It all began when I was told by some of the luminaries at Jay's that there was no point in trying to communicate with Muslims, because Muslims - all of them - adhere to a primitive and violent creed, with a Holy Book that demands a range of vicious punishments, including murder by stoning, for what would now seem relatively trivial offenses.
Well, I hold with murder by stoning in ANYBODY'S Holy Book, by gum. So I went looking. And I couldn't find it in the Qu'ran, but by gosh, they were right: it was certainly all through the Bible, which Muslims (as well as Christians and Jews, of course) accept as their Sacred Text. My favourite was this helpful guide to child-rearing:
If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey them even after they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the public place of his community. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is disloyal and defiant; he does not heed us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst: all Israel will hear and be afraid.
So I took this news back to Jay's, and was promptly chastised for committing the grievous error of suggesting that Christians and Jews actually take their own Scripture seriously. I was informed that Christ had declared the nastier parts of the Old Testament inoperative.
That surprised me a bit, so I went back to see what the Man himself said on the topic. Well, He actually seemed pretty bullish on the Old T. In Matthew 5:1, 18, he says: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Now, my point in that whole debate was that the Holy Books of our tribes - our Bibles, Qu'rans, Baghavad Gitas, the works - are the collected wisdom of a people at a particular time and place: that some of their teachings endure and some become embarrassingly out of date, as history, science or rules of behaviour: and that civilization requires of us that we SEPARATE ourselves, to some degree, from the word of God(s). My own Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu friends do that. The Lord's Resistance Army, the crazier ayatollahs, the Reverend Jim Phelps and Shiv Sena do not.
So two questions occur:
1) Why are so many conservative Christian bloggers apparently unable to accept the notion that westernized Muslim do precisely what most Christians do - i.e., recognize that the original rendering of tribal laws, appropriate for one time and place, require selective adjustment as society changes?
2) To those Christians who argue that Christ did, in fact, hit reboot on the Old Testament, and that they are now allowed to pick and choose which OT laws He intended them to keep following, whereas Muslims are compelled to follow their book literally - where does that leave the Jews?