Lori Souder and Lorain Giles invite you to participate in an All-Church Read. We are proposing “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence”, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks has served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. He currently teaches at New York University, Yeshiva University, and King’s College London.
In this book, Rabbi Sacks tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. Exploring the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and using biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source mis-readings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). By looking anew at the book of Genesis, Rabbi Sacks offers a radical re-reading of some of the Old Testament’s seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.
“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith. It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world. . . To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege.” His book calls for people of goodwill from all faiths and none to stand together, confront the religious extremism of our day, and declare: Not in God’s Name.
This book is best read with your Bible at hand, for reference, and lends itself to discussion and reflection. We will offer a couple of opportunities for structured conversation, probably in March and April. At least one of our discussions will be with our friends at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, including Dr. Bajwa, who has joined us before for educational and spiritual conversations. The dates for our discussions have not yet been decided—stay tuned for details.
In March and April we will offer 3 opportunities for discussion of the book.
Monday, March 13, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at our church. Potluck followed by discussion of Parts 1 and 2 of the book, led by Don Donihue and Lorain Giles.
Sunday, March 19, 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., at our church. Fellowship Hour munchies, for discussion of Part 3 of the book, led by Don Donihue and Lorain Giles. We shall be joined by friends from the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.
Wednesday, April 5, 6:00 p.m., at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, in West Springfield. Wednesday, April 5, 6:00 p.m., at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, in West Springfield. Leadership participation by Dr Saleem Bajwa, Don Donihue, Lori Souder, and others.
Whether you will have read the book or not, we hope you will join us for one or all of the discussions.