“Religion Gone Astray” by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, Imam Jamal Rahman

Subtitle: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith

Recommended to me by: Rabbi Ted Falcon’s website

I felt welcomed into this book right away when the authors say they will address exclusivity, violence, sexism, and homophobia in their three religions. These are the major issues that keep me away from organized religion.

For each section, each author writes in turn about his religion, where it goes astray, and how that can be addressed. They appear in the order that the religions were founded: first Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam. They take full ownership of problematic scriptures, and explain how they can be re-interpreted to support a more inclusive, whole spirituality.

They say the core teaching of Judaism is oneness, of Christianity is unconditional love, and of Islam is compassion.

They address exclusivity as a (misguided) attempt to define each religion in contrast to other options. Violence is defensive, and also a reflection of the human authors and interpreters of scripture. “The more aware I am of the potential for violence within me, the more likely I am to refrain from acting that violence out in my world.”

I was least satisfied with the way they address sexism. Each affirms that men and women [people of all genders] are of equal value and should be treated equally. I did not see them take a step back and acknowledge that the scriptures were written/interpreted by and for men, and that they would be very different if they had been written by women as well.

Their section on homophobia has both the most welcoming and least welcoming passages. Least welcoming is that the exercises at the end are clearly written for straight people, not imagining that LGBT people will be reading as well.

Most welcoming:

The forgiveness we need as a culture and a world is for thinking that homosexuality is anything but natural. And this forgiveness is not needed because we are bad people, but because we need to start over in our thinking about homosexuality.
In effect, we need to be born again to a different and positive and supportive sensibility concerning homosexuality.

The book ends with the comforting idea that both people and institutions go astray in order to grow.  Our mistakes show us where there is more work to be done.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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