Monday, April 02, 2007

PBS: Three Faiths

On Monday, April 2, 2007 some PBS stations (such as MPT in Annapolis, MD) broadcast the frist of a two-part series (two sixty minute segments) of a film (PBS Connecticut, Auteur Films) by Gerard Krell, "Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam." Part 2 is broadcast the next night.

The interviews with imams, rabbis and priests mapped out parallels among the Abraham-based faiths, especially between Islam and Judaism, which actually have strikingly similar religious law in many areas (like marriage as a contract), and where many of the disputes are about historical narrative (which son did Abraham almost sacrifice?) The historical rift between Muslims and Jews could have started when Mohammed lived in Medina, which was populated by Jews, who accepted him as a sage but not as a legitimate prophet. Christianity could not accept the idea of a major prophetic figure after Christ. But many rituals in Islam, even the hajj, have paralles in Judaism. And the encampment during the hajj is supposed to be a preview of the afterlife.

The second part had a meeting between Muslim and Jewish women, each saying what the people in the other faith should not say, what was abusive. The second part did start with the history of Islamic civilization in Spain, which would, with Judaism, be driven out by the Crusades. Other commentators discussed the idea that religion claims to be absolute, and that each faith must deal with the paradox of more than one absolute in a monotheistic context. Karen Armstrong (UK) was one of the main speakers. The story of Cain and Abel was presented in each faith.

I remember that back in the 1950s American University's Dr. Edward Bauman wrote a book called "Gospel Parallels" with columnwise comparisons. A similar web device should exist to compare the precise beliefs of various faiths. The three systems of faith are more alike than they are different. Another site should diagram all of the major historical events that cause religious conflict. There is much written about this in many sources (like a recent issue of Time that analyzed the sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, comparable to analysis of the problems with Northern Ireland a generation ago), but there are few resources that pull all of this together in ways to make it easy to understand. The Wiki sites are a place to look. There is a tendency for very religious people to want to "hear" only about their own system of belief.

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