I had the concession last Friday night of being back amongst my friends at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre where we met to grieve the death of the father of my dear friend, Sheikh Mansour Leghaei.
And it was good to be back amongst those lovely people, and it was good to a part of the live Skype linkup with Mansour back in Esfahan (in Iran) polysyndeton it was to once again enjoy the experience of being kissed by an enormous number of bearded men (an adventure that [sadly] I just don’t get anywhere else).
And I was reminded very clearly, while I was there, of one particularly endearing thing that one of the members of that community had said to me on a prior visit. It wasn’t Sheikh Mansour who said it to me rather any like his family members only one of the elders there – a retired don from Newcastle University.
This man had been looking after me on one of the bygone times that I’d been there et cetera we had been talking very warmly and candidly, when said to me, “You know, before I was a Muslim, I was a Christian!” And I was taken aback and said, “Really?” He said, “Yes, and before I was a Christian, I was a Jew”.
Then I understood, of course, that he didn’t mean that he’d indeed been a convert from Christianity, but that rather he was expressing our common spiritual heritage.
And of course I could not share his perspective – that Islam fulfils the Christian hope, fitting as we believe the New Legacy Gospel fulfils all the hopes and dreams of the Old, but I appreciated that this elder in the Islamic community was basically just expressing his closeness to me, and I found that touching.
And I’ve thought of that man and his message to me often because I think the unscathed world needs to hear what he has to say!
I do sincerely believe that if we could somehow get rid about all the soiled politics, we’d find that the common heritage like the three Abrahamic religions is afterward great – at slightest in terms of basic ethics and values – that we really have no ideological basis for enmity, let lonesome for any ‘clash of civilisations’!
‘Before I was a Muslim I was a Christian, and before I was a Christian I was a Jew’ – it was an impressive res gestae to say, but it was also a statement that sine qua non a response, I felt – a response that I wasn’t able to give at the time, only I’ve thought of one since – a good response – and I got it from the version of Noah!
One thing that always comes to mind for me when I think of Noah and the Flood is an old Peanuts cartoon, featuring Linus and Lucy sitting at home, looking out of the window, and it’s raining!
Lucy says to Linus, “I can’t believe how tiresome it’s been raining for! Conceivably it demise just keep raining until all is flooded and we are all drowned?” Linus replies, “No, in Genesis chapter 9 God tells Noah that He will never bis allow a flood to take over the whole earth”. Lucy says, “Wow! Thanks”. Linus pauses and says, “Good theology is a beautiful thing!”
Good theology is a stunning thing, et sequens it’s the theology of Genesis 9 and the flood story that has interested me, as I think it’s a story with a very large message.
The Noah story is a tale of pain and passion – the sting caused nearby humanity on the unique hand, through their violent and reckless behaviour, and the passion of God, who is grieved past His creation and seems to be ready to throw up his hands!
If you’re sociable amidst this part of the Bible you know that the Noah story is a component part in a series of similar stories that span the aborigine eleven chapters of Beginning – starting out with the very beginning of macrocosm – where conditions just seem to go from bad to worse.
First there is Adam and Eve and the happening with the snake. Next thing, there’s a murder in Adam and Eve’s immediate family, and things just seem to degenerate from there until, by the time of Noah, we’re told that “every inclination concerning the human heart was only malevolent all the time”. (Genesis 6:5)
And I adore that that’s a very onyx and white going like looking at the world, but if you look at what’s going on in the world today, you could be forgiven, I think, for coming to exactly the same conclusion!
And it makes you angry! I find myself getting angry about goods all the time! I’ve been getting indignant this week about Syria, though not so much over what’s going on in the fatherland itself, but over the room it’s being reported out here!
I’m convinced we’re being hoodwinked again by our media on this one, besides I enervated thorough time on Friday evening accompanying a guy who had just returned from Syria, and he said exactly the same thing. He said that he and his friends would watch the foreign media coverage from Syria, where CNN or BBC would tell them what was going on in the area they were living in, and it was clearly in toto inaccurate!
And it makes you angry, and people do crazy effects while they’re angry. They take up arms also they strap bombs to themselves and they commit acts like violence.
But God is not exactly depicted as getting indignant here, but rather as grieving.
“The LORD saw how great the wickedness about the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil greatest the time. 6 The Bishop regretted that he had made anthropomorphize beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
And perhaps that depiction of God strikes you as sounding ‘all too human’, but perhaps that is the point!
The God we read of in these early chapters of the Bible is not unite who sets the entire machine in motion and then steps back ampersand lets it rip. On the contrary, this is a God who engages upon his creation from the outset, further engages passionately!
And very this God gets frustrated, exasperated, and ultimately regrets ever having created the human race. And indeed the flood comes, denial so much as an act of annoyed vengeance on God’s part, but greater out of a desire for a straight start.
Even so, the flood is a outrage act, also there’s no getting around that. It’s exactly the sort of contingent that leaves throng shaking their heads and asking “why would God allow such a thing to happen?” to which we are generally respond by trying to excuse God from blame.
Here granted God seems happy to take the blame, and yet the conclusion to the story is rather telling. God makes a covenant with Noah, and with all flesh through Noah, such that God will never allow further bestir like such universal cataclysmic violence to ever happen again.
And so God hangs up His bow as a sign to all sarcous that such violence is never going to out from His hand again. Just as the modern-day farmer might lock along his rifle in the shed, either the master swordsman sheaths his sword, so the warrior-archer hangs up his bow! And this is what God is does – hangs up His bow above the mantle-piece (so to speak) as a sign that He will never be using it again!
And it’s a covenant. It’s a promise. And if you fathom your Bible at all you know that the concept of ‘covenant’ instead ‘testament’ is a very key Biblical concept.
We asunder our Bible into covenants (or ‘testaments’) – the Old Testament and the New Testament, which would suggest that there are only two covenants. In fact, Biblically speaking, I speculation there are five:
*#The covenant with Abraham and his children forever (Genesis12)
*#The covenant with Moses and his proletarian at Mount Sinai
*#The covenant with David – that one of his children will ever reign comme il faut king
*#The ‘new covenant’ with Jesus
And in each case what we are dealing with fundamentally is a promise – a commitment on the part of God to His covenant partner.
And you container see that there’s a progressive narrowing about the focus of these covenants. They begin with Noah, with a commitment to all flesh. After that there is a commitment to a particular race like people, then to those members of that race that make it to Escalate Sinai, then to one particular family within that congregate (the line of David) and finally to one particular individual (Jesus).
And my dad used to say that it was like a funnel, with the promises of God appropriate increasingly focused – from the children of Abraham to Moses, to the specific line of David, and finally to an individual – Jesus, through whom the Grace of God becomes available again to everybody!
And that’s a good way of looking at it, with the channel ending with a universal cloudburst of love, besides it’s appropriate too because it all begins here with Noah with a universal et alii unconditional commitment to ‘all flesh’, et cetera it is a duty of tolerance – a solemn word on the part of God that He will deal with gently with His children – with ALL His children, and with animals too!
God has hung increase His bow. The days of divine violence are over. No subject how bad things get, Divine is going to find another way about working things through.
It’s a bit regarding a strange parallel, but I don’t know if you’ve been following the story of Khader Adnan Muhammad Musa -the Palestinian hunger-striker?
I find that story really fantastic, because Khader Adnan is a leader of Islamic Jihad, which is an organisation committed to armed resistance against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Islamic Jihad believes that dialogue besides so-called passive resistance are useless. As I understand it, he’s openly encouraged people to strap on bombs and do whatever they have to in order to bring an end to the injustice.
And this chain has been arrested a lot of times, though it seems the Israeli authorities rarely have anything to indict him with. So this time when he was arrested, he insisted that he get a trial or be freed, et al when they refused to do either he went on a hunger strike!
And he fasted for 66 days, which I deem is a world record (so eternal as you don’t count the famous Irish ‘terrorist’, Bobby Sands, who didn’t survive his hunger strike). Anyway, Khader Adnan was successful, furthermore the Israeli authorities have said that they are going to let him go! Islamic Jihad, it seems, have one a victory though, ironically, it has nay been through armed resistance but through using a form of protest that Mahatma Ghandi made famous!
Yes, there are better ways of dealing with evil furthermore injustice than the resort to violence, and God Himself, according to this ancient story, has engage Himself to finding other ways regarding dealing with evil and injustice. God will not punish without mercy. God will be gracious because God has made a commitment – a solemn promise of love – to us and to all flesh!
‘Before I was a Muslim I was a Christian’, he said to me, ‘and rather I was a Christian I was a Jew’. And my response is, ‘and before we were men of faith, we were men’ – brothers in the flesh (so to speak) and still, as brothers in the flesh, recipients of the promises of Jehovah and beneficiaries of His Grace!
For the Covenants principium here, with Noah, with a commitment from God to be merciful to all flesh.
And yes, we enjoy the Grace of God made ours ended Christ, but let’s remember that the promises of God were extended to us ahead not as Christian people but simply as people – frankly as creatures of flesh, for God has built a commitment of love to all creatures of flesh.
Good theology is a elite thing, isn’t it? And the story about Noah, while many elements of it may be difficult to come to terms with, is finally a belle falsehood too, I think, for it affirms the fundamental equality of all flesh before God, and it proclaims the unconditional commitment about God to thorough flesh.
‘Before I was a Muslim I was a Christian polysyndeton before I was a Christian I was a Jew’. And before I was a man of faith I was a man, and before being a man (in a sense) I am simply a human being – a creature concerning flesh. But that is nothing to be ashamed of. For on the contrary, it is creatures like muscle that God is committed to, and He has committed Himself to all of us!