Tuesday, August 7, 2012


[What I have posted below is in fact going to be on the parish website (www.oursaviorparish.org) this weekend, but I thought I'd share it now with hopefully a wider audience.]


            I write this while in Destin for the last few days of my vacation time, and this has already been a very sad week for our country and for the world.  Three events stand out in my mind for their sickening statements about human nature enmeshed in sin.

            The first is the recent killing in the Kogi state of Nigeria—a Christian (fundamentalist?) church called Deeper Life was attacked by men with assault rifles while worship services were going on—the pastor was one of the many killed (no word, as of this writing, on how many were also wounded).  The attackers were from the radical militant group Boko Haran, which is utterly opposed to all things “Western.”

            We all know by now about the shooting and killing that took place at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin—Wade Page, the accused killer, has had ties to white a supremacist group, and reportedly the songs he performed while part of a rock group were strewn with hate lyrics.

            Finally, courtesy of a Facebook post from Fr Buddy Noel, either in “retaliation” or in “copycat” mode to the Wisconsin attack, someone set fire to a mosque in Joplin, Missouri.

            Again courtesy of Facebook, a quote from Eric Parsons (via my friend Doris Underwood) makes a simple statement:
I was gonna post something that would tell you the difference between Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims but I realized that you don’t need to know anything about somebody’s religion to know that you shouldn’t shoot them.

      But I guess there are just enough people in the world who believe that if you believe differently from me you are “The Enemy” and must be destroyed.  This obviously goes far beyond the flap over Chick-Fil-A, yet it’s cut from the same piece of cloth, in the long run:  it’s about tolerance of differences that don’t have to make a difference in our ability to get along.

            Just last month our Mobile Trialogue was hosted for a prayer and discussion event at a local masjid (otherwise known as a mosque)—for most of us who were Jews or Christians it was the first time we actually sat in on a Muslim prayer service.  What a difference a few days makes…

            Muslims regard Friday as the special day of prayer and worship; Jews (and Seventh Day Adventists) believe that Saturday is the Sabbath that must be kept holy; Christians see Sunday as “The Lord’s Day.”  Muslims have the 30-day period of fasting called Ramadan; Jews have the 10 High Holy Days of repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur; Christians look to the 40 days of Lent for a special time of fasting and penance.  We disagree on the nature of Jesus, the hope for the longed-for Messiah, and the purpose of the Prophet—though they are all expressions of hope for fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.  Do these “disagreements” justify hatred and violence? 

            Fr Buddy Noel wondered (on his FB post) whether we should not be standing guard over one another’s houses of worship to prevent such attacks in the future.  In the beginnings of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, that was exactly what Muslims and Copts in the streets did:  one group circling the other protectively as they worshiped.  Is this so hard, really?

            Hate and terror are, in fact, quite “ecumenical”—they recognize no boundaries of religion and are quite willing to destroy you, no matter your faith, if you are perceived as standing in the way of their “agenda.”  Why? 


  1. Dear Fr. David Torkaz, Thank you for sharing the quote from Eric Parsons. It was posted by a friend on Facebook, and I wanted to know more. Your words, in your blog, recognize the sadness and anger and fear present in the world today. I know of no answer to your question at the end of your post, "Why?". An answer would require logic and meaning, and unchecked fear and anger are too primitive, too immature, for such a response. I will continue to live this life I have, starting with loving god, and offering harmlessness, helpfulness, selflessness and joy. Thank you. Kristen

  2. Thank you for your beautiful sentiments! If all people understood and respected religion as you clearly do, the world would be a much better place. And thank you for the Egyptian example from the Arab Spring! If a country where religions like this stand side by side (with some tension, admittedly) can do so respectfully and in peace, then why can't we in what is supposed to be the greatest country on earth?

    Your interfaith work is inspiring. If you read this, I would love a response as to how I, as an atheist, could become involved in an interfaith community in my own area. I may not believe in God myself, but I believe very strongly that stronger interfaith communication could do wonders.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      It seems to me that we need to respect each other in an "inter-religious" context whether we are believers in the formal sense or not. It was not by accident, for example, that Pope Benedict XVI invited non-believers to his most recent gathering in Assisi. How can we do this? It's really quite simple. Let me take the question of Catholic-Jewish relations as an example. Catholics believe Jesus was/is the Messiah; Jews disagree and are still waiting. Interestingly, Christians who wait for the "2nd Coming" are waiting for precisely what Jews are waiting for: the inbreaking of the Messianic Kingdom. Clearly we can get along, and we simply say that Christians think we know the name of the One we're waiting for; Jews disagree but we wait together.
      For atheists, that is, those who believe (word intended) there is no divine Creator or "Order-er" to creation, there is still basis for dialogue and tolerance: Christians proclaim "God is Love," and if atheists reject the word "God," I expect you (and most other atheists) would nevertheless embrace the word "Love." On this basis we can agree and work together. It's a start, no?