Islam, Christianity and Judaism – the three Abrahamic religions – all tell the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his son as a test of Abraham’s obedience to the will of God. At the last moment, as he raises the knife, he is told he has passed the test and should slaughter a sheep instead.
It’s a horrific story, which some believe is echoed in the New Testament, when a son is killed – hence: “Behold the lamb of God” which refers to Christ.
Is this a story that holds the key to a great mystery, or is it indicative of an awful pathology that affects all the Abrahamic faiths?
When the devil urged Abraham to protect his son and not kill him, was he really ‘the evil one’ or the voice of Compassion?
Stephanie and I have just returned from Berlin. There we visited an art installation that takes up 15 rooms in the Jewish Museum. It’s entitled ‘Obedience’, and has been created by the artist Saskia Boddeke and film director Peter Greenaway. It combines film, dance, music, installations and artwork. I cannot overstate the impact this installation had on us both. It was devastating – deeply emotional and powerful.
‘Obedience’ is art that shakes you to the core, touches the soul and cracks open the heart. I would encourage anyone who is concerned about the way we as humans seem to cause so much bloodshed on this Earth to visit this exhibition, which closes on September 13th. Unfortunately I cannot find plans for it to be shown elsewhere, and the representations on the web do not adequately convey its extraordinary nature.
If you can’t get to it, you can get a sense of it (but only very partially sadly) by watching the following three videos in sequence. In a meditative mood, imagine you are walking through fifteen rooms, with the music in the clips playing, huge screens showing films like this, and the whole room being painted and decorated, with installations in each room. If you are interested in the story itself and how it can be interpreted, you can find a pdf that discusses it here.