HomeThe Paulinian Compassvol. 1 no. 2 (2009)

Fertilizing the Seeds of Compassion in Ancient Scriptures

Bette U. Kiernan

Discipline: Religion, Bibles



The Bible and the Koran are the creation stories for modern civilization. Countless societies around the world revere their teachings. They are the most influential writings of all time, yet both contain models for brutality that influence us from birth to death. Core scriptures portray violence through cruel punishments, sexual inequality, and force. But along with the brutal narratives are messages of peace. Neither Judaism nor Islam is categorically cruel or peaceable. 

The sacred texts lend themselves to a new interpretation that highlights and frames compassionate, non-violent means of problem solving. Since an integration of cultural myths with personal histories creates the identities of individuals and societies, considering the contributions of religion to violence is a necessity when working to create a better world. Worshipping texts that model the acceptance of aggression nurtures a war-like mentality and becomes a significant variable in the creation of terrorists. However, by shifting the focus away from the glorification of fervent ruthless action to frame jointly held wisdom lessons, a more positive, non-violent context is nurtured.