riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Struggle within Christianity

Today I went to hear a lecture at the [Christian] Orthodox Club, by Maher Elia Khoury, son of the famous Anglican Bishop Elia Khoury, who was one of the leaders of the P.L.O. The talk was about the Christian fundamentalists and Evangelists in the USA, and how their teachings influence American foreign policy. The talk was sponsored by APN, the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature. According to their brossures, Israel is uprooting an average of 1 tree per minute in Palestine, and between 2001-2005, a total of 1,345,281 trees were uprooted. Their mission is to replant (at least) 1 million trees, and they have already achieved half that. Their slogan: They uproot trees, we plant them. I think that says a lot about Israel and the Palestinians.

But what does the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature have to do with Christian Fundamentalism? Well according to Maher Khoury, there's more than one kind of pollution: pollution of the environment, and pollution of thought. The ideas of the Christian fundamnetalists are polluting and destroying the original teachings of Christianity. In fact, these ppl have nothing to do with the fundamentals of Christianity, he says, which came about in the Arab world. The original, authentic Christianity is that practiced by the Orthodox and Catholic churches , and he even included the original Protestant church. What these Evangelists are doing are destroying Christianity and its message- they are taking the figure of Jesus and changing him completely, repackaging him and selling that new image to the world. They have destroyed the Jesus who was born, lived, preached, and was crucified in Palestine for the salvation of the world, the Jesus who came as light and Love.

Before I continue with what he was saying I should talk about a more important link between environtmentalist groups and the topic. Ok well instead of talking about it, I'll link you to an earlier post I wrote about this, which says it all much better in a concise manner, so here you go: "The End Days and the Environment".

Also the fact that all these trees are being uprooted for the sake of the settlements is due to support by the same Christians, who can't wait to see all Palestinians kicked out of Palestine, a new temple built on Mt. Zion, and well, Armageddon. They're ecstatic about this happening any moment soon, and they're doing all they can to help the Jews win and take the land of Palestine, only so that Jesus will descend and wipe out all the Jews who dont convert to Christianity, and establish his kingdom on Earth. (Apparently only 144,000 Jews will convert and be saved, and the rest will all be killed).

Well, back to the lecture. Not much to say, other than his denouncing of these Evengelists' ideas as an aberration, and how important it was for Christians the world over to fight against these ideas. He also made fun of the idea of Rapture (see the link above). He then called on all Christians from all churches to speak out against these people. Interestingly, he said that if any American missionary came here to preach these ideas, the Jordanian government would have to allow him to do so so that they could say they allow freedom of speech. Well, said Maher, they shouldn't allow him. He said the Christian churches should be the first to ask the Jordanian government to bar such people from preaching their ideas; that first, the Jordanian gov't should assemble a group of representatives of all the ancient and original churches to analyze the ideas of every missionary and to bar them from preaching if they subscribe to such fundamentalist beliefs. Most of the lecture however was about the history of this movement and their strong influence on the White House. It ended with a segment on the topic by 60 Minutes.

Another interesting thing that he said was his criticism of how literally they understand the Bible, including the age of the earth and other things. He said the authentic churches dont have a purely literal understanding of the Bible because the Bible, unlike the Qur'an, was written by people, not directly revealed by God, so it cant be taken absolutely literally. I'm not sure how much these churches, or his own father, a famous Bishop, would agree, but I'm no expert on these things. In clear contrast to this was something from the video, where a famous Evangelist (dont remember the name), said that it's wrong to say the Bible contained the word of God. The Bible is the word of God. By the way Maher said the early church fathers were hesitant about including the Book of Revelations (the fundamentalists' favourite section) in the Bible, because they were not sure of its authenticity.

Then came a round of what was supposed to be questions, but it was really listeners trying to force their opinions on everyone else. What interested me was the attitude of the Christian people who voiced their comments. One said we need both Islam and Christianity to unite under a framework of Arab nationalism. Another said he was Arab then Christian. I think every Christian who spoke put being Arab above being Christian, which didnt make sense to me. Shouldn't religion come before everything else? It also pleased me how they defended Islam against what the fundamentalists were saying and one Christian said that if these people succeed in destroying Islam then everything else will be destroyed too. Another said that the opposition to Israel in the Arab world is mostly done in Islamic terms today, but that Muslims should take into consideration the Christians who live amongst them, because the fight against Israeli should be an Arab fight, not an Islamic one: a fight by both Muslims and Christians together against Israel.



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