Sacred Texts Function As Mirrors

In Moment Magazine, conservative writer David Frum writes about the imperative of wrestling with our holy texts. Frum refreshingly and poetically (but not unproblematically) reject the notion that our sacred books contain some unadulterated essence.

Money Quote:

“Holy books are like mirrors that reflect us back to ourselves. The peaceful man finds words of reconciliation, the vindictive woman reads a summon to revenge. The loving hear calls to love more deeply; the hateful are confirmed in their hate. It is not the text that makes the religion what it is; it is the reader.”

I say that it is not unproblematic because if religion means whatever the reader wants it to mean, then what value does it ultimately have? A wholly subjective religion can hardly serve as a light to civilization. Such a system of beliefs and practices simply can’t demand prescriptive and universal standards of behaviour from its adherents.

Being the conservative writer that he is (i.e. a believer in moderate Islam), Frum’s real focus in the article is salvaging the Quran from either being whitewashed (Islam means peace) or from being vilified (Islam means war). Taking a page from Irshad Manji writings (although not crediting her), Frum calls on Muslims to re-open the gates of ijtihad (Islam tradition of independent thinking), and reinterpret their texts in such a way that the passages which call for exclusivity and violence are rendered nontoxic.

To read the article, click here.

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