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Bill Moyers Rewind: Tu Wei-Ming (1990)

This week, THE JOURNAL examines the interconnections between Christianity, Judaism, Islam and modern politics. For an alternative perspective on how religion and politics can inform one another, we bring you an excerpt from Bill Moyers' 1990 conversation with historian and Confucian scholar, Tu Wei-Ming for the series, A WORLD OF IDEAS.

(To watch this interview in full, click here)

Bill Moyers' first question asks:

"With all the world's major religions being 15 centuries old or older, do you think in this new era that these old faiths have anything to say to us?"

How would you answer this question? Tell us by commenting below.


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The difference between Jesus and Santa is about 85 pounds.
Apparently, by evidence of our shopping behavior, Santa's message is also much heavier.

Archeology, and History corroborate the veracity of the Bible around which both "Judaism" and "Christianity" are based. That being the case, therefore, I would not be as dismissive about these "religions" as Mr. Moyers question implies.

I would argue, however that God hates religion but desires a personal relationship with man and that the scripture is God's personal revelation of Himself to man and therefore, the key to that relationship.

I do not know what you might recall as to what you were doing on Sept. 10, 2001. Circumstances in my life had led me to do some research on Islam that day. Prior to then, I‘d been quite ignorant of the subject. After a quick study, it was easy for me to conclude, however, that anyone who takes Islam seriously is fundamentally cruel. Sept 11th confirmed that.

Presently we find ourselves in the middle of what is colloquially called a “war on terror”. In light of the fact that this war is about “religion“, I think that the existence of this war attests to a truth that I would posit as axiomatic:


Jewish liturgy confirms this axiom. The “Oleynu” which is a prayer recited regularly in the synagogue, declares that in the end of days “The Lord shall be one and His name shall be one” (i.e. there is universal agreement on the identity of God). Actually this notion is also quite consistent with Christian theology because the text is taken straight out of the book of Zechariah.

As I see it, there are four ways by which we (humanity) will come to this consensus on who God is, what He's like and what He expects from us. 1. We debate the issue and respond to the evidence and arguments rationally. 2. A world view is imposed upon the rest of humanity by some dictatorial entity (Radical Islam seems to be an attempt at this venture but promises to not be the only such attempt). 3. The truth is empirically and indisputably revealed to all of humanity. 4. We continue to carry our history of war and bloodshed into the future.

Many who address Mr. Moyers “blogs” seem to claim to be moderate and opened minded. I know that I am! I am a Jew who, while growing up, played a prominent role in my temple youth group and served, while an undergrad, as President of the Jewish Student Association of the University I attended. I also learned, however, that my identity as a Jew did not hinge upon the opinions of others. Nor did my identity hinge upon whether I accepted or rejected the notion that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. I’ve drawn the conclusion that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah promised to the world through the Jewish people and spoken of by the Jewish prophets: Moses, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hoseah, Jeremiah, etc. Having drawn this conclusion, I think, bares witness to my open mindedness. Furthermore, I am in good company. Notable Jews throughout history, including Benjamin Disraeli, Johanness Koepler, and Felix Mendelsohn (let alone the authors of the New Testament) have held the same position as I. I am also convinced that as long as the Jewish community, as whole, DISMISSIVELY rejects the notion that Jesus is the Messiah (contrary to what the Bible says on the matter and thus unwittingly attacking the veracity of Christianity), the opportunity for rational debate is jettisoned and continued war is inevitable.

The fault is not entirely that of the Jewish community, however. Jesus suffers from “guilt by association” with a largely anti-Semitic Gentile entity called "Christianity" which somewhat arrogantly assumed the “reigns” of the kingdom of God after the 3rd century A.D. In essence, to the Jew, true "christianity" has become lumped into the same category as false "christianity". That remains no excuse, however. Jesus suffers from guilt by association. Guilt by association, however, is not a rational argument. As long as rational debate on the subject of Jesus being the Jewish Messiah is, at best, swept under the rug, Islam is granted credibility. The PRESUMPTION that because these religions are ancient and therefore no longer relavent to the modern world is also dismissive and feeds into the hands of the dictatorial imposition of world view scenario I mentioned earlier as well the radical Islamist world view. But then again, maybe subjugating women to a second class role, and the enslavement and murder of “unbelievers” is the way to go. That is what comes with the Islamic world view “package”.

I believe we have a lot to learn and the established religions of our forefathers are the right teachers. I do not believe that the Word of God is to be translated literally but I know that every time I read the Bible or study His word I learn something new. Usually it's because I have grown and my journey has progressed. That allows the Word to be present in the moment, when I need it, to help me deal with all the worldly issues.

Religion built on only what I have learned in my lifetime is a faith built like a sand castle and the first big wave will wash it out to see with nothing left. Religion built on established, and yes old, traditions and years of experience is built of stone and the waves may change it some but the foundation will remain.

Absolutely! Unless we were more than biological machines,--Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus would not be the most revered celebrities in the human course. The need for, and capacity to love seems our most prized possession. Love is the unspoken message of all the major religions.
This capacity to love is everlasting,--has thrived in our hearts throughout all the eras;--and moved us toward an overall escape from oppressive mentality.
The Bible was the navigator of western civilization. As the WORD spread,--a 'human spirit' emerged, and strengthened; overcame what seemed unsurmountable physical obstacles; moved us toward a NEW world;--where needs as equality, truth, freedom, peace, compassion could be satisfied;--toward happiness, or a state of justice.
It is adherence to the literal word,--to the dead perceptual reality, including an oppressive God--that mankind created;--that is incompatible,--and needs to be abandoned. The reality to which Jesus guided us is everlasting, but continues to thrive only deep within personal thought.
The only difference between the message of Jesus, and other religious works,--is our potential to create a reality of 'heaven on earth'; and than spiritual teachers is the identity of God as a person,--rather than some universal energy force. This allows a closer connection;--and I believe is accurate. The human body is visible,--but that is not the person. A person seems a pure conscious energy,--and holds no physical property,--continues to be as enigmatic,--as God!

I am Jewish but I think out of all the religions, Buddhism is the most constructive. It believes in passing on knowledge and respects all life. It does not believe in waging war or forcing their beliefs on others.

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