Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Blog of 2006

I had thought that the blog I posted last night was my final posting of the year, but I’m sitting by the door of Hardback Cafe in Hastings, Murfreesboro’s bookstore, checking email, and a balding fifty-something guy has just walked in wearing a blue t-shirt with a giant yellow price tag printed on it that reads, “Jesus, the possibilities are endless. Get yours.” I don’t understand this shirt.

First of all, why the price tag? Is Jesus for sale? How much does Jesus cost? Can I get him on lay-a-way? And if I do get Jesus, can I return him if I’m not satisfied? What if he breaks: can I get a refund or do I have to buy an extended warranty? And how long would that extension be? Eternity?

Second of all, why is Jesus linked with infinite possibility, and how am I to choose among them in order to get mine? It can take me over an hour to choose which among two-dozen or so brands of toothpaste to buy. Can you imagine how long it would take to choose which Jesus among an infinite number of Jesuses (Jesi? What is the plural of Jesus?) is the right Jesus for me?

When confronted with so many consumer choices, I usually head for Consumer Reports. I figure they know best, and I usually buy their Best Buy. It would be very helpful if Consumer Reports did an issue on religion.

They could list religions according to what they claim to accomplish: salvation, enlightenment, tikkun ha-olam (world repair), liberation, submission to God, etc. Then Consumer Reports could rate religions against these categories. There would be several faiths or variations of one faith under any given heading. Consumer Reports would rate them according to the demands they make on you, their reported reliability, cost, and other factors. Then they would pick their Best Buy.

I have to interrupt what I am certain was going to be a very funny Consumer Reports gag, to bring you this breaking news: Another guy about the same age just walked in wearing another Jesus t-shirt. On the front of his white t-shirt is a blue circle containing six well-known religious symbols, also in blue: Star of David, Om, Buddha, Yin/Yang, Crescent of Islam, and a Cross. Underneath the circle the text reads, “Five Out Of Six Religions Lead To Dead Ends.” On the back it says, “Back the winner; Choose the Living Christ.”

The Infinite Jesus guy is standing about fifteen feet from me looking at Kiplinger’s Magazine. Not six feet to his left, looking at a copy Newsweek, is the Living Christ guy. So far they have not noticed one another. But what if they do? What of they compare shirts? How can the Choose Christ guy deal with the Infinite Jesus message of the other guy? How can he choose wisely if his choices are infinite? Why choose at all if the possibilities are infinite? And, if the possibilities are infinite maybe there are no dead end religions. Maybe Jesus is hanging out in all of them. This fellow will be paralyzed by the sheer enormity of his Christ options, and his t-shirt will fail him. This could lead to a violent class of Christian cultures. Maybe I should do something… Ahh, no need; Infinite Jesus’ cell phone just rang and he has walked away to take the call. Whew! That was close. Oh, by the way, Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Year End Close Out

Like so many who live an examined life (even if not a well-examined one), the closing of a year is a time for self-reflection. This, however, is not something of which I am particularly proud.

First of all, since the self is a construct, a story created for the sole purpose of maintaining the illusion of self in the first place, self-reflection is simply a meta-story, a story about a story that simply reifies the illusion.

Second, since the self is a work in progress, it is impossible to reflect it as it is but only as it was. What I am actually doing is recreating the self to fit whatever craving haunts me at the moment. So it is more self-refraction than self-reflection.

And third, there is the problem of who is doing the refracting. If there is no self to begin with, who is creating it? If I say “me” the answer begs the question. If I say “God,” the answer not only begs the question but adds a dimension of abstraction that does nothing but further distract. Better not to ask the question: the real point of my comments is not to explore who is doing the commenting, but to take note of what I notice when I do the commenting. So on with comments:

This has been a good year in so far as my university teaching goes. Solid classes, great students; I love teaching religion and planting seditious seeds of spiritual anarchism. It has also been a good year for workshops: to my surprise I continue to be invited to speak in communities around the world. But neither teaching nor lecturing sets me on fire. On my tombstone I would not feel moved to carve either Teacher or Lecturer.

What does set me ablaze me is writing, and it has been a good year for that as well. Two books came out this year (The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness and The Ethics of the Sages); I have a contract for a book on angels in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; I now write a regular spiritual advice column for Spirituality and Health Magazine; Toto seems to be well received; and the First Annual Path and Pen Writers’ Conference that my son, Aaron, and I hosted in Nashville this past fall was a great success.

More than anything else I do, it is writing that excites and fulfills me. What I write about matters, but not as much as the process of writing itself. I love the magic of words, the alchemy of meaning (hmm, nice title for a book). I love watching as a blank screen fills with black letters that become words, sentences, and paragraphs reflecting back to me the thoughts that skitter across my mind.

So as I examine my life this year I am grateful for the gift of writing, and want to thank all of you for reading my books, column, and blog. And if I die this year, please have “Author” carved on my tombstone along with all the titles of my books and a functional “Click Here to Order” button that is linked to

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Person of the Year

Person of the Year. I am still in shock, but from the moment I picked up Time Magazine with my face on the Mylar cover announcing that I had been chosen as 2006’s Person of the Year I knew they had made the right choice.

I mean I can’t be the only one who thinks about me all day long, others must be aware of how important I am. Yes, people publish and purchase my books. Yes, Spirituality and Health Magazine has hired me to do a regular column called Roadside Assistance for Your Spiritual Journey. Yes I recently did a segment of Hallmark Channel’s New Morning show, but these pale next to the honor of being chosen Person of the Year. Can a Nobel be far behind? Seriously, can it?

While some may call this narcissistic, I find it perfectly normal and take my inspiration from Rabbi Hillel: If I am not for myself who will be for me? The implied answer is, “no one.” So, to bring Hillel into the 21st century: If I don’t put myself on the cover of Time Magazine, who will?

Of course Hillel seeks to balance his song of the self with, “If I am only for myself what am I?” I think the real answer to this is, “focused.” Who has time to be for self and others? Honestly, being for myself is a full time job. Look at any marketing book on building a successful brand and you realize that brand YOU is all-important and totally time consuming.

The thing that surprises me, however, is that Time didn’t notify me in advance of my being chosen. Then again, neither did God when He picked me for His Chosen People award. If Time had let me know I would have feigned surprise, humbly accepted, and then recited a speech I had written years ago entitled, “When Chosen as Time’s Person of the Year:”

“I want to thank the board of Time Magazine for this incredible honor. While I knew that this would happen one day, I am shocked and humbled that it is today. I realize that your choice identifies the one person who for better or worse has most impacted the world during the previous twelve months. Having reviewed my behavior over this past year I am still wondering about which category into which I fall. For every kindness I may have done, I can think of one or two times where I have been the source of someone’s pain. And then there is the nagging awareness that I really haven’t done anything on my own. Everything I have, think, and feel is really the product of forces outside my control. While I am responsible for what I do, I never act in isolation. So there is no real person here at all, no one independent will that should be credited with anything. There is just an infinite complex of events that I reduce to a manageable story that I call myself. So maybe the choice shouldn’t have been me but us, not I but the entire system of I’ing that is the universe. And while I do mean this, I want to make it clear that if there is a check involved in this award, placing my name alone on the recipient line is just fine. Thank you.”

The speech went undelivered, and no check has arrived in the mail, but being Time’s Person of the Year is reward enough. If you haven’t already done so, pick a copy of the magazine and see me on the cover. I promise it will be worth it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bigotry Lives

First Dennis Prager and now Republican Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA): there is something offensive to many Americans about a Muslim congressman (Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN) being unofficially sworn in as a Congressman using a Koran rather than a Bible.

Mr. Prager isn’t bothered by the fact that Congressman Ellison is a Muslim, but he is troubled by the fact that he will use a Koran rather than a Christian Bible in his unofficial swearing-in ceremony. The implication seems to be that if you cannot be sworn in on a Christian Bible you have no right to be a member of the American government. He believes that America is morally founded on this document and that it rather than a Jewish Bible, Koran, or any other text should be used. As Prager said to Tucker Carlson on MSNBC, “My belief that the Bible should be present at any oath (or affirmation) of office has nothing whatsoever to do with the religion of the office holder…”

In other words it doesn’t matter if the person swearing on the Bible believes in the Bible as long as he or she goes through the motions. Does that make sense to you? The whole point of swearing on a Bible is to make the oath all the more sacred. If the book upon which you are swearing is not sacred to you swearing on it is an empty act.

Where Prager is worried about the Bible, Representative Virgil Goode is worried about Muslims, warning America that if we don’t do something about immigration it will only be a few years before America is ruled by the Taliban (the Muslim Taliban not the Republican Christian Taliban that rules Texas [read the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas]).

It doesn’t matter that Representative Ellison traces his American roots back to the 18th century; it doesn’t matter that having to use a Christian Bible seems like a blatant violation of the Constitutional position against having a religious test for the holding of public office; it doesn’t matter that using a book in which you do not believe is promoting hypocrisy not virtue— what matters is that these people are spouting frighteningly anti-American bullshit. (It isn’t the BS that bothers me but the anti-American aspect of it.)

If I wanted my government officials to swear on an ethical text that is not compromised by violence and God-sanctioned immorality as are both the Bible and Koran, I might suggest the Tao te Ching I or the Dhammapada.. If I wanted something less religious I might suggest Goodnight Moon, but if I really want to be outrageous let me suggest that they hold a copy of the Constitution of the United States.

I don’t care if Rep. Ellison upholds the Koran. I do care that he and everyone else in government upholds the Constitution.

The Real War On Christmas

I know, I know, just a couple of weeks ago I declared the end to the war on Christmas. Wal-Mart is greeting shoppers with “Merry Christmas,” the Seattle rabbi who threatened to sue unless the Seattle-Tacoma Airport put up a Hanukkah menorah next to its biggest Christmas Tree has backed down and (though I cannot confirm this) gone into rehab to find out why he is so enraged by tinsel-strewn trees. It seemed to me that America had finally come to accept the fact that it is a Christian Nation devoted enough to God to spend itself into debt hell singing “On the fourth day of Christmas my banker gave to me: four credit cards, three fixed loans, two dunning calls, and no chance to live debt free.”

So you can imagine my surprise that just when I thought it was safe to celebrate the birth of Christ by buying a plasma screen TV I discover that the true enemy of Christmas is not the Jews, humanists, and Muslims, but the nation’s founding Christians.

The Puritans fled England because (all right, partly because) they couldn’t stand Christmas. Christmas in merry old England was a cross between (pun intended, clever, no?) Deep Throat and Friday the 13th, Part Whatever with Brits cavorting in ways that would make Jack the Ripper cringe. And besides, the Puritans knew what every good Druid knows: Jesus wasn’t born in December, and Christmas is just a pagan holiday hiding behind a thin veneer of Christianity.

According to the myth as I remember it, Jesus was supposedly born shortly after the Great Pumpkin visited Linus and Snoopy which happens each year in October (usually on a Wednesday around 8pm ET, 7pm CT). The Bible, however, says that the birth of Jesus was announced by a star seen by shepherds. That would mean Jesus was born in springtime when shepherds are shepherding, not in December when most shepherds tend to take part-time jobs indoors at the local grog and gruel hall.

Celebrating Christmas was a crime in early America punishable by a fine. In fact the US Congress stayed in session over Christmas. While there is much evidence to prove this, the belief that they took the Fourth of October off as Deism Day, celebrating the day God finished winding the clockwork of the universe and moved into an assisted living facility in Miami, is much harder to prove.

The only reason America’s Christian leaders couldn’t crush Christmas was because the people just had an itch to party. Borrowing trees, Saint Nick (who was a Byzantine Christian saint and thus not really Christian at all), and eggnog from Europe America’s sinful masses turned their backs on their Christianity and made merry.

It wasn’t long before some enterprising capitalists realized that horny drunks are apt to buy things they don’t need at prices they cannot afford, and thus the true American Christmas was born. So what do we do? If we’re true to our founding faith we should do away with Christmas once again. If we want our Christmas we have to jettison our Christianity, or at least reinvent it to suit ourselves. Hey, let’s do that! It wouldn’t be the first time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Please Fence Me In

I am in San Jose, California at the moment, and have recently heard about a controversy happening at the other end of the state in Venice, CA. The controversy is over an eruv, a temporary fence of sorts that surrounds a Jewish community on the Sabbath.

The need for an eruv comes from the challenge posed by Sabbath observance in the Torah. The Torah prohibits working on the Sabbath and considers carrying something between a public domain and a private domain on the Sabbath to be work. Torah does allow you to carrying things within an enclosed "private" area. So you can carry a pizza from the kitchen to the dining room in your house, but not from your house to a neighbors house. Since half the fun of the Sabbath is to visit and share food with friends this law needs to massaged a bit. The solution is an eruv.

The rabbis of the Talmud developed a means to render a public area a private domain by surrounding it with an eruv, Hebrew for joining together. An eruv integrates a number of private and public properties into one larger private domain so that people within an eruv district can move objects from one area to another.

So are so good. In Venice, however, proposals to erect an eruv puts the Orthodox community at odds with ordinances that restrict blocking the view of the ocean and protect the flight paths of birds. The eruv, opponents of the measure argue, does both.

The proposed eruv would use 200 pound fishing net, and I can see how this would restrict my view of the ocean (though to be honest with all the nearly naked people walking around Venice I hardly notice the ocean at all), and pose a danger to birds. But there has to be a way of freeing the Sabbath observant from their homes without inconveniencing beach-goers and birds.

Here is my suggestion: I propose that some enterprising rabbinic scholar team up with an enterprising fish net maker and create personal eruvim (plural of eruv). People could wear them like giant mosquito nets covering their bodies. Wherever you went you would be within your own eruv, and thus able to carry things freely from place to place. This way the only person whose view of the sea would be inhibited would be the Jew wearing the eruv. Since we are basically a desert people anyway, what do we care about seeing the ocean? And as for the birds, unless they intend to attack they will not have any problem flying over eruv-wearing Jews.

Of course there may be some reason why portable personal eruvim aren’t kosher. I am not a halachic (Jewish legal) scholar. If there is no legal objection, however, I am offering this idea free to anyone wishing to make and market it.

PS: After knocking the idea around a bit more, someone here in San Jose suggested that I might create a eruv shooter that would shoot web string from place to place ala Spiderman thus creating an eruv as you go. This might be a big hit with Orthodox kids, but firing the eruv shooter might violate the Sabbath law against work, so we would need a ruling on this first.

Another helpful soul said I could market hula-hoops as eruvim. People could walk with their hips swiveling the hoop getting both a halachic and an aerobic workout at the same time. This too sounds a bit like work, and we would have to check that out, but I appreciate the seriousness with which people are taking this idea.

I am sure that with a little imaginative effort we can create Sabbath law that is good both for the Jews and the birds.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Still Embarrassed

Yesterday I wrote how ashamed I was over the Seattle rabbi who, by threatening to sue unless the Seattle-Tacoma Airport put up a Hanukkah Menorah next to its biggest Christmas Tree, triggered the removal of all the Christmas Trees in the airport. Today CNN reported that the trees are being, ah, resurrected, and are fully operational once again. Coincidence? I think not.

You might imagine that this success would turn my shame to jubilation, but alas this is not the case. I am even more ashamed today. The source of my shame is the participation of Satmar Hasidic rabbis in the Iranian sponsored conference on the Holocaust. This gathering of anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, and madmen bent on nuclear Armageddon is a stain on humanity, and to have Satmar participate is just insanity.

Of course the Satmar do not deny the Holocaust. They attended the conference to lend support to the anti-Zionist fascists who, like the Satmar, would like to see the end of the State of Israel. The Satmar are anti-Zionist because they believe that only the Messiah can bring about the legitimate return of Israel. Until then the Satmar are willing to side with those who await the Mahdi to destroy the Israel we have. This is madness. And this must the season of madness.

Whatever happened to “Peace on earth and goodwill to wo/men?” Oh, I forgot, the peace symbol is now said to be a broken cross and anti-Christian. Religion has gone mad.

Monday, December 11, 2006


ITEM ONE: Some days I am embarrassed to be a Jew. Today is one of those days.

I am watching the morning news and discover that some CHaBaD rabbi in Seattle threatened the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with a lawsuit unless they permitted him to erect an eight-foot Hanukkah menorah next to the tallest of their eight Christmas Trees. Rather than risk the expense of a court case, the airport dismantled all eight trees. A blow for religious freedom! A blow for religious tolerance! Hooray for the Jews of Seattle, they have made their city safe for religious idiocy!

What was this guy thinking? “Hey, if I threaten to sue, I bet the airport will honor Jews with a menorah.” No, that doesn’t make sense. Maybe this is what went through his head, “We killed their god, now we take their trees—damn you goyyim!” No, that probably isn’t it either. How about this, “I bet the Christians of Seattle-Tacoma will respect their Jewish neighbors all the more if we fuck with their holy day.” No, again. Honestly, I can’t imagine what was going through this guy’s head. All I know is he probably set back Jewish-Christian relations in Seattle twenty years.

You want a menorah in the airport? Ask the airport management in January, don’t threaten them in December. But we seem to be beyond asking anymore. You want what you want and you will sue in order to get it. I don’t think there is a war on Christmas, but I do think there is a war on sanity.

If I were a rabbi in Seattle I would be appalled by my colleague’s actions. I would put a Christmas Tree on the front lawn of my synagogue with a bit sign saying, “Merry Christmas from the Jews of Seattle.” Seriously. If you know any rabbis in Seattle pass this on. It is a good idea.

ITEM TWO: Some days I am embarrassed to be a Muslim. Today is one of those days.

True, I am not technically a Muslim, but I do believe that Mohammed is a prophet of God and that the Koran does contain the same universal Truths as the Torah and New Testament, so I am a proto-Muslim.

What embarrasses me is the protest of tens of thousands of Muslims in Pakistan over the changes to rape laws instituted by the Women Protection Bill passed last month.

Under the new law a rape victim no longer has to produce four male Muslim witnesses to back up her claim. Further, if a woman fails to prove her case she is no longer convicted of adultery and sentenced to life imprisonment or death by stoning.

What embarrasses me (beside the obvious need for this law in the first place) is the idea that women could actually produce four male Muslim witnesses to prove she was raped. These men must have witnessed the crime, so why didn’t they stop it from happening?

What has religion done to our basic humanity? Some days I am embarrassed to be religious. Today is one of those days. Merry— oh, forget it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

God Abuse

[I am sitting in a local WiFi hotspot typing as quickly as I can in order to capture what the guy at the table next to mine is saying. I offer this without comment.]

Didja hear O’Reilly on that atheist little girl? Man, that’s child abuse, teachin’ yer kid ta hate God that way. O’Reilly said there ain’t nothin’ ta be done about it, since it’s a parent’s right ta teach their kid what they want, but, man, it seems like child abuse ta me. In fact it is child abuse an’ I’ll tell you why.

When that child dies and goes to Judgment God is going to send her ta Hell ‘cause a what her father taught her. He’s the guilty one, and he’ll be burnin’ too, but so will she ‘cause she was taught to deny God. Now that is abuse, pure and simple.

And it ain’t only atheists doin’ this. I mean right here in Murfreesboro we got us some Hindus who teach their kids that God has the head of a elephant. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine Jesus wearin’ a elephant’s head? Nobody woulda taken him seriously. Anyway, they teach that an’ those kids are going to Hell.

My grandson in the fifth grade tol’ me there’s a kid in his class who prays to Kirshner or some such god, an’ he has pictures of this god an’ the god is blue. Blue! Man, that is just too much. An’ my grandson tol’ me that the teacher asked the kids if they believed Jesus was God an’ this kid says no an’ when the teacher asked him why he didn’t believe Jesus is God the kid says that he can’t be God ‘cause God is blue an’ Jesus is white! That sounds like racism to me, but the teacher just let it go which is wrong since everyone with an ounce of brains knows God is white cause His Son is white.

That is just abuse in my book. This little kid’ll go ta God and say you ain’t God cause you’re white and God’s blue an’ God’ll have no choice but to send him to burn in Hell for all eternity an’ it ain’t really the kid’s fault but his parent’s fault.

An’ then a’course there’s Muslims and Jews. I mean the Muslims believe in some desert demon Ayllah so they’re goin’ ta Hell, and Jews just reject God so they’re goin’ ta Hell.

I don’t care if a adult wants to believe in a blue god, a Jew god, or a demon god, I mean that’s their right, but to teach that to their kids is to condemn ‘em to Hell an’ that’s abuse.

O’Reilly says there’s nothin’ to do about it. But I called child services an’ told the lady about it an’ she said it was legal. I asked her if she thought it was abuse an’ she sorta whispered ta me that I should call my pastor an’ tell him to do something.

So I told Pastor we ought to have an innervension like with drug addicts, but he said you can’t do that. So I asked him if he thought it was abuse ‘cause God was gonna burn these kids forever in Hell ‘cause of what their parents teach ‘em, and he said God visits the sins of the fathers on the children for generations so it ain’t really abuse, but God’s plan. So that’s that, I guess. God’s plan. Damn it sounds like abuse ta me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hope and Fear

[This is a condensed version of a talk I gave on Thursday, November 30th regarding my recent trip to Israel.]

Having recently returned from a weeklong visit to Israel with a group of rabbis and evangelical ministers, I am filled with both hope and fear regarding not only the Middle East, but also the future of our own nation and the planet as a whole. Let me share one example of each.

The hope: My Orthodox rabbinic colleague (we have been asked not to use the names of our fellow travelers) introduced me to a friend of his, Jacob, who ran a kosher pizzeria in Meah Sha’arim, the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood just outside the walls of the Old City. An elderly Hasid in his seventies, Jacob was one of the founders of Zaka, the Orthodox Jewish volunteer organization that collects human remains, from body parts to spatters of blood in the wake of terrorist bombings in Israel in order to bury victims with as much dignity as possible.

Jacob told us of a lecture he gave to on liberal and largely anti-Israel college campus in the United States. He related the story of Zaka and took questions. One Palestinian woman demanded to know what Jacob did with the body parts of the suicide bomber. “All humans are created in the image and likeness of God,” Jacob said. “We gather the bomber’s body up with the same respect and compassion we offer his victims.”

The woman was moved. “Keep up the good work,” she said. A local imam then rose to offer Jacob financial assistance and support from his Muslim community.

The fear: Even as many evangelical Christians are making room for the Jews in their theology of salvation, arguing that God’s covenant with Abraham and the Jewish people is eternal and distinct from the covenant He offers the gentile world through the birth, death, and resurrection of His Son, they are hardening their hearts against Islam, insisting that Allah is a false god and Islam an intrinsically evil and violent faith. Islam is clearly the enemy of God and those who love Him. This can only lead to more violence and destruction.

A Tennessean article published on the fourth day of our trip fed on this notion opening with the Arabic proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The writer’s message was clear: Jews and Christians have a common bond because they share a common enemy. Friendship contingent upon shared fear, anger, and violence is not the foundation upon which to pin much hope. While it may be expedient to make the enemy of my enemy my friend, when that enemy is defeated, my so-called friend will quickly become my newfound enemy.

Not surprisingly, Nashville’s Muslim community found nothing to praise in our journey. I don’t blame them. Being labeled as the enemy in a community where you are a small minority must be frightening. As much as some of us may fear Muslims, Muslims have a right to fear us as well. America has a very checkered past when it comes to those it fears, and to read that Nashville’s Jews and Christians are linking arms against Islam, can only be cause for anxiety and anger.

Yet the notion of a shared enemy had nothing to do with our visit to Israel. We went to learn from one another, to try and tap into each other’s love of the Land, and to build a friendship based on that shared love and not on a shared enemy. But love and forgiveness sell fewer papers than hate and fear, so the real meaning and message of our mission was lost.

Hope is fueled by compassion rooted in the recognition that human life, regardless of the labels one chooses or has foisted upon one, is sacred. Fear is fueled by ignorance rooted in the false notion that God’s love and saving grace is contingent upon having the right enemy. The fear lies with those who live by abstractions: theologies, creeds, dogmas that are human artifacts often designed to exploit human weakness. The hope lies with those who live by the simple fact that we are all God’s children, created in the image and likeness of the One who is all.

So, if hope rather than fear is to win out; if the prospect of a century-long conflict with Islam is to be avoided, what can we do? I could offer a list of obvious suggestions: dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims; joint programming around our respective cultures focusing on art, music, and food; and much of this may already be happening in Nashville. But instead of this, let me focus on one somewhat radical suggestion.

I would like to see local Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy and lay leaders come together to study their respective scriptures in order to identify and reject those passages that advocate and condone violence. The Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and the Qur’an all suffer from passages that have God calling for violence and even genocide. These passages cannot come from a God of justice and compassion, and need to be rejected as false teaching. We must break free from the notion that scripture is infallible, and recognize that alongside timeless truth there sits much time-bound bias masquerading as truth. Unless and until we free ourselves from the delusion that God condones and even commands the murder of human beings, religion will always be a catalyst for evil even as it claims to be the ultimate repository of the good.