More media 'God versus God'

By Martin E. Marty
18 Mar 2010

We are in for another intense round of “God vs. God,” “Our God vs. Their God,” “Good God vs. Bad God=Devil.” The current round comes from many readers of Mosab Hassan Yousef’s new Son of Hamas, which reads like a spy novel and whose “gripping” plot needs no publicity from me.

Yousef is becoming almost unavoidable in and on the media, at least in North America. The work of a son of a founder of Hamas and a top spy for Israel’s Shin Bet, whose espionage efforts and about-faces others can appraise, is interesting to me for its content on a particular subject, the author’s preached view of “The Islamic God.”

Broadcaster Sean Hannity, who may not often be cited as a mild commentator, was chastised by bloggers for being unaroused by Yousef’s theology. The Fox TV host was even criticised by many for being 'PC,' too politically correct to join in the attack on Allah when he interviewed Yousef on 4 March 2010.

And attack there certainly was. Yousef: “There are no moderate Muslims.” “All Muslims are the same,” namely fanatics. “They believe in a God of the Koran and they believe that this Koran is from that God.” More: “The most criminal terrorist Muslim has more morality than their God,” contended Yousef; “Their God is a terrorist and ignorant.”

The 5 March Wall Street Journal featured a page-wide bold-print headline above its interview of Yousef by Matthew Kaminski: “THEY NEED TO BE LIBERATED FROM THEIR GOD.” Killing can play its part, but, you guessed it, Yousef also relies on spiritual demolition for such liberation.

Yousef says his father is not a fanatic, but “he’s doing the will of a fanatic God... a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God.” Governments “don’t want to admit this is an ideological war... The problem is not Muslims. The problem is their God. He is their biggest enemy.”

Yousef – again, you guessed it – is living in the US as a convert to Christianity. In his book and in interviews, he says nice things about “the grace, love and humility that Jesus talked about.” It did take courage for Yousef to become an apostate and break with Islam, his family, and the spy-world he served.

Henceforth? Max Scheler wrote that an apostate “is engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge against his own spiritual past.” There may be plenty against which to react, but one has to ask what good his demonising of his neighbour’s God will do in the already mutually demonising conflicts of our day.

What René Girard calls “the mimetic principle” is in action here and in these days: You say something about our God and they say something worse about ours, so we say something “worser” yet about theirs, in a constant escalation which can lead to neither security for us or a better (in our eyes) alternative for them.

'Them', Muslims, find texts from a book that serves 'us', Christians, as the Qur'an serves 'them': namely, the Bible. Several titles on my shelf signal the riches available (see below). The warrior God was cited on all sides in World War I, for example, where Christian clergy and laity alike invoked this God on the side of Germany versus this God on the side of France and, with denominational variants, of Britain and the United States.

World War I is not the last time 'we' read a scripture in which 'our God' inspired us to do the worst. Most citizens and soldiers may not have licensed atrocity and indiscriminate mass killing, but 'our God' did not help the merciful show grace, love and humility, and made post-war peacemaking more difficult.

References:

Sample titles about the warrior God in the Bible include Yahweh is a Warrior, by Millard C. Lind (a Mennonite, peace church scholar); The Problem of War in the Old Testament, by Peter C. Craigie; Holy War in Ancient Israel, by Gerhard von Rad; and of course the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, by various authors.

The Wall Street Journal interview with Yousef can be found at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870391520457510348106925886...

The Hannity interview is at: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/03/son-of-hamas-top-dog-moderate-islam-do...

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(c) Martin E. Marty The author is a leading US commentator on religion - and the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.

With grateful acknowledgements to Sightings, and the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Illinois, USA.

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Also on Ekklesia:

'Handling warlike texts in a peacemaking church', by Simon Barrow - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9953

Books on understanding war, peace and religion from Ekklesia: http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/search/node/peace%20war

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