Sunday, 22 June 2014

The house of one, reducing all to none?

Hi All, 

A  fellow co-conspirator picked this one up for me. Via the BBC, Berlin is to build a place for worship, a single building for a Synagogue, a Mosque and a Church (see article HERE)  : 
'An architecture competition has been held and the winner chosen. The striking design is for a brick building with a tall, square central tower. Off the courtyard below will be the houses of worship for the three faiths - the synagogue, the church and the mosque. It is to occupy a prominent site - Petriplatz - in the heart of Berlin.

The location is highly significant, according to one of the three religious leaders involved, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin. "From my Jewish point of view the city where Jewish suffering was planned is now the city where a centre is being built by the three monotheistic religions which shaped European culture," he told the BBC. 
Can they get on? "We can. That there are people within each group who can't is our problem but you have to start somewhere and that's what we are doing."'
This person asked me what I thought about this, so I decided to make it into a post, as it chimed with a few things I've been thinking about recently. In one debate I had with someone online,  a couple of years back, I got this thrown at me : 
"show some respect for your religion and all the Jews who have suffered in the past and stop pretending it is OK in Judaism to be a dyke and to try out Christianity because it is not. It is a slap in the face to every one of them who went to the ovens!"
So with the above context  in mind (perhaps people get why I have no desire to share too much personal stuff with those of you whom I don't know)  what are my thoughts?  I think I will ignore the practicalities of getting 3 different faiths to agree to run a building and I appreciate there are 3 different sections to this building, but it still seems strange to think you can worship 3 different Gods in the same house of prayer.  I will also ignore the fact that within these 3 faiths, there are people who simply cannot agree with each other( Haredi/Reform, Catholic/Protestant, Sunni/Shia), although it is a point worth making, for if people in a religion cannot reconcile, what are the people between religions doing to their own beliefs to make this happen? (that isn't rhetorical btw).

Sooooooooo, I'm all in favour of being ecumenical. I have Christian relatives & good Christian friends, for that matter my best friend & housemate is an atheist, thankfully unlike the atheist troll we get he here, he is not a loony militant one, though, just a person who simply doesn't believe in any gods, but wants to live a decent ethical life, a non Jew who likes to take part in our Shabbat meals  and who enjoys the Bible as his favourite 'fictional book' & is also very pro-Israeli and likes us Jews. It is also true that at university, I got heavily involved in Christianity of various stripes (the strangest being the 'Charismatics', but that is a story- and is a story- for another day!). But the line is drawn somewhere and I think that would be it. It is about being honest, besides which, what is  the point of being a Jew, if it didn't matter which God a Jew followed? 

I think I'd have to echo my brothers sentiments a couple of weeks back about The Pope's ecumenical prayer summit. For me, I would add that we need to have respect for each other and not persecute or kill each other, but that does not mean to say we worship the same deity. I've looked at this myself (more Christianity, than Islam) and I don't feel confident to say I worship Jesus, let alone Allah. I can appreciate Christians of some stripes saying we worship Jesus, but don't know it or that we worship 'God the Father' and that some Muslims could claim we worship the same God, but follow a different path as Jews corrupted the Torah, until Mo came along and set us all right. I dunno, but to me I just can't buy this idea. Not because I wish to use this as a vehicle to hate Christians or Muslims, far from it, but because of the question asked above, what is the point of being a Jew, if it didn't matter which God a Jew followed? 

I  have no time for those conspiracy theorists who think we are heading toward 'one world government', which is manifest in the creation of 'one world religion' which signifies 'the end times' as per the book of Revelation (what else?).  This to me is too far fetched and fitting only of the wacky conspiracy theorist mindset and requires no further discussion here.  A slightly more plausible alternative is that this could be the popular manifestation of the idea that we all really worship the same God and that the blood letting in the middle east is a result of those who are on the more orthodox end of the 3 respective faiths. Or something like that. Except that there is a slight difference in telling someone of another faith you're destined for hell and helping them on their way.  FWIW - as repeated before here-I believe that non-Jews will also have 'a portion in the world to come'- and that differences can and should be discussed/debated, without the need to violence or in fact to build a building of religious worship for 3 religions in one, however much that may appeal in the face of militant fundamentalism. There seems to be merit in this, as noticeably the the bit the middle the 'central meeting place', looks to me to be distinctly bigger : 

Floorplan of The House of One

Those are my brief thoughts, what do readers think? Is it OK for us all to worship in one building, separately? Or is there something wrong about this because none of us worship the same deity? And what of the conflict within faiths? Shouldn't Jews be more interested in trying to met fences between themselves and Muslims and Christians likewise? Isn't this just an attempt to reduce all of our faiths into one mushy compromise, because people fear we'll all end up in conflict otherwise?  What do you think? 


  1. I just can't see how this one would work. I wonder if these are more liberal parts of the respective faiths. Who seem to have more tolerance for each other, than they do of people in their own faith. Nothing wrong with being ecumenical, I applaud it. But I can't see how this can be at the expense of deeply held views nor should it I'll never agree with Christians, but providing we are not violent toward each other, I can't see this as a problem.

  2. HI David,

    I agree that there is a lot of work to be done within various faiths to heal wounds and what not. I also think that there is a place for ecumenical dialogue. But it depends on what terms and what we hope to gain. If it is an understanding of what people believe than that is great. If people wish to debate Christianity verses Judaism then that is great as well. It is the way these things used to go on, under the threat of death and persecution, which we can and should avoid and fight.

  3. Bible and Truth22 June 2014 at 14:05

    As a Christian I see this as heresy !

    "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6) is what Jesus said. You need to be a Christian to avoid hell. Seek Jesus! Turn or burn my friends!

  4. Hi Sam,
    I'm a Christian and wonder about this sometimes.

  5. Feels like the cop out you see. Blame something other than God or yourself. You can't blame God- perfect. Who wants to blame yourself ?

  6. Um, what's the objection here. They are sharing a building, which will have separate places of worship.... they are not praying together or even using the same room.

  7. Hi Esther,

    That's why I posed the question at the end. Although having said that, I think we are all better off as faiths, having our own separate buildings.

  8. I agree. Once we get our respective houses in order, within our religions...


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