Is Religion a Force for Peace?

History is riddled with strife, chaos, and violence that only tell us that religion is absolutely not a force for peace. It is, evidently, quite the opposite. To defend their own beliefs, many people have sacrificed their lives and, sometimes, have become martyrs in their own circles. Pages of history tell of the Crusades, the Holy Wars, and other similar events that people pushed for in an effort to make the world hear that their religion is the absolute truth or, in most occasions, in order to gain political, economic, or territorial control. However, it is also evident that events of the past has not been adequate to make people know better than to force people into their circle.

The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns, waged by much of Roman Catholic Europe, particularly the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century. The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholic forces (taking place after the East-West Schism and mostly before the Protestant Reformation) against Muslims who had occupied the near east since the time of the Rashidun Caliphate, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the various popes.

The Great Revolt, which began at Caesarea in 66 CE, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of the Judea Province against the Roman Empire. It rooted from the Greek and Jewish religious tensions but later grew with anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens.

The Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 AD) against the Roman Empire was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea Province and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years, but a Roman army of 12 legions with auxiliaries finally crushed it.

During the reign of Emperor Zeno, tensions between the Christian community and the Samaritans in Neopolis grew dramatically. According to Samaritan sources, Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno (who ruled 474-491 and whom the sources call “Zait the King of Edom”) persecuted the Samaritans with no mercy. The Emperor went to Sichem (Neapolis), gathered the elders and asked them to convert; when they refused, Zeno had many Samaritans killed, and re-built the synagogue to a church.

These events are only a few of those that I can cite to give a solid foundation to my conclusion on where religion stands in the sphere of peace. However, it maybe so that I am narrow-sighted and only looked into those tragic events with a religious root. Then again, maybe, religion isn’t the core of the problem. Maybe, religion isn’t to blame. Maybe, it is the people who run these institutions. All the same, the touch of religion is evident and undeniable.

The Law of the Garbage Truck

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven …. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”1

Mike Benson asks, “How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood?

“Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? The mark of a successful [mature] person is how quickly he/she can get back his/her focus on what’s important.

“I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car’s back end by just inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly.

“So, I said, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital.’ And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’ He said, ‘Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.’

“I started thinking, how often do I let garbage trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets? It was that day I said, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore.'”2

However, as many of us know, that’s easier said than done. When we overreact to people who “dump their garbage” on us, we need to realize that what the other person does is his or her problem—but to the degree that we overreact that is our problem. To react in a Christ-like manner, it is imperative that we resolve our “garbage.” If we don’t, we will be forever allowing others to control our moods and trigger our unresolved problems.

from DailyEncounter, 02-21-2008

Happiness and the Golden Rule

Jesus Christ said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

“A fascinating study on the principle of the Golden Rule was conducted by Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research. Rimland found that ‘the happiest people are those who help others.’

“Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare—an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.”2

“In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those ‘whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness … are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.’ Rimland concluded: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

from DailyEncounter, 03-27-2008

Greed

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

“According an old fable, attributed to Aesop, a dog was carrying a bone as he crossed a bridge. He looked into the water and saw his own reflection. He took this to be another dog and another bone. He desperately wanted the other bone so he dropped the one he had to scare the ‘other dog.’ Of course there was no other bone and he lost the one he had into the water. Such is the nature of human greed. In the effort to get what we want, we frequently lose what we have.”

from DailyEncounter, 03-26-2008

Where’s the missing link?

“Evolutionists strongly deny the idea that men came from the apes. They insist both came from a hypothetical ape-like ancestor, or a missing link. In their story, man and apes diverged from the imaginary ancestor some seven million years ago. However, there is no evidence that this supposed ‘missing link’ ancestor ever existed. If it were true, surely some would be fossilized. But none have ever been found.

“Since there is no fossil evidence, let’s look at it from the standpoint of genetics. How many genetic mutations it would require for the ape-like ancestor to transition into a human? The only way we know to acquire new genes is to alter existing genes through random mutation. The best alteration science has observed has produced only novel recombinations. Most mutations deteriorate the genetic information and thus harm the offspring. Many mutations are fatal. Evolution would require trillions of innovative mutations to produce man from lower forms. None have been observed.”2

I am neither a scientist nor the son of a scientist but I know enough to know that people by and large believe exactly what they want to believe—what they choose to believe—what is most convenient for them. As the old saying goes, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”

As Joshua said to the ancient Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”3

from DailyEncounter, 03-28-2008

Pure Religion

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”1

As the late Karen Carpenter used to mournfully sing, “Loneliness, it’s such a sad affair.” How true this is for so many in today’s digital world.

Special holiday times such as Easter, Christmas, birthdays and even weekends are joyous occasions for many. For others these are some of the loneliness times of the year… especially for those who are alone, for those who have lost their spouse or a child, and for single adults … all of whom remember happier times and suffer a deep kind of loneliness at these times.

Many Daily Encounter readers have been there. Some are there right now. I’ve been there, too. I know the pain. This is why all of us need to be sensitive to the needs of all in our circle of relationships, remembering that many a smiling face hides an aching heart. We need to reach out to those who are lonely and hurting—invite him, her, or them over for a meal. Call them on the phone or send them an email to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask if there is anything you can do for them. Visit an elderly friend or neighbor. Provide gifts for the children of a family that is in deep need. Provide some food for the hungry.

I had a dear friend whom I met in kindergarten. We went all through grade school and technical college together. We’d been in national service together, too, and even though we’d lived thousands of miles apart, we never lost contact with each other. A while ago my friend fell on hard times, became discouraged, withdrew into himself and took his life. A tragic waste! Sadly, he never let me know of his struggle. How sad it is when, in our hour of need, as adults, we forget to hold hands and reach out for the help and support we need—so we can, as Jesus taught, “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”—and practice pure and true religion!

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you for all your endless blessings given to me. Help me always to be responsible, loving, kind, a burden-bearer, and above all to be Christ-like in all that I say and do. And when I need help, give me the courage to reach out and admit that I have a problem and ask for help. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

from DailyEncounter, 03-23-2008