I’d like to say I made the following All Saints Day liturgy up but I didn’t, its real, as reported by Virtueonline from an Episcopalian (TEC) church in Arkansas. Here’s a snapshot:

CELEBRANT: ...Holy men and women who worshiped the All Holy One as Rama, Vishnu or the Lord Krishna, forest hermits, ascetics and wise ones whose lives were incarnations of the holy books the Vedas, Upanishads and Gita...
ALL: All you Hindu saints; we praise you for holy are you.

The Incas and Aztecs get a look-in too:

CELEBRANT: All you Incas of Peru, holy Mayans and Aztecs of Mexico, all you Native children of the sun and stars, you who with creative love and sacrifice raised up wondrous temples to your God…

Moslems also find their place in the liturgical sun:

CELEBRANT: Holy prophet Mohammed and all holy saints of Islam, all who surrender to the will of Allah: Holy Martyrs of Islam, who with your lives declared the Allah is One and only One, all you whirling dervishes and mystic Sufis, you ecstatic lovers of the divine Beloved.

With all due respect to the genius of Arkansas Episcopalianism, it has to be said that the above ritual isn’t original but sprang from the mind of a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Edward Hays. You can find it in his aptly named book, Psalms for Zero Gravity, published by Ave Maria Press. There you have it, along with the tacit assumption that all religions are basically the same and, you know, if only we’d respect each other there’d be no more war.

It’s a pleasant thought, after all, who wants conflict, religious or otherwise? But the problem here, contrary to modern myth, is that all religions are not the same. Taking the order of Fr. Hays’ list of religions: the Hindu goddess Kali is represented wearing a garland of fifty two skulls, a skirt made out of dismembered arms and in two of her hands she holds a sword and a severed head, dripping blood. Anyone might be forgiven for thinking that Kali has something to do with human sacrifice, and they’d be right. According to Alex Perry, reporting for Time in 2002,

“The following month, police dug up the remains of two sisters, aged 18 and 13, in Bihar, dismembered with a ceremonial sword and offered to Kali by their father. Last week on the outskirts of Bombay, maize seller Anil Lakshmikant Singh, 33, beheaded his neighbor’s nine-year-old son to save his marriage on the advice of a tantric. Said Singh: He promised that a human sacrifice would end all my miseries.”

There’s more, but I’ll spare you the grisly details; suffice to say, the Hindu Kali cult isn’t nice and the British did a good thing in stamping out its holy adherents, the Thugs, who used to sacrifice some 20,000 people a year to their goddess. That was back in the 1820s, evidently the cult’s made a come-back - for holy are you? I don’t think so.

But what about the “holy Mayans, Incas and Aztecs” whose “creative love and sacrifice raised up wondrous temples”? Well, “sacrifice” is about right because that’s what many of the temples were for, human sacrifice. Bernal Diaz, one of Cortez’s lieutenants, gives us a first-hand account of the great temple in Mexico City, Tenochtitl├ín,

“There were some smoking braziers of their incense, which they call copal, in which they were burning the hearts of three Indians whom they had sacrificed that day; and all the walls of that shrine were so splashed and caked with blood that they and the floor too were black…”

The Spaniards recount that the walls of the “wondrous temple” ran with blood, a sight so appalling that even the bloodthirsty Cortez himself ordered them cleaned before negotiating with, and finally killing the last Inca ruler, Atahualpa. 

Last, but not least, we have the “holy prophet Mohammed” and the “holy Martyrs of Islam”. Perhaps Fr. Hays and his Arkansas friend are unaware that Mohammed was a warrior, some would say a warlord. Does that make him holy? In the eyes of Islam it does; those who die fighting for the Prophet’s cause rank as Martyrs, with a guaranteed place in a heaven populated by dark eyed houris. 

This would include today’s suicide bombers. Nasra Hassan, writing for the New Yorker, interviewed one:

“It’s as if a very high, impenetrable wall separated you from Paradise or Hell,” he (the bomber) said. “Allah has promised one or the other to his creatures. So, by pressing the detonator, you can immediately open the door to Paradise — it is the shortest path to Heaven.”
“What is the attraction of martyrdom?” I asked.
“The power of the spirit pulls us upward… We were floating, swimming, in the feeling that we were about to enter eternity. We had no doubts. We made an oath on the Koran, in the presence of Allah — a pledge not to waver. This jihad pledge is called bayt al-ridwan, after the garden in Paradise that is reserved for the prophets and the martyrs… All martyrdom operations, if done for Allah’s sake, hurt less than a gnat’s bite!”

I’d say that the martyrdom of pressing the detonator is rather different from that aspired to by Christians, but don’t let that stop you, go ahead and call these operators holy. 

Just be aware that they don’t waver and neither, in the end, can we.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.