“Turn the other cheek”

“Turn the other cheek”

The other day, listening to the local radio station, I heard the two hosts chatting about religion: “Of course every religion teaches ‘turn the other check.'”

What a complement to Jesus Christ, that his distinctive and famous instructions on how to respond to violence (see Matthew 5:39) would be assumed to apply for ALL religions. Could this be some kind of reverse religious imperialism: if you want to know what Buddha or Muhammad taught, just read the gospels? Has Jesus’ influence been so profound upon our worldview that people can just quote his words and say: well of course Islam (or Hinduism, or paganism, or whatever) teaches that.

Of course what they were saying was nonsense. Not all faiths are the same, any more than all political ideologies are the same. They don’t all offer the same response to violence. It would be incredible if they did.

Where does such woolly thinking come from? Does it come from the view that religion has become irrelevant? Is it based on the belief that faith is somehow a projection of a universal common moral consciousness of the human soul? Is this just plain old head-in-the-sand stubbornness, refusing to acknowledge that not all faiths are the same? Perhaps it just a matter of our comfort levels: if all religions are the same, then we don’t need to bother about them anyway.

Is this a case of us having become so lazy that we can no longer understand the times in which we live?

Mark Durie is the founding director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at the Melbourne School of Theology.

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