If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), mindfulness (The Fifth Step), action (The Sixth Step), how little we know (The Seventh Step), how to speak to one another (The Eighth Step), concern for everybody (The Ninth Step), or knowledge (The Tenth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.
The first exercise for the Tenth Step: Knowledge was to pick another country we liked and make a project of learning a lot more about it. Naturally, I picked the United Kingdom and will continue exploring it in my British Isles Friday posts.
The second exercise is to choose a book from the suggested reading list in the back of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life “about the current tension between the West and the Islamic world, a topic of major concern at the moment.” p. 162
I picked How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror by Reza Aslan, mostly because we had that sitting on a shelf since my husband read it a few years ago.
I expected to learn a lot about Islam, and I am, but I’m also learning a lot about Judaism and Christianity, and the factions in them that are recruiting cosmic warriors with similar rationale as Jihadists. All three of the major monotheist religions have this “cosmic war” strain in a minority of their adherents.
A cosmic war is a religious war. It is a conflict in which God is believed to be directly engaged on one side over the other. Unlike a holy war–an earthly battle between rival religious groups–a cosmic war is like a ritual drama in which participants act out on earth a battle they believe is actually taking place in the heavens. It is, in other words, both a real, physical struggle in this world and an imagined, moral encounter in the world beyond. The conflict may be real and the carnage material, but the war itself is being waged on a spiritual plane; we humans are merely actors in a divine script written by God. p. 5
In Judaism, I learned that
Religious Zionists have shown that they would prefer civil war in Israel to peace with the Palestinians. That is because these Jews define their national identity in terms not of civic loyalty to the state but of religious obligation to the land. For them the state of Israel has no intrinsic value, other than to serve as a vehicle for the settlement of Jews. p. 81
In Christianity, I learned that
America’s Christian Zionists believe that the Jews must rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in order to usher in the return of the Messiah. Of course, as Christians, they believe the Messiah is Jesus Christ and that when he returns to earth the Jews will have to either convert to Christianity or be damned. But remarkably, the last act of this cosmic drama seems not to matter much to either the Jews or the Christians in this messianic coalition. That is because what binds these two very different religious communities together under a single, transnational, collective identity is not a shared theology but a common cosmic worldview and, more important, a common cosmic foe. pp. 82-83
In Islam, I learned that
Jihadism is a puritanical movement in the sense that its members consider themselves to be the only true Muslims. All other Muslims are impostors or apostates who must repent of their “hypocrisy” or be abandoned to their fate. As an exclusively Sunni movement, Jihadism reserves particular contempt for the Shi’a (approximately 15 to 20 percent of the Muslim world and and centered around Iran, Iraq, and the Levant), whom the Jihadists regard not as Muslims but as rawafidah, or “rejectionists”–heretics who are considered worse than the infidels and hypocrites. p. 99
I haven’t finished the book yet, but Aslan gives away the answer to the question in the title at the end of the introduction:
“…in the end, there is only one way to win a cosmic war: refuse to fight in it.” p. 11
I’m not hopeful, at the moment, that Americans are willing or able to back ourselves out of this fight. Or maybe, I am hopeful. It depends on where I look. So let’s look at the positive side. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported on Friday an outpouring of support from American citizens. These are the people who refuse to fight a cosmic war and the people who can help us win it.