Monday, March 8, 2010

No god but God...

I am reading a book that shares its title with part of the twofold profession of the Islamic faith, the shahadah, which says, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is God's messenger." Written by Reza Aslan, it is by far one the most enlightening books I have read on the Islamic faith, its origins, and its current state. It places Islam in term that most can understand, certainly anyone with any background in Church History. He claims, as I have long thought, how Islam is progressing in much the same manner that Christianity has. The struggle for any religion, especially one as mystical and prophetic as Islam or Christianity, to meet with Modernity is violent and bloody. I am amazed by the similarities, the shared stories, and the common growth patterns between the two religions. Both proselytizing religions, the tools and methods used throughout history to gain new members are almostly laughably the same.

The most striking observation (or rather instruction) I have come across yet, is that the "terrorist acts" committed by extremists (and we must remember that most Muslims are not extremists), are committed in portions of the world, which will not only goad the West into engaging with them in Jihad, but that will also, and more importantly, directly affect, through pain and death, those Muslims that are tempering their faith with Modernity. Christians saw much of the same intensity during through the Crusades and again during the Spanish inquisition, and the Protestant Reformation. I find it horrifyingly sad that those Muslims that are trying to bring their religion into their western lives, are meeting the painful and disgusting rebuke of those that should most understand them.

This idea is one I can so connect with, although I have never seen any rebuke as difficult as these eastern brothers. Although I have met those that disdainfully call the "The Catholic" or even those who try to convert me to Christianity, or oppositely those who believe I am not fully committed to the Catholic church, I have never worried that I would be physically harmed. There is still pain though in that moment when I see the horror in the eyes of someone opposite me wondering why I no longer love Jesus in a way they can understand. They feel immediately disconnected from me and from my religion, they question my faith and my commitment to Christ, and this breaks my heart. Not only because I am personally hurt that they could believe such of me, but also because my heart so desires the merging of my two worlds that my heart may find a place to be complete. I can only imagine what those Muslims now living outside of those areas in which their society is fully entrenched in their religion feel when they walk about. It must be something like leaving Bible College, where you know that every person with whom you speak shares at least the basics of your faith and the core of your value system, and going to a world where you are lucky to have one friend that also believes in Jesus, let alone a community of faith.
I want so now to embrace those that are working to bring their faith into a society that is trying to reject them. To say that I can see that we share common bonds, and that we should join in discourse over coffee and hookah to remember those men from whom we both spring, Abraham, Moses, Adam, God.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Today I received an email from a friend with whom I rarely agree, especially where politics are concerned. We agree on the basics: We love America, we hate crime, we love Jesus. Beyond that the waters get murky and the tempers start to rise.

Today she sent me an email containing an essay titled "I'm Tired" by some guy named Robert A. Hall. I need to form a rebuttal, but since I think it would be ill received sending it directly to her, I will post it so that everyone can argue equally.

My rebuttal:

I'll be 26 soon and have worked diligently at any job that would take me since I was 16. Despite being 26 and single, I still put in 60 hour weeks, so I call in sick when I am sick, but I work my tuck-us off. I make enough for the average 25 year old in her first job out of college. I will never inherit income, and I am working to get where I want to be. I can't conceptualize retirement, because my life plan doesn't extend beyond the next 5 years. When I get tired, I go to sleep and wake up... wake up to a world I love.

I wake up to spread the wealth, because regardless of how little I make, or how hard I work, there is no reason to not give. Even if the person I am giving to is the crazy guy that stands outside of my office asking for quarters so he can ride the bus three blocks up the street, run back down, and do it all over again. Even crazy people need a little love. I don't care how lazy or stupid you are. If you need and I can give, please just ask.

I wake up to pay taxes to help keep people in their homes, even the over priced ones, because they were trained by the generation before mine that we could have whatever we want. Because maybe life, or their parents, never taught them that entitlement wasn't inherent in the constitution, so they need a little help. Because I've looked homelessness in the face and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I am more than happy to oblige - even though I can only afford 1 bedroom in a 3 bedroom apartment I can't stand.

I wake up to left-wing millionaires, whom I admittedly disagree with, but whose message I will hear and discard as I choose. They have earned millions off of the frenzied american heart. They are just capitalists, and if we hate them so much maybe we should try socialism.

I wake up to come to my office where hundreds of Muslim students study. I adore them. They are sweet and kind and peaceful. Not all Muslims are extremists. If we took a step back and looked at what Christians were doing when our religion was the same age that Islam is now, maybe we would shut our mouths and wait for them to come full circle. Seriously, does no one else realize that they are 1300-ish and when we were 1300-ish we were committing the same acts in the name of God?

I wake up to hate affirmative action. I agree that it is the most incriminating piece of legislation out there. Who cares about race? Let's talk about social standing and economics. But we do have to remember that in all of this, most of our low income students are students of color and their need for aid in school is not based on the color of their skin but on the money in their pockets. If they do not have the money to succeed, in all likelihood neither does their community, and by extension their school system. And so for them to even hope to go to college and change the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children they need lower college admission standards. Let's fix the ghetto problem, not the race problem.

I wake up to a president that is black, but again, who cares? And why do we keep talking about the individual. Good Lord, this country is never going to turn around if we don't pay off national debt, forgive international loans, and stop caring so much about our darn capitalist freedoms. Goodness. By the people, for the people, of the people. Note that it does not say by the individual, for the individual, and of the individual.

I wake up to a country that is spending too much energy bashing what we voted in and not enough energy focusing on how we as a nation can make this a livable situation. If we focus on our local communities and put in our efforts in our families eventually it will work it's way up. I believe America alone could end international poverty if we just stopped being so selfish and nit-picky.

I wake up to a world that does not understand the Middle East but continues to bash it and I cry. I cry for the way we hate without information, without understanding, without context. "Our Oil Money" - maybe if we didn't depend so on oil by buying big trucks and gas guzzlers we would have such a problem with Saudi Arabia?!

I wake up to a world that fights about global warming. Why don't we just give it up and live responsibly? What a concept.

I wake up to a father that is addicted to drugs and alcohol and when people tell me it's not a disease I want to punch them in their ever loving faces. Until you have searched the underworld of a city for a man you love and found him unconscious a dirty alley, you don't know drugs and the disease they are. And yes you should support and help them and pay for their damage because you are a part of society, and society makes even its ugliest constituents.

I wake up to a world where I am consistently confused with "undocumented workers" of both the Hispanic and middle eastern variety. It's America. Most people can't tell you what race a person is by looking at them, even if they are educated. I am Portuguese. Not Hispanic, Not Lebanese, not Greek, not halfrican, and yes, I've received them all. We are one of the few countries in our world that expects all of it's citizens to speak only one language. Why is that?

I wake up to a world of latte liberals, who have fought in wars they don't agree with, and lose friends, loved ones, and even themselves... just like the rest of us. JDBman is a great example. If you want to meet a vet who doesn't always agree with the war, but who fought in it, and will stand behind our need to be there, talk to him... I'll even introduce you.

I wake up to a world were there is no virtue in politics. Stop expecting it. It never has been and it never will be. And bringing God into American politics will only exacerbate the problem.

I wake up to a world where we pay athletes, entertainers, and politicians because we are willing to give money to see them shine. It makes us feel good to lay down a fifty bucks to see a good show. And when they make mistakes we get to trash talk them which makes that fifty bucks that much more worth it. If you have a problem with the athletes, entertainers and politicians... stop paying to see them in action. We create entitlement with our own frenzied need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I wake up to a world where I don't know what the heck a poverty pimp is, but I have to visit the schools in the slums of Seattle and see the kids that live on welfare. They may have TV's and air conditioning, but they don't have proper nutrition or a stable emotional climate. Again capitalism gets in the way of our ability to see what people need and how we can provide for them.

I wake up to right wing senior citizens complaining about how everyone else is out to get them and take away their individuality, unalienable rights, and Christianity - blaming all of our problems on Islam and multiculturalism.

I wake up. Unlike the seniors waking up to the damage their generation has created for America, I wake up to my generation who has every potential to save the world. I wake up to my generation which is ready to submit itself to the responsibility of freedom.