Thursday, March 06, 2008

Religious Stories Often Lack Critical Substance

We're approaching the Jewish Passover and Christian celebration of Easter. Have you noticed that the media tends to carry religious stories when the calendar approaches significant religious holy days? If a story passes on more information that advances understanding or even inspires the reader that’s great. However, I think such stories require writers who themselves have a thorough understanding in order to capture and give us the essence of something substantive without a boring or routine regurgitation of facts that one could read on Wikipedia.

Because there may be a lack of qualified writers doing the writing there is a tendency to put out unsubstantiated stories or theories that lend to a hot headline.

Check out the MSNBC title, “Was Moses High on Mt. Sinai?” Or the Reuters title, “High on Mt. Sinai?”

Yes, someone was able to find an Israeli psychology professor who is putting forth the idea that Moses was high on drugs when he ascended Mt. Sinai and therefore the burning bush experience and the receiving of the 10 Commandments were a result of hallucinations rather than divine encounters.

Benny Shanon of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University contends that there are two plants in the Sinai desert that contain psychoactive molecules from which a hallucinogenic brew can be prepared. Shanon claims that when one is inebriated by the brew one sees a light and has profound religious and spiritual feelings. Shanon is familiar with the effects of the drugs because he has partaken of the brew over 160 times himself.

I’ll resist joking that Shanon must have been under the influence of the brew when writing the results of his “research”. Sexy headlines and fluff content and the reader quickly moves on to other articles and other subjects. Yet the subject of Moses, the exodus of 2 million Jews from Egypt and the receiving of the 10 Commandments that has shaped the lives of billions of people and the laws of hundreds of nations is a deep mine of gold nuggets.

If divine encounters and divine interventions were not a part of the story then it becomes all the more remarkable that in an obscure desert with a group of slaves the world was forever impacted and changed.

These matters deserve our serious reflection.

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