Nov. 23, 2006
Nov. 25-26, 2006, weekend

Nov. 24, 2006


Does God bless murderers for their deeds? A Jordanian who killed a British tourists says yes, it's reported. Under what circumstances, if any, would God bless killing someone else?

* * *


As a Christian interested in the broad sweep of world religions, I am always encouraged when I see members of one faith trying to understand and live in harmony with members of another faith.

ElcacoverSo today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America deserves praise for its new efforts in this regard with Judaism and Islam.

The ELCA has created new online resources called "Windows for Understanding: Jewish-Muslim-Lutheran Relations." The material is designed to help Lutherans understand Judaism and Islam and to offer suggestions on how Lutherans can create healthy relationships with Jews and Muslims.

I paid particular attention to an essay on Jewish-Christian relations because I'm working with a rabbi on a book that touches on that subject. And liked much of what was written. It is difficult, however, to write about all of this from one perspective without saying something that will feel wrong to someone from another tradition.

Before I tell you what I found historically distressing about the ELCA essay on Judaism, you can read the two ELCA essays on Christian relations with Jews and Muslims. Just click here.

Early in the essay on Judaism, one finds this sentence: "Judaism and Christianity developed over the centuries as sibling religions, always in relationship to each other and too often in opposition."

Later in the essay, it's clear that the writer didn't really mean that, but that sentence looks to me as if it was written by someone who doesn't grasp the fact that Judaism predates Christianity by nearly 2,000 years. So the two religions haven't "always" been in relationship and they did not develop as sibling religions.

In fact, Christianity did not decisively separate itself from Judaism for decades after the life of Christ. And the early followers of Jesus always thought they were Jews who remained under the umbrella of Judaism even if not everyone agreed with them that the Messiah had come. Those Jews included the Apostle Paul, who, no matter what you read, did not reject Judaism and did not set out to found Christianity.

Perhaps I'm making a big fuss here about not much in an otherwise fine ELCA report. But if Christians really are going to be in honest and productive dialogue with people of other faiths, they simply have to get the history right. And that means avoiding sentences such as the one I quoted.

I'm happy to report that the ELCA essay on Islam takes quick and proper note of the fact that Islam is monotheistic but by no means monolithic -- a point I've tried to make in many ways over the years. There are many variations of Islam, and Muslims do not speak with one voice. The ELCA material recognizes that.

Well, you can read this material and judge for yourself what you like and don't like. For me, its mere existence is a good sign. And I wish other Christian denominations as well as branches of Islam and Judaism would do as much as the ELCA folks have done in trying to educate their members about other faith traditions.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will look at the Ted Haggard scandal and ask why hardly anyone has suggested what may be the only way for him to be healed.)

Today's religious holiday: Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahdur (Sikh)


Dave Miller

Hi, Bill. I agree with you about the sentence. At first I thought you were picking nits, so I hitailed it over to the document and read the sentence in context. The sentence immediately following the one you highlighted drives the reader even more deeply into confusion: "Jews and Christians are
so intertwined in their origins and history, as well as in their scripture, religious concepts, and practices..."

Well...not exactly. Jewish origins have nothing to do with Christianity, of course, and if the two religions are to be described as siblings rather than as parent and child, then it would be helpful to establish from the beginning that Judaism is Christianity's older sibling.

The sentence then goes on to redeem itself by concluding, "...that Christianity can be neither described nor proclaimed without reference to Judaism." The author then writes, "This situation requires that Christians know something about Judaism, as their religious next of kin."

The reverse cannot be said of Judaism, it should also be said, which can be entirely understood without reference to Christianity. The irony is--as the author points out--that Jews generally know waaay more about Christianity than Christians know about Judaism, because of the overwhelming disparity in numbers.

I'm proud (but not too proud! :-) to be a member of a denomination which devotes a portion of its resources to developing interfaith understanding. I'm also grateful to be a part of a denomination where, even as one of its clergypersons, I can feel safe in offering constructive criticism of its documents in this way.

Dolores Lear

Again, God, our HTA, who are Human, and Created/Colonized Life on Earth, do not Kill and do not approved of killing our enemies for any reason. or killing anyone else for Our government, or, for revenge, like killing any of the bad guys in the Wild Wild West, or Muslims killing for revenge today.

I doubt the GOD of LIFE who I do not think is Human, who made physical Life would approve of killing any of his Creation, visible or invisible.

So where did the teachings come from that it is OK to kill our enemies? As far as I know all religions have people, and soldiers that kill people, and the environment.

It is time to straighten out all the God teachings on Earth, that divide Humans, and Unite in Serving the One True GOD that made Life as we know it.

None of the Gods on Earth that are worshipped, are not the One True GOD, if its members Kill the Children of GOD or the Eco System that GOD created. Most worship our HTA, that taught 'Thou shalt not kill'.

I would still like to know the reason the Pure-bred Adam and Eve Colony 'fell' to Heterosexual Mis-bred Body Birth, that started Brother Killing Brother, and all the divisions and religions of Humans that we have today.

The whole planet has to reform to the one Commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', and Equal Sharing of the resources of Spaceship Earth. Then all the problems of the Crew on Earth will start being corrected.

That does not mean Kill those that will not conform, as there are over 6 billion to work with, and changing our Fallen Nature to Kill, to Peace will not be easy.

But with Planetary communications, and especially if Christians, Jews and Muslims quit Killing, since they have the same God, it should be a big step in the right direction to stop the Nuclear 'Arm'ageddon' of the End Times.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.

Dolores Lear

Also, we do not need to change or join together with religious understandings, we need to change our Killing Nature Lifesytle to the Peace Nature Lifestyle for All.

Asexual Physical Birth is the Peace Nature for Humans. Heterosexual Physical Birth is the Killing Nature for Humans.

We need to change our Lifestyle, not our religions.



"Under what circumstances, if any, would God bless killing someone else?"

David killed Goliath with God's blessing.

Samson killed 3,000 Philistines (men and women), with God's blessing. He also killed 1,000 Philistine soldiers with the jawbone of an ass, with God's blessing.

With Peter as an accomplice, God Himself struck down Ananias and his wife, Sapphira for lying about the amount of money they gave to the church from the sale of their property.

Other times when God may condone, if not bless, killing another person is in self-defense, and while serving in a nation's army.


Dave, I agree with your analysis of the shared origins and history of Judaism and Christianity. I don't think Christianity can exist without disputing the interpretation of that commonality. That's part of why I find the "Messianic Judaism" and "Jews for Jesus" movements so offensive in their claim to being "Jewish."

Jews knowing more about Christianity is not only a game of numbers. I think its a part of the religious carrying into the civic. The reality is that as a young child (early grade school, mid 1950s), in many ways I knew more about Christianity than Judaism. How could I avoid it? I was innundated with prayers and pagents in school and other public forums; TV and radio ads; public displays, both private and governmental; etc. I can't count the times I've attended a gathering where I discovered that I was praying for a good game "in Jesus' name." It always comes as a surprise!

I remember lots of Christmas stamps. Ten years ago marked the appearance of the first token Hanukkah stamp (which in terms of faith barely means diddley-squat). There's never been a Yom Kippur or Passover stamp. (Nothing against the US Postal Service, but I'd prefer there not be one.)

I think you're certainly entitled to take pride in ELCA for developing its understanding of Judaism and Islam.

Dolores Lear

Sorry I can not defend myself for not accepting that GOD or God or Jesus, condones Killing. I do accept that all written and oral scripture is handed by by Fallen Man, and their writings have been mistranslated, as supernatural, without the High Tech Science Knowledge.

Since we have 'evolved' up to an advanced High Tech Science civilization, to the knowledge of reproducing by High Tech Science without the sex act, and have the High Tech Science knowledge of Colonization of a planet, Man should at least try to accept that Earth is a Spaceship with all the resources aboard to be Shared Equally with all the Crew and animals, etc.

I think this would be a good topic for religions instead of the differences that divide them.

Why is there so much starvation and homelessness? Because of the Unequal distrubition of housing and necessities of life. It is only for those with the favorable environment, that are abel to be in competition for housing and food, etc. We are running out of fertile space to live, and soon all will be homeless and starving.

Why are we running into so many deer, and other animals that I see dead on the road? Because of the scarcity of food and living space, because of the overpopulation of Humans by Heterosexual Body Birth?

Why are we overpopulated on our planet? Because of Heterosexual sex for pleasure instead of for reproduction? All other sex for pleasure does not reproduce.

Is the only Way to stop the population explosion of the Mis-bred Killer strain, to have a planetary war with our weapons of destruction, that God says is Ok to use on our enemies that threaten us?

Will the nuclear War be the last showdown at the OK Corral.

Who are our enemies. Our Brothers/Sisters of other religions? Why are they trying to kill us? Who are the terrorist? The ones with the most nuclear bombs?

How will the ecumental movement, to agree on an understanding of other religions, make any difference to all the poor and Havenots? Will it change their lifestyle? Total Sharing will change their lifestyle.

The ecumental movement will probably start another religion, by some in the two factions. Like all the different religions before, that were formed by trying to find the Truth of Life.

Life is for the Living not the Dead, and it is time to accept the Truth that there can be a Way to have Eternal Pure-bred Physical Life After Birth on planets and in spaceships.

Can any of the religions that believe in Life After Death say what type of Life it will be, since we have the High Tech Science Knowledge of Genetics, and reproduction, and know it is possible to reproduce Pure-bred Humans?

Is it a spirit lifestyle that looks like physical form? Where will it be? In Heaven, Purgatory or Paradise?

Maybe it is because in the research I have been led to, I believe our science is on the threshold of High Tech Pure-bred Humans, but most religions are against this Knowledge so far.

And because all that is in the papers, most of the time is all the Killing around the planet, of individuals, terrorist, and nations.

The Christian Bible and all scriptures and myth, it can be proved this Perfect Physical Life was on Earth 'in the beginning'. What does it mean to be a Christian? To 'Love' Jesus and Kill, or 'Follow' Jesus and turn the other cheek?

Just as the Bible is held as the Truth that God want Humans to Kill, I think it teaches that GOD and God and Jesus do not want people to Kill.

Sorry if I am too blunt, but no insults or hard feelings are intended.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.


Keith, I know what you mean. When I was younger, I used to wonder why I knew the name of the mayor of New York City, but I didn't know the name of the mayor of St. Louis, Baltimore or Atlanta? Some things in society just are out there all the time, and you can't help but pick up on them. It's not really right or fair, but it's just the way it is.

However, if Bill is right about the need for Christians to have a better knowledge about Jews and Muslims, then I'm sure it's equally as necessary for Jews and Muslims to have a better understanding of Christianity. You just have a head start on the rest of us.

Somehow, though, it still seems that those who encourage all of us to learn more about each other's beliefs have an ulterior motive in mind. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems at least some of these people are hoping that everyone will reach the conclusion that we all worship the same God, but just in a different manner. It sometimes seems to me that some of these people are trying to imply that there are many paths to the same God, and He can be worshipped in a variety of different ways. I know that this is not the goal of true interfaith dialogue. It's goal is to just try to get us all to understand why each group behaves the way that they do and learn to get along better in this world. Unfortunately, it seems that interfaith dialogue frequently appears to go farther, such as when you have leaders of many different religions on a stage praying together to their various gods. It's easy for people who get involved in interfaith dialogue to be misled into believing that all religions are equally valid and true, and that all worship the same God. This is something that people who engage in interfaith dialogue must always be on guard against. An intellectual knowledge of various religions is not a bad thing. Crossing the line and implying that all religions are just different paths to the same God is a very bad thing.

Dave Miller

"Crossing the line and implying that all religions are just different paths to the same God is a very bad thing."

Yes...this reminds me of a quote from a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Ron. (I'd like to give credit, but I don't remember who it was.) His observation went something like this: "Those who are fond of saying things like 'All paths lead to the same destination' usually seem to be the very people who end up avoiding taking any one of those paths."

(I thought it was well said...even though I can't remember exactly what was said...)

Dolores Lear

Ron. Was the same God that condoned Killing by David, Sampson, Peter, etc., the same God that told GW Bush to go to war and Kill Iraqis?

This is why I say the Bible and all scripture and myth needs a new translation to see who all this Gods that approved of Killing are. For real or mis-interpretations as the God of Bush would be in history?

How many Gods are there on Earth, because of the loss of Earth as a spaceship that should have Equal Crew members? How will Life survive with a Killing Crew on a spaceship, like there is on our Earth spaceship?

Hope the ecumental movement will come up with a better understanding about who or what God is, than the one we have at present, who is an angry God and one that condons murder, killing and inhumanity to our Brothers/Sisters of Life.


Dolores Lear

I guess what I am trying to say is: Is the God that killed people in the Old Testament and New Testament Jesus also?

Was the Trinity God the God from the beginning of the Bible and religion on Earth? Where did this teaching and the other teachings of God come from?
God or Man?

Who is the God of Peace that religion teaches about?

Where is this recorded?



Ron, you apparently don't know what I mean, but that's okay. It's not just about "picking up." (Regardless of our faiths, it's difficult to argue about the name of the mayor of New York City.) Sometimes it's about having things shoved down you throat. But maybe that's just my perception from a minority's point of view.

When you write about the risk of being misled into an attitude that "all religions are equally valid and true," or the danger of thinking that "all worship the same God," I have to ask if places like this blog, or interfaith meetings, are merely intellectual exercises for you.

I think I understand how LCMS views interfaith prayer. I wouldn't dream of asking you to pray as I do or to "the same" God as I do. I'm not really bothered if you think (or know from your doctrine) that I'm going to fry in hell for eternity because I'm not your twin in faith.

I become concerned when things move to the civic arena-how we perceive and work to solve problems within our geographic and civil community. Political bodies can't and don't address all issues. I think it helps to understand others' perspectives and beliefs, and that religious leadership can help lead communities to solve common problems. I would really hate to see this country slip into a Balkan or Iraqi inter-religious fragmentation. Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of inquisitions or pogroms.


"Those Jews included the Apostle Paul, who, no matter what you read, did not reject Judaism and did not set out to found Christianity."

I don't understand this statement by Bill at all. Perhaps you can't say the apostoles and Paul "rejected Judiasm," but they certainly replaced it with something much better...the gospel of Jesus Christ and Christianity.

Paul spent his entire ministry preaching Christianity all over the known world. There is absolutely no doubt that he most certainly set out to spread Christianity (not Judiasm)to as many people as possible.

Technically, I guess Paul didn't "found" Christianity. Jesus Christ founded Christianity.

It sounds like Bill is trying to say that Paul and the apostoles believed it was perfectly acceptable to remain a Jew, or become a Christian, just take your pick. There are many, many, many vereses in the New Testament which refute this. Here's two:

"For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:7.

"In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:13.


I just finished reading a really wonderful book -"The Faith Club". It is the story of three women - a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian and their amazing effort to understand one another's faith lives as well as to truly understand their own. One of the authors, Suzanne Oliver, is from Kansas City. I realized something after reading it. I often refer to the Judeo-Christian tradition, but it is in reality, the Judeo-Christian- Islamic tradition. I have read half a dozen books of this nature this year and am quite interested in being part of such a gathering. This blog fits the bill somewhat, but face to face dialog and honesty is the path to peace among the religions. As an educator, I realize that the epistomological issues - how do I know - how do I learn of God- are the big ones. Intellectual discourse is only a bit of it. Encountering the "other" and seeing that "other" as beloved, as my neighbor, and their lives as holy is the task of such a group.


I believe that the killing of another and believing it to be the will of God is what we term "the sin of the world". When we are hateful violent people (as we all have occasion to be), it takes away the guilt and the moral boundaries of most religion to "do it for God". We assume that God's hatreds, biases is ours. The longer I study scripture - and I am just now taking the chance of reading scriptures other than the Bible - the more I understand that God is not violent. Humanity is. Seeing Jesus on the cross, seeing a child whose grief at losing a parent is beyond our comprehension, seeing the blood on the streets of Bagdad and the blood on the streets at 71st and Walrond (a terrible murder on Thanksgiving) reveals the sin of us all. there are those that I am tempted to feel a sort of hatred - the very temptation - is evidence that I will always need to examine my own violence before I point out the violent motives and nature of another. Probably the most violent clergyman we all know is poor Fred Phelps. His hatred and violence are unmistakable. But I listened to James Dobson and understood that he is like Fred Phelps - with a slightly less repulsive manner of speaking. In my need to see their hateful motives, I have revealed my own. Man, it is hard being faithful.


Keith, that probably was a weak comparison. If I lived in a country where prayers to Allah were commonplace, I would feel like it was being forced down my throat as well, and I wouldn't like it at all. I personally believe that "civic prayers" have very little value. When I'm not sure who someone is praying to, I just stand or stay seated respectfully, but I don't participate in the prayer. I'm also against public prayer in public schools for these same reasons. I can understand why celebrating Christmas can be an irritating expericne for non-Christians. I don't celebrate Jewish or Muslim holidays, but I suppose that's much easier for me to do in this country than it is for a Jewish person or a Muslim person. On the other hand, I don't try to force Jewish people or Muslim people to celebrate Christmas.

I know it sounds mean-spirited when I talk about Christianity being the only path to God. At the same time, however, I respect anyone who believes that theirs is the correct path. In fact, that is what I would expect them to believe.

This, however, does not mean I try to convert everyone who doesn't believe as I do. Lutherans aren't big on overt, in-your-face prostelytizing. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and minds. Therefore, when I proclaim my faith in Christianity as opposed to other religions, it's not meant in an angry or hateful way. I'm not necessarily trying to convert anyone; and I certainly wouldn't harm anyone who doesn't believe Christianity is true.

I know it's hard not to mentally tar me with that brush because of how some fundamentalist Christians behave. All I can say is, Lutherans are not fundamentalists.

As for this interfaith dialogue, for me it is an intellectual excercise in the sense that it challenges me defend and learn more about my own beliefs, and helps me learn more about what others believe. To me, this is a great benefit of interfaith dialogue.


When Fred Rogers died, his eulogy was given by a reporter who had written an article in Esquire several years ago. He spoke of the discipline to only see the good in others that Fred had embraced since early adulthood. By the end of his life, he was unable to see anything in another except their goodness, their beloved state. He had become the goodness he desired to be. Fred Rogers is my model for contemporary Christianity - sometimes you just see someone and you think - ' that's what it looks like!'.
May we be that model for one another.

Dave Miller

Keith, it saddens me that as a young child in many ways you knew more about Christianity than about Judaism, although I can easily understand how that happened.

My dad was a “lifer” in the U.S. Army, and I benefitted from that in many ways during my growing up years. I don’t know if it was official Army policy or not, but three “religions” were recognized by the Army grade school teachers I had: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. Like you, this was back in the fifties. My seventh grade teacher, especially, created opportunities for us to learn about each others’ religions. At “Christmas” time, in particular, I remember we learned how to sing, “Oh Hanukkah, Oh, Hanukkah, Come light the menorah...”

A Jewish student (Cathy Berger, on whom I had a crush!) was invited to tell us about her religious traditions...not only during this time, but at other times through the year as well. Looking back, I think this is where some of my attitudes about “dialog” come from.

Later, when I entered seminary, there were many more opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith encounters. During my first year (which was at a seminary now part of the ELCA) we were allowed to take classes for credit at Catholic, UCC, Methodist, and other seminaries in the area. Students at those seminaries were also allowed to take classes for credit at our seminary. This went a long way toward building an understanding among our colleagues of other denominations.

Between my first and second years of seminary, I served as a Chaplain at a Boy Scout camp on Long Island. Nearly a third of the campers there were Jewish, and I became friends with the Jewish summer Chaplain, Sam Joseph, who was also a seminarian. He and his wife Dorith invited me to their Shabbat services, and I learned a lot from Sam. More than a decade later, I ran across him when we were both in Ames, IA for a time.

From Sam I learned what you said: that Hanukkah is not that big a deal in Judaism...but its occurrence at nearly the same time as Christmas has magnified it in cultures where there are a lot of Christians.

It would have been helpful if Jewish seminaries and seminarians had been included in the mix when I attended seminary. But as far as I know, there were no accredited Jewish seminaries in Chicago at the time.

Keith, you also wrote: “That's part of why I find the ‘Messianic Judaism’ and ‘Jews for Jesus’ movements so offensive in their claim to being ‘Jewish.’” You’ll have to help me understand more about this. I know of some Jews who are Christian...Dr. Murray Haar is one. He is a professor of religion at our ELCA college (Augustana) at Sioux Falls, SD.

Yet, at the same time, he identifies as Jewish, and recognizes and celebrates Jewish traditions. He spoke at one of our Bishop’s Convocations here locally, and I’m pretty sure he told us that his family celebrates Shabbat regularly, and observes Jewish holidays and festivals with the Jewish community. So I don’t think he’s a “Jew for Jesus” even though he’s a Christian. In fact, I believe he spoke negatively about “Jews for Jesus.”

So maybe you could educate me a little here...if you’re familiar at all with what I’m trying to describe. Do you suppose that someone who’s Jewish can consider themselves Christian in some way without becoming a “Jew for Jesus?”

I apologize in advance in this puts you on the spot in some way, Keith. Please chalk it up to my own naiveté and ignorance.


"I believe that the killing of another and believing it to be the will of God is what we term "the sin of the world."

I believe this is very rare, insofar as Christian denominations are concerned. I can't think of any that teach this.

Capital punishment is not done because it's the will of God, but by the civil authorities.

And, for those who believe this kind of thinking applies to George doesn't.


Dave, naiveté and ignorance are two words I've never associated with you in my time in Faith Matters! LOL! ;-)

I admit to a goodly amount of bigotry in this matter. And some shame about the same.

I see the concept of the Trinity, Jesus as Messiah, the idea that the Messiah has come and will return, the emphasis on salvation and the afterlife as the hallmark concepts and foundations of Christianity and the very definition of the difference between Judaism and Christianity.

At risk of offending someone's heart-felt beliefs, I can respect someone's curiosity about and even following of some Jewish traditions, but I cannot escape the feeling that it's a cheap trick in proselytizing to say one can be a Jew and believe in Jesus as the Christ.

To be really tacky, what would you think of a "Christians for Allah" movement? To me, it just doesn't have the marketing ring to it.

True story: My daughter, 21, has been raised in the Lutheran faith (ELCA). But with my last name, dark hair and eyes, a rather long nose with a "bump" at the bridge, she's been assumed to be Jewish numerous times. In her faith, she is very much secure as a Lutheran girl, and I'm pleased to see both her comfort with that and her continued wrestling with that.
While I have tried to keep our discussions of faith in the form of "compare and contrast," I've got to admit she's a pro at the multiple inflections and uses of "Oy" and "Oy vey."

Within the Jewish community (without her profession of adoption of the Jewish faith and formal conversion), she will always be seen as a Christian, a Lutheran, who is the daughter of a wayward Jew.

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