Kahlil Gibran and religion


Religion is one of the big topics that Kahlil Gibran raises in his books. This writing aims to offer a perspective on religion from his point of view as stated in The Prophet.

First, going beyond ritual. Gibran wrote, "your daily life is your temple and your religion." For Gibran, a good religious follower is not solely determined by his sincerity and loyalty in carrying out the rites. Rite is not a toll road and the main ticket to heaven. Religion is not a celebration of rites but a celebration of life.

Religion must dare to go beyond rites and translate the ideas of love offered into practical action. The love of God must be able to be brought back to the poor, hungry, orphans, victims of war, and various other criminal acts. True worship is not primarily shown through frequent visits to chapels or monasteries while closing oneself to the cries of others' wounds. The real place of worship is under a bridge, in a hut that nearly fell over; and the sacred texts that must be heard are the pitiful moans of children who have lost their relatives and the touching cries of begging girls.

God who is worshiped in most religions, is not a God who feels comfortable and established with all of his omnipotence. The God who is worshiped is the God who wants to empty himself, put off his omnipotence in heaven, and merge with human suffering or even the suspect. The God that religions offer is a God who is involved and on the side of the victim.

Second, religious teachings are manifested in actions. Gibran formulates this belief in a rhetorical question, “Who can separate his faith from his actions or his belief from his occupations?” When Karl Marx accused religion of being an opiate and an escape from the despair that made people reluctant to try; Gibran answered by asserting that religion must be able to lead people to action.

God is an active verb that directs his followers to action. Religious teachings are not enough just to be preached or displayed as decoration. Religious teachings must be manifested in action. The teaching of love as a Christian virtue, for example, must be manifested in the act of selfless love. About this, the Apostle James formulated it differently that “faith without works is dead” (2:26). Faith cannot be separated from action, and even one's actions reflect the quality and depth of one's life of faith.

Third, is the act of loving. Gibran's concept of religion has never been separated from his belief in love. The love that Gibran offers is not love between a pair of young people who are engrossed in romance. The love that Gibran offers is universal. The universality of love is not only directed to humans, but also to cosmic wholeness. In the context of religion, universal love is aimed at all people, regardless of their religion. Gibran longs for a harmonious life, where all religious followers live in harmony.

Gibran wrote, "For in adoration, you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.” Religions must be able to direct their followers to live side by side, respecting plurality, difference, and diversity. This appreciation must grow with acknowledgment, concern, and willingness to build dialogue. This invitation is also a form of Gibran's rejection of the narcissistic tendencies that exist in religious adherents. No religion is more important and more sacred than any other religion.

The act of love must also be directed to nature. Gibran views nature as a mother. In his books, we will easily find Gibran's invitation to shift from anthropocentrism to biocentrism. Faith in God must be shown in the seriousness of protecting and preserving the nature created by God.

Fr. Kristo Suhardi, SVD

University of San Carlos

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