Last week CNN aired a trilogy called CNN Presents: God's Warriors, and, thinking that this sounded interesting, I TiVoed the series. I'm currently making my way through the first in the series - God's Jewish Warriors (the other two parts of the series being God's Muslim Warriors and God's Christian Warriors) - but it's slow going because each episode is two hours long. I'm really interested in religious history, and while I'm not political, I am interested in the relationship between religion and politics.
So far, at least, it's been very interesting because the host, Christina Amanpour, had researched the effects of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity on Israel and the world at large. I'm only about 45 minutes into God's Jewish Warriors, but I had a small epiphany while watching: Everyone is so sure that God is on his or her side, but I wonder if God isn't taking sides, if He is just trying to teach us kindness and how to maintain peace, that there is more than one way to teach such things. I do not believe that my life as a Catholic means that God is any more on my side than He is on the side of a Muslim or Jew, or on the side of anyone else claiming religious certainty. Perhaps organized religion grew out of cultural, geographic, and historical circumstances such that a people in a certain part of the world received God's Word at a time when a certain set of religious dogma was culturally sensible to a large portion of the population. Certainly Christianity 2,000 years ago wasn't conducive to gender equality - arguably the Middle East even now isn't entirely conducive to such radical thoughts; yet there was a distinct need for religious growth that evolved in turn into Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and that there was a need to start teaching kindness, tolerance, and love, and to start the (excruciatingly) slow process of equality among everyone despite gender or culture. Similarly, I've noticed that disagreement over a given country's policies have begun to cause that person to be branded anti-fill-in-the-blank. Do you think Bush is doing nothing but causing severe problems? Anti-American! Siding with the Israelis? Anti-Semitic! Or at least misinformed on both counts.
(As a side note, one of the practices of Catholicism I've been struggling with over the course of the past year or two is the Catholic church's stance on women in the priesthood. I believe it was either John Paul II or Benedict XVI who argued that because Jesus' Apostles were men, because Jesus did not ordain women, no woman now can be ordained a priest. (I wish I could find the specific source of who said that; I remember having come across it some time back.) So far as I know there is no specific place in the Bible that disallows the priestly ordination of women. I suspect that at 2,000 years ago in that part of the world women were hardly seen as equal, and there would have been trouble for any woman seen evangelizing and proselytizing.)
I know there are people who think that religion is the root cause of all the world's evil, but this is not a line of discussion I'm likely to want to pursue. I'm just now finding the means to express the specific challenges I'm facing in my own internal religious struggle and this particular epiphany led me to a way to verbalize it.