I have started reading The Jihad of Jesus by Dave Andrews.  With a title like that I think it confronts and offends peoples sensibilities before they ever read a page.  I can assure you there is plenty of scope for it to confront and offend sensibilities once you open it too. How can it not?  This is a self-effacing story.  I’m only 30 pages in but I understand that it costs something – before I can preach to you about non-violence I must confess the horrendous history of violence, rape, torture, murder done in Your name.  It makes you wonder, why anyone might align themselves with such a thing as this?  How can you be associated with Christians, with religion, when it has not just participated in but driven so much atrocity in the world?

I do find it hard to align with the structure, the culture of the “institution” of the church.  I can feel very far away from You when I am in these walls.  It is necessary for healing, on both sides, to participate in building a world that is different.  Who is sick?  Who needs to be saved?  We do not send a doctor for those who are well but those who are sick.  I know I am sick.  I know I need help.  I need help everyday.  I must take the plank out of my own eye before I look at the speck in yours.  Do you not want to be well?  I do.  I long to be well. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable, it’s sickening to read these things and understand that they form part of the cultural tail I claim.  But we get Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa too.  What is stopping you from being the next Martin Luther King?  These were imperfect human beings – MLK cheated on his wife with some regularity I believe and MT was someone who set such high standards she was difficult to please and work with.  Side by side with them they might not be so easy to admire and love as their reputations act like airbrush to photography.  I am not so easy to love up close.  Religion is not so admirable up close either.

We judge those harshly who have gone before.  In our current age where brain comes before brawn we think “how savage“, we want to know how these actions might conceivably be justified and the only response we have is “they know not what they do”.  We know now – issues of indigenous land rights and protection of culture, mandatory detention of refugees, family violence, climate change, water shut offs in Detroit,  war and genocide… we have our own share in stupidity or willful blindness or whatever you want to call the gross injustices of our own time… consumption climbing relative to our social isolation as we look for the things that will fill us but not to each other.

[p.1, The Jihad of Jesus]

“Jihad is an Islamic term referring to a religious duty for Muslims.

In Arabic, the word jihad translates as a noun meaning “struggle”… there are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer spiritual struggle.

The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his or her religious duties.  This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim and non-Muslim religious authors.

The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against oppressors, including enemies of Islam. This physical struggle can take a violent or non-violent form.”

If fulfilling your greater struggle is to follow the call to living a life of love, peace, forgiveness… then this “lesser” struggle needs to be framed by the principles of the first.

I am grateful for smart, wise elders who can write these books, have these conversations, articulate what needs to be said – even if it confronts and offends.