Did nun jab the #BringBackOurGirls campaign?

Call me crazy. (I know: Who would ever do such a thing?) But if you asked me how I’d expect a nun to respond to the  heartless and heartbreaking abduction of more than 200 Nigerian school girls, the terrorist act that spawned the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, I’d probably expect her to pray without ceasing.

AP Photo: Former President Bill Clinton poses with Sr. Rosemary

AP Photo: Former President Bill Clinton poses with Uganda’s Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe

If you told me that the nun in question was a humanitarian activist who had been named a “CNN Hero” and one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” I’d definitely expect her to use her influence to rally worldwide support for the return of the girls.

If you told me that Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Uganda, who has worked tirelessly to end violence and sexual exploitation, appeared on American television to raise awareness of what she says is a crime that is committed throughout the world, I wouldn’t be surprised. But if you told me that she made a violent threat against the show’s host, I’d tell you to check your facts. Here they are:

No Laughing Matter

Sr. Rosemary’s interview with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert started innocently enough. He asked her response to critics who claim that hashtag campaigns such as #BringBackOurGirls are ineffective. She defends it, but says that we must do more to keep these incidents in the spotlight.

So far, so good—until two minutes, 18 seconds into their chat. Colbert tells the renowned nun that he is saddened by the mass kidnapping. Then, presumably to prompt a response from her that would touch the hearts of millions who might feel detached from acts of inhumanity in foreign lands, Colbert asks: “How does that affect my life? Why should I be sad for something that is happening thousands of miles away when there are things at home to be sad about?”

Sr. Rosemary’s response was not what I expected:

“If you cannot be sad because it is happening in Africa, which is part of the humanity, I would feel like jabbing you.” ~Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe

Rewind the tape! Were Sister’s bold proclamation and boxing gestures a joke? This is Comedy Central, after all. Frankly, if it was a joke or a rehearsed skit, it was in poor taste, given the gravity of the cause she was promoting.

“Really? You—a nun—would punch me?” he asked, looking incredulous.

“Oh, yah. I would jab you!” she responded.

“Am I allowed to punch you back?”

“No.”

“How is that fair?” Colbert protested.

“Because I’m going to punch you—and I would win!” she boasted.

Shut my loud mouth. Apparently, she was planning a knock-out punch. Stunning.

WWJD?

There are so many disconnects here, I don’t even know where to start. OK, I lied: Let’s start with the teachings of the Prince of Peace, whom the influential Sr. Rosemary has proudly represented since 1976.

Among those teachings is this little scene: Yeshua/Jesus is instructing his disciples how to respond when Gentiles reject their “good news” message. Did he say, “Knock some sense into them until they agree!”

No, according to Matthew 10:14, he told them, “Whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” In other words, keep it moving, Brother—and oh, by the way, this applies to you, too, Sister.

The #BringBackOurGirls Campaign Takes It on the Chin

#BringBackOurGirls advocate Sr. Rosemary threatens to punch Stephen Colbert

Credit: Huffington Post

Please tell me under what circumstances can those who call themselves followers of Jesus justify violence of any kind? It is a leap beyond irony that Sr. Rosemary threatened an act of violence while protesting an act of violence. If you don’t think the way she wants you to think, she’ll punch you. Perhaps she took a jab at the #BringBackOurGirls campaign instead.

No one has to be reminded of the Church’s long and gruesome history of winning converts to Christianity through ultimata, violence and murder. We wish we could forget.

Obviously, that diabolical history still has a faint heartbeat. But then, as now, this behavior completely violates Yeshua’s teachings. It also give Christianity a black eye, providing graphic evidence that Christians are not always Christlike. If they choose to act in ways that are not loving, patient, forgiving and compassionate, why don’t they call themselves something else?

When I was a Girl Scout, I learned never to do anything while wearing my uniform that would disgrace scouting, my troop or my scout leader (my mom). The same is true for those who wear any type of uniform, which made the scene of a nun throwing jabs a bit surreal, if not disrespectful.

The issue of whether a hashtag campaign such as #BringBackOurGirls is effective tactic has now taken a back seat to a more pertinent question: Does punching those who don’t get on board with the campaign bring closure to this episode for the girls and their parents? Does it align the Church with those who seek world peace or send the institution careening back to its terrorist past? In the name of all that is holy, please put down your dukes, Sister Rosemary.

Blowing up our violent god

I awoke this Sunday morning to a disturbing but not surprising newspaper story about a suburban Chicago teen, Adel Daoud, who tried to blow up a downtown bar full of patrons. His goal: To kill as many Americans as he could—and not just any Americans. He specifically targeted bar patrons with his car bomb because drinking alcohol is prohibited by Islam.

This was to be an act of jihad. The authoritative Dictionary of Islam defines jihad as: “A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad … enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims.”

The teen reportedly told undercover agents that he wanted to make it clear that his jihad was a terrorist attack. He didn’t want Americans to dismiss it as just another act of a mentally ill person, specifically referencing the recent Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre.

According to the criminal charges filed against him, Daoud allegedly sent an email declaring: “I am trying to do something [an attack] here [in the United States] . . . pray to Allah for my safety and that I’m successful in this life and the hereafter.”

His message gets to the heart of this drama: There are those who believe that their god sanctions the use of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Allah will protect them in this life and reward them in the afterlife, if they successfully murder their disobedient brothers and sisters.

Gun-shaped Holy BibleShocked? Appalled? Can’t understand why anyone would believe something so preposterous?

You shouldn’t be surprised at all. Most Americans worship a God who solves problems by murdering humans. This angry, vindictive god is at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islamic faiths.

In the first chapter of the Judeo-Christian Bible, God kills “every living thing”—from pregnant women and newborns to plants, trees and wildlife.

The body count rises as the book progresses. By some accounts, the Bible records God killing more than two million of His own children. By contrast, Satan kills a whopping 10.

But that’s not all: God orders us to lay waste to each other, too. Using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, I counted more than 50 circumstances under which the so-called “word of God” mandates us to murder a member of our human family for the strangest of reasons. (Good thing we’re disobedient heathens. We’d all be serving life sentences in state and federal prisons.)

Bible says God killed more people than Satan

dangerousintersection.org

For example, the Bible tells us that children who curse their parents “shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:17) Women who are not virgins when they marry “shall be executed.” (Deut. 22:13-21).

Is this the word of God or merely insight into the controlling behaviors of ancient men, as recorded by scribes? Did God become less inhumane, as some would have us believe, when they contrast the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament? Or is it more likely that humans gradually evolved beyond these particular barbaric behaviors?

If the Almighty can’t think of a more humane way to solve problems, how can mere mortals be expected to do so?

It’s a compelling question that attorney Eric Veith approached from a different angle in his March 2007 post on the Dangerous Intersection blog, “Does reading violent scripture make people violent?”  Veith cited a study that had recently been released in which researchers asked 500 students to read a violent Bible passage.

Half of the students were allowed to read through to the conclusion of the Old Testament story. Only those students knew that God had ordered members of select Israeli tribes to retaliate for a woman’s murder by completely destroying several cities. (Perhaps a precursor to the urban riots following the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination?)

Researchers then conducted an exercise to measure the students’ aggression after reading the violent passages. Here’s what they discovered:

Those who were told that God had sanctioned the violence . . . were more likely to act aggressively.

Let’s connect the dots: Our beliefs about God—what God is and what God does—informs, supports and sometimes even dictates our actions. The behavior of humans throughout recorded history reflects this. The results of this study merely punctuate it.

The violence we now experience on a daily basis, in the Middle East and America’s inner cities, reflects our thinking and our beliefs. And it reminds us why we have been told to let peace “begin with me”: As long as one of us worships a God who solves problems by murdering, torturing, crucifying, condemning, harshly judging and angrily retaliating against members of the human family, none of us will have peace.

What is it that you believe about God?

God and Man in Tucson

British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton once wrote: “The more I study religions, the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.” Or, as my best friend in high school, now the Rev. Vici Derrick, chuckles, “God made man in His image—then man returned the favor.”

We live in a world in which humans have faithfully embraced ancient authors’ portrayals of God as an angry being who vindictively and violently killed humans to solve problems and silence dissent. Thousands of years later, we vigorously defend ancient scribes’ mandates to “put to death” humans who commit sins ranging from being impudent children to murdering a member of the human family.

A human—or a committee of them—declared everything the scribes wrote was the inspired “Word of God.” If we believe that, why are we shocked and repulsed by incidents such as the executions in Tucson and Pakistan? Why do we call these murders “brutal,” “demonic” and “senseless?” Why do we label the killers zealots, sociopaths and terrorists, if we really believe what we say we believe?

Lit candle

Holding us in Light

Tolerance and forgiveness are divine, not vindictiveness and violence. It is humans who are prone to respond with vitriol and violence. It is humans who must be taught to be civil and accepting of others. It is humans who must be encouraged to love. These virtues are not innate human characteristics.

Have we forgotten the barbaric times in which humans lived? Can we imagine how difficult it must have been for the ancients when they tried to describe God, tried to make sense of their dangerous world and bring some order to it, and when they tried to explain why natural disasters occur and how the world began?

The only context they had was human context. Man at that time solved problems through violence. They may have reasoned that if their world was dangerous and violent, that must be how God is—and how God planned it to be. Or perhaps to justify their behavior, they declared it godly: They were merely mimicking the Huge Human in the sky.

And so they passed down to us a who God is angry, volatile, vindictive, judgmental, violent and mostly unforgiving. They told us—and told us to tell others—that God ordered us to be angry, volatile, vindictive, violent and mostly unforgiving.

Have you ever taken time to count the multitude of reasons that the Word of God says that members of our human family “shall be put to death”? If our ancestors obeyed the word of God, the human race would have been extinct ages ago.

So why do millions of us still believe today that God’s response to human error is brutality: torturing innocent individuals to death so that the guilty could go free or bragging that He drowned “every living thing”? Why do we believe that God would accept an impotent demon’s challenge to inhumanely test a good man’s faith by killing all of his children, drying up his crops and making him suffer untold physical and emotional pain? Why do we believe that God will satanically torture us throughout all eternity for our indisputably finite period of human error? And why do we believe that if humans did any of these horrific things, it would be appalling, unacceptable, deranged—and criminal?

We don’t believe that it’s OK to kill politicians who disagree with us, whether it’s Tucson or Pakistan! Why is it OK, defensible—it’s even worthy to be praised when God commits these inhumane acts? Are we subconsciously holding God to a lower standard than ego-driven humans?

We are accountable for own our double standard. We can’t say that it’s unacceptable for humans to solve problems by killing people, while simultaneously proselytizing that God sinks to such a low, human, and sometimes demonic standard of behavior.

The irony is not lost on us that the youngest victim of the mass murder in Tucson reportedly was born on September 11, 2001—the day when other individuals chose to solve a problem with violence. What was the human response? Claim that God told us to solve that problem with violence. Throughout that child’s lifetime, we tried to solve the problem violently. We inspired support for the violence by fanning the flames of fear.

And how’d that work for us? How many lives did we save? How many families did we destroy? How many young men and women have suffered sustained mental and physical injury?

Historically, the toll for for miscasting God in our vindictive, violent image has been high. Blindly believing in the drama written by ancient scribes has actually breathed life into the demon they created. Every time we treat someone in ways that we would not want to be treated, we feed the demon and share responsibility for its continued destruction around the globe, in homes and parking lots, on city streets and rural countrysides.

Perhaps it’s time to stop worshipping our ego-driven human selves long enough to learn what the murderers and murdered are teaching us: Violence destroys; it is ungodly. True power and true victory come from living as if we were created in God’s true image—as the spirit of Unconditional Love and Forgiveness.

The God of Michael Jackson, Nidal Hasan, and a black man named Ricky

I know you’re wondering: Is the balcony so high in the stratosphere that the Loud Mouth has become light-headed? How on Earth did she connect God to the King of Pop, an Army psychiatrist accused of killing fellow soldiers, and a random black guy named Ricky?

There’s a logical explanation: For starters, all three souls were made in the image of God (as immortal spirits, not mortal bodies), and all three are associated with some kind of extremism: Major Nidal Hasan for his religious beliefs, Michael for his uh, lifestyle—and let’s face it, black guys named Ricky (or anything else) have been known to evoke extreme behavior in some people.

In recent weeks, I have been blessed to observe in-your-face performances by these three fascinating characters: Michael, in his documentary, “This Is It,” Rick Stone in the newest production at the Black Ensemble Theater, “The Message Is in the Music: God Is a Black Man Named Ricky,” and Major Hasan, in the alleged murderous rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas. (A hyperlink to this violence was intentionally excluded.)

Behind the scenes of two highly entertaining musicals and one absolute horror, I could clearly see God—three perceptions of God, anyway. I sat in awe as Michael Jackson extracted absolute lock-step perfection from each member of his performance team, without drama queen antics such as condescending rants or other displays of anger. He demanded nothing of his production team—more accurately, his family—that he did not demand of himself.

When he showed up for work, he was ready to perform at peak levels, and ready to inspire greatness in others. He was as precise in his movements as he was in his directions, clearly explaining what he wanted and why he wanted it. Mostly, he wanted to give audiences “awareness, awakening and hope”—an unusual mission for performers, but apparently typical of Michael.

He held each member of his performance family in high regard, edifying their excellence and affirming their ability to meet his extraordinarily high standards. From that basic premise, he consistently and lovingly elevated them to an even higher level of perfection.

I sat watching much more than another stellar performance by Michael Jackson the entertainer. I was eavesdropping on a powerful Master Teacher. No matter who we are and what we’re doing, we are constantly revealing what we believe about God through our treatment of others–particularly those over whom we have some control or influence.

Beyond the quest for dazzling choreography, perfect rhythms and pitches, Michael showed us his God. He led with Light, respect and unconditional love, rather than fear and intimidation. For that, he will continue to be loved and admired beyond death’s door.

On a different stage, genius playwright/director/producer Jackie Taylor has crafted the starring role in her latest feel-good hit, “The Message Is in the Music,” from a similar model of God. In this uproarious musical, chock-full of expertly executed tunes from  The Beatles, The Drifters, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield (for whom God seemed to have a particular fondness), Paul Simon, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and other old-school faves, Lucifer goes to God’s house, raising absolute hell and predictably threatening to destroy the Universe.

Unpredictably, he’s greeted by a God (a black man named Ricky) who is unflappable, making it utterly impossible to goad him into fury or a fight. God—and Thinkers—know that the devil only has as much power as others give him. In this play, God gave him absolutely none.

Taylor’s script dramatized what psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. revealed in his enlightening book, Power vs. Force. Power and force are often thought to be synonymous. They are not.
Power, as Dr. Hawkins so eloquently explained, does not involve force. In fact, it is its antithesis, which means that “May the Force be with you” might actually be a curse rather than a blessing.

So how are we to respond to force? Well, if Taylor’s characterization of God offered any clues, the most appropriate response to taunting rants is to retire for a refreshing nap. I was tickled that on the Black Ensemble Theater stage, as on Earth’s stage, God was the only one who seemed to know that force never wins. As He rested, His angels finally figured it out, and saved the world by showering the devil’s marauders with unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. I guess that’s why it’s called “overpowering” the enemy rather than “overforcing.”

After the former demons surrendered themselves to the Light, they groveled at God’s feet, as they had been required to do for the devil, bemoaning their unworthiness to be in His presence. God not only deflected their praise, He declared that their innately divine nature was the only truth He knew about them.

The moral: True Power uplifts. Force, on the other hand, can only destroy.

We see it every day. When the God of Force took center stage at Fort Hood, non-Muslims started pointing fingers, judging, disparaging and condemning. But the truth is that most, not all, of the followers of the world’s religions, including Christianity, believe that God is forceful. Their behavior often reflects it. They are angry, disrespectful,  judgmental and condescending. Righteous indignation is their schtick. Power is not part of their act. They’re showing us the God whom they worship, and we show them ours.

Just this morning, a Facebook friend angrily attacked a Palestinian who had posted something disagreeable on his “wall.” His tirade triggered a torrent of “shame on you” responses from FB friends who seemed to know him; I don’t. Defensively, this man, who apparently considers himself a Christian, posted Bible passages that supported his wrath-filled response–scriptures that portrayed God as angry, vindictive, destructive and unforgiving.

Since his premise seemed to be that the Bible is the Word of God, the Loud Mouth was compelled to ask: Where do Matthew 7:1-3 (The famed “Judge not…condemn not…How can you see the speck in your brother’s eye but can’t see the log in your own eye?” scriptures) fit into his scenario? At this late hour, his silence must mean that he’s still crafting a very thoughtful response to that question.

Fascinating stuff. We can find a verse in the Bible to justify everything from genocide to generosity, so we pluck a scripture that’s appropriate for the situation at hand, and declare ourselves vindicated. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture provides some memorable examples of this, punctuating my belief that those who read only one religious book rob themselves of deeper insights into God, themselves, and the world of the scribes who created the collection of texts.

Maybe, if we read more, and exercised our thinking muscle more frequently, we might discover that our angry, attack responses are peculiar to humans, are historically barbaric and emotionally immature. There is no Light. There is no Love. There is no forgiveness. That can only mean that this is not divine behavior.

I was standing near a table at the food court in Water Tower Place yesterday when a boy who appeared to be around seven years old dropped his toy car onto the floor directly in front of me. I stepped back so that he could retrieve it. Seconds later, his brother’s car crashed onto the floor. There was no harm done; but the older boy leaped from his chair and pounded his brother in the back so hard that the guy standing in line ahead of me gasped in horror, and so did I. There was no adult at the children’s table.

The older boy, about nine or ten years old, stormed away, leaving his little brother whimpering in pain. When he returned, his victim’s eyes followed him closely. When he turned his back, the younger boy attacked him from behind, viciously pummeling his brother with the front end one of the cars until he howled in pain.

Both attacks were barbarically human and emotionally immature. Similar acts are mirrored throughout the planet every minute. The fact that scriptures in most world religions justify this behavior should be cause for alarm; but it isn’t. We don’t become alarmed until someone kills innocent people at Columbine, an Amish school, Virginia Tech, a South Side Chicago high school or Fort Hood.

We have nurtured a violent society and we see no relationship between that brutality and our beliefs. It’s always amazed me that we can’t look at Bible scriptures, which were physically written by humans, and classify them into one of two categories: Divinely Inspired and Definitely Inhumane. It’s even more amazing that we don’t realize that every scripture that we freely accept as the Word of God directly impacts our behavior and our children’s behavior.

We pass along our beliefs; we teach our kids that God responds with anger, force and sometimes inhumane brutality. Then we tell them that it’s wrong for them to respond that way. Jesus, we tell them, told us to turn the other cheek. But we also tell them that Jesus is God. What are they to think: God is bi-polar–or worse, a hypocrite?

After headlines scream of another unconscionably brutal act, we cry in anguish and disgust, “Why are our kids so violent? What’s wrong with them?” We march in the streets and attend prayer vigils; then we return to our computers and play Mafia Wars, lured like six million others by an ad that proclaims, “Surround yourself with thugs, thieves, crooks and bad guys. And that’s just your family. Trust me, you’ll love it!”

Almost daily, we update our status to brag that we’ve graduated to a higher level in the Mafia because we’ve committed a more heinous act of inhumanity. Often we solicit our Facebook friends to help us brutalize some prospective Mafia Wars victim.

We don’t understand that our thoughts reflect our consciousness. We play violent games, engage in virtually violent acts, watch violent TV and movies, read ancient stories of brutality against humans, sometimes committed by an angry unloving God, and we wonder why we don’t feel safe any more.

We’re merely witnessing what our beliefs about God look like when they’re acted out on our world’s stage. If we insist on believing in an angry vindictive God that solves problems by killing people, we must share responsibility for the fiendish acts of those who also hold those beliefs. We co-created those scenes.

Or, we can follow the God of Michael: Start with the Man in the Mirror.

The God of Michael, Major Hasan, and a black guy named Ricky

I know you’re wondering: Is the balcony so high in the stratosphere that the Loud Mouth has become light-headed? How on Earth did she connect God to the King of Pop, an Army psychiatrist accused of killing fellow soldiers, and a random black guy named Ricky?

There’s a logical explanation: For starters, all three souls were made in the image of God (as immortal spirits, not mortal bodies), and all three are associated with some kind of extremism: Major Nidal Hasan for his religious beliefs, Michael for his uh, lifestyle—and let’s face it, black guys named Ricky (or anything else) have been known to evoke extreme behavior in some people.

In recent weeks, I have been blessed to observe in-your-face performances by these three fascinating characters: Michael, in his documentary, “This Is It,” Rick Stone in the newest production at the Black Ensemble Theater, “The Message Is in the Music: God Is a Black Man Named Ricky,” and Major Hasan, in the alleged murderous rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas. (A hyperlink to this violence was intentionally excluded.)

Behind the scenes of two highly entertaining musicals and one absolute horror, I could clearly see God—three perceptions of God, anyway. I sat in awe as Michael Jackson extracted absolute lock-step perfection from each member of his performance team, without drama queen antics such as condescending rants or other displays of anger. He demanded nothing of his production team—more accurately, his family—that he did not demand of himself.

When he showed up for work, he was ready to perform at peak levels, and ready to inspire greatness in others. He was as precise in his movements as he was in his directions, clearly explaining what he wanted and why he wanted it. Mostly, he wanted to give audiences “awareness, awakening and hope”—an unusual mission for performers, but apparently typical of Michael.

He held each member of his performance family in high regard, edifying their excellence and affirming their ability to meet his extraordinarily high standards. From that basic premise, he consistently and lovingly elevated them to an even higher level of perfection.

I sat watching much more than another stellar performance by Michael Jackson the entertainer. I was eavesdropping on a powerful Master Teacher. No matter who we are and what we’re doing, we are constantly revealing what we believe about God through our treatment of others–particularly those over whom we have some control or influence.

Beyond the quest for dazzling choreography, perfect rhythms and pitches, Michael showed us his God. He led with Light, respect and unconditional love, rather than fear and intimidation. For that, he will continue to be loved and admired beyond death’s door.

On a different stage, genius playwright/director/producer Jackie Taylor has crafted the starring role in her latest feel-good hit, “The Message Is in the Music,” from a similar model of God. In this uproarious musical, chock-full of expertly executed tunes from  The Beatles, The Drifters, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield (for whom God seemed to have a particular fondness), Paul Simon, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and other old-school faves, Lucifer goes to God’s house, raising absolute hell and predictably threatening to destroy the Universe.

Unpredictably, he’s greeted by a God (a black man named Ricky) who is unflappable, making it utterly impossible to goad him into fury or a fight. God—and Thinkers—know that the devil only has as much power as others give him. In this play, God gave him absolutely none.

Taylor’s script dramatized what psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. revealed in his enlightening book, Power vs. Force. Power and force are often thought to be synonymous. They are not.

Power, as Dr. Hawkins so eloquently explained, does not involve force. In fact, it is its antithesis, which means that “May the Force be with you” might actually be a curse rather than a blessing.

So how are we to respond to force? Well, if Taylor’s characterization of God offered any clues, the most appropriate response to taunting rants is to retire for a refreshing nap. I was tickled that on the Black Ensemble Theater stage, as on Earth’s stage, God was the only one who seemed to know that force never wins. As He rested, His angels finally figured it out, and saved the world by showering the devil’s marauders with unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. I guess that’s why it’s called “overpowering” the enemy rather than “overforcing.”

After the former demons surrendered themselves to the Light, they groveled at God’s feet, as they had been required to do for the devil, bemoaning their unworthiness to be in His presence. God not only deflected their praise, He declared that their innately divine nature was the only truth He knew about them.

The moral: True Power uplifts. Force, on the other hand, can only destroy.

We see it every day. When the God of Force took center stage at Fort Hood, non-Muslims started pointing fingers, judging, disparaging and condemning. But the truth is that most, not all, of the followers of the world’s religions, including Christianity, believe that God is forceful. Their behavior often reflects it. They are angry, disrespectful,  judgmental and condescending. Righteous indignation is their schtick. Power is not part of their act. They’re showing us the God whom they worship, and we show them ours.

Just this morning, a Facebook friend angrily attacked a Palestinian who had posted something disagreeable on his “wall.” His tirade triggered a torrent of “shame on you” responses from FB friends who seemed to know him; I don’t. Defensively, this man, who apparently considers himself a Christian, posted Bible passages that supported his wrath-filled response–scriptures that portrayed God as angry, vindictive, destructive and unforgiving.

Since his premise seemed to be that the Bible is the Word of God, the Loud Mouth was compelled to ask: Where do Matthew 7:1-3 (The famed “Judge not…condemn not…How can you see the speck in your brother’s eye but can’t see the log in your own eye?” scriptures) fit into his scenario? At this late hour, his silence must mean that he’s still crafting a very thoughtful response to that question.

Fascinating stuff. We can find a verse in the Bible to justify everything from genocide to generosity, so we pluck a scripture that’s appropriate for the situation at hand, and declare ourselves vindicated. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture provides some memorable examples of this, punctuating my belief that those who read only one religious book rob themselves of deeper insights into God, themselves, and the world of the scribes who created the collection of texts.

Maybe, if we read more, and exercised our thinking muscle more frequently, we might discover that our angry, attack responses are peculiar to humans, are historically barbaric and emotionally immature. There is no Light. There is no Love. There is no forgiveness. That can only mean that this is not divine behavior.

I was standing near a table at the food court in Water Tower Place yesterday when a boy who appeared to be around seven years old dropped his toy car onto the floor directly in front of me. I stepped back so that he could retrieve it. Seconds later, his brother’s car crashed onto the floor. There was no harm done; but the older boy leaped from his chair and pounded his brother in the back so hard that the guy standing in line ahead of me gasped in horror, and so did I. There was no adult at the children’s table.

The older boy, about nine or ten years old, stormed away, leaving his little brother whimpering in pain. When he returned, his victim’s eyes followed him closely. When he turned his back, the younger boy attacked him from behind, viciously pummeling his brother with the front end one of the cars until he howled in pain.

Both attacks were barbarically human and emotionally immature. Similar acts are mirrored throughout the planet every minute. The fact that scriptures in most world religions justify this conflict resolution behavior should be cause for alarm; but it isn’t. We don’t become alarmed until someone kills innocent people at Columbine, an Amish school, Virginia Tech, a South Side Chicago high school or Fort Hood.

We have nurtured a violent society and we see no relationship between that brutality and our beliefs. It’s always amazed me that we can’t look at Bible scriptures, which were physically written by humans, and classify them into one of two categories: Divinely Inspired and Definitely Inhumane. It’s even more amazing that we don’t realize that every scripture that we freely accept as the Word of God directly impacts our behavior and our children’s behavior.

We pass along our beliefs; we teach our kids that God responds with anger, force and sometimes inhumane brutality. Then we tell them that it’s wrong for them to respond that way. Jesus, we tell them, told us to turn the other cheek. But we also tell them that Jesus is God. What are they to think: God is bi-polar–or worse, a hypocrite?

After headlines scream of another unconscionably brutal act, we cry in anguish and disgust, “Why are our kids so violent? What’s wrong with them?” We march in the streets, attend prayer vigils, wear bracelets, pins and carry big signs so that the TV audience can see that we oppose violence; then we return to our computers and play Mafia Wars, lured like six million others by an ad that proclaims, “Surround yourself with thugs, thieves, crooks and bad guys. And that’s just your family. Trust me, you’ll love it!”

Almost daily, we update our status to brag that we’ve graduated to a higher level in the Mafia because we’ve committed a more heinous act of inhumanity. Often we solicit our Facebook friends to help us brutalize some prospective Mafia Wars victim.

We don’t understand that our thoughts reflect our consciousness. We play violent games, engage in virtually violent acts, watch violent TV and movies, read ancient stories of brutality against humans, sometimes committed by an angry unloving God, and we wonder why we don’t feel safe any more.

We’re merely witnessing what our beliefs about God look like when they’re acted out on our world’s stage. If we insist on believing in an angry vindictive God that solves problems by killing people, we must share responsibility for the fiendish acts of those who also hold those beliefs. We co-created those scenes.

Or, we can follow the God of Michael: Start with the Man in the Mirror.