imagine a spoked wooden wheel commonly used on horse-pulled wagons. The outer rim of the wheel is that which has contact with the road. This part of the wheel goes through the muddy ruts, takes on the hard bumps and is exposed to the harsh surface of the road.
The spokes of the wheel give it strength and durability to withstand the harsh conditions. But it is the hub of the wheel to which the spokes are anchored that allows the outer rim and the spokes to do what they were meant to do.
For the most part, the wheel would be worthless if it didn’t have the hub, or the center piece, to connect to.
Metaphorically speaking, we spend the greatest amount of our lives on our little part of that outer rim of the wheel, interacting with the world around us. We go through the muddy ruts, take some pretty hard bumps from time to time, and life can often seem harsh.
Times like this can be disruptive, fear-ridden and anxious if we don’t have spiritual strength and stability.
The spokes of our metaphorical wheel can be seen as the many different spiritual paths to God, represented by the hub. Every spoke serves the same purpose, is going from the same outer rim to the same inner hub and all are of an equal value.
We are all engaged in one life dynamic. There is one God to all and for all. We get to choose the spiritual path that leads us to that God.
The problem is, most religions suffer under three delusions. First, they believe they are the only way to God. Second, they believe other religions are insignificant and fraudulent. Third, they believe they are God’s chosen ones, and all the people on all the other paths are condemned to hell.
Violence will disappear when the prejudices, discrimination, divisiveness and arrogance of religions is replaced with an unwavering sense of unity with one another and unity in God.
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