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World needs next Abraham

Don Rogers

I’ve just finished a remarkable chapter in Bruce Feiler’s “Abraham.”A firebrand Islamic imam known for railing against Israel explains to the author how Christians, Jews and Muslims can unite.Sheikh Abu Sneina, tucked away in the Muslim Quarter of Old Jerusalem, and Jewish American author greet warily. The author is fresh from another meeting with a Muslim holy man who saw only hell for anyone who fails to submit to Islam, most especially Jews and Americans.But Sneina surprises Feiler at the end of their conversation. The three faiths have a common root, even if they now have branched so far apart, and so violently. But if adherents of any follow the principles of their common ancestor, Abraham, there is hope. There is unity.Too bad that’s such a revelation. You’d think it would be obvious to the true believers. Their faiths all come from the same stock. Their books all harken to this one man, who heard and heeded the word of the one God, and became the wellspring for three major religions.So why can’t they get over their differences? And what brought half the world to these essentially Arabic-derived answers for life in the first place?Don’t worry, I can’t pretend to answer those questions. I’m just amazed that our world is in a place that we ask them.Blame it on Abraham. Not Jesus. Not Mohammed. Not Moses. They all come later.Abraham is the first one credited with understanding there was one god, not many. He’s the father of monotheism. The concept was profound enough to sweep half the world, and pretty quickly.One god. But many splinters. The three faiths. And then all the churches, all the cults, all the congregations taking their own paths. All remaking Abraham to fit their image. One god, a gazillion Abrahams.It’s enough to make atheists out of an awful lot of the modern world.The one truth doesn’t fly into buildings, arrive by suicide bomb, succumb to petty human prejudice, run pogroms.The fanatics of each faith might believe they are striking blows for God. But they are not. They are chasing people away. What sort of god could possibly accept these as believers? Shouldn’t it be truth that resonates rather than fear? And so they corrupt the overwhelming majority of the faithful, who believe in peace and goodwill. Blood in the promised milk and honey.Most of us even in America believe in a “magical being” as scorned by cynics who compare God to Santa and the Easter bunny. (This still is a predominantly Christian nation, after all.)This existence-from-nothing thing is just a bit magical, our most secular friends have to admit. Even physics has trouble bending that far to explain it. There might be a thing or two we clever humans don’t know yet, don’t you think?The mystery is enough that it will be awhile before science supplants faith, if ever. Religion is here to stay, in the meantime. So how in the name of Abraham can we help his nuttier descendants in faith grow up? Don’t they understand that they are brethren? Brothers don’t need to kill each other to make their case.My own hopeful view is that our religions, old as they seem, really are adolescent. And what came from one root still has the DNA, if you will, to grow back together. This is symbolic, as assuredly the biblical and koranic Abraham is. But God, if you are listening, we could use another Abraham to take us to the next evolutionary step in faith. One just as profound as the one god from many. Something, at least, that helps us better understand that we’re all in this together. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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