Saturday, August 14, 2010

choosing fear?

Ramadan began this week. A year ago I was in London getting a crash course in religious pluralism and the basic tenets of all the major religions with 29 other religious young people from around the world, as well as gearing up to fast for Ramadan alongside my new Muslim friends. I can’t believe that was a year ago. I am so grateful I decided to fast last year. It was one of the most powerful times of my life for learning and growth spiritually. It hurts me when Christian leaders come out with statements saying Christians fasting alongside Muslims is pointless and should only be done if the goal is conversion. Well, my goal was friendship and learning and opening myself up to a religious community that embraced me when they didn’t have to, with wide open arms, just as I was. I will be forever grateful to my dear Muslim friends who fasted alongside me every day, and encouraged me to figure out the value of fasting within my own tradition. I did (see Isaiah 58). So, Ramadan Mubarak to all my friends fasting this year, I hope you feel spiritually enriched and encouraged in the next 30 days, and that you experience God in a whole new way. I respect you all so much, and am cheering you on from the sidelines.

And I have been thinking a lot about the Cordoba House controversy. If you have not seen Jon Stewart’s reflections on it from The Daily Show when he interviewed Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, it is worth 7 minutes of your time. Watch it here. It seems we are at a very important moment in America. Particularly for those of us who identify as people who love and follow Jesus, these could be some of our finest hours. We are presented with a chance to demonstrate that we are not afraid, that in fact we can embrace difference, and that we can welcome people who identify as Muslim to practice freely their religion as they choose. We can show we can love them without ulterior motives, and engage in dialogue with these people about how we can work together across faith lines to better the American community around us that we all care about. We need to stop seeing them as “other,” and instead simply extend our hands in friendship. We need to understand each other as American citizens, and not isolate the Muslim community. I think Christians, myself included, often see things we don’t understand and instinctively fear and react poorly. Well, here is our chance to write a different chapter, one that shows a different Christianity. This Christianity is one that unashamedly loves and follows Jesus, but that reflects this through tolerance and openness to those who see the world differently, and is not afraid of words like “other” and “Islam.” Come on people, I don’t mean to be cliché, but don’t you think that is what Jesus would have done? I do. And that is how I am attempting to live.



Hafsa Arain said...

This post is so touching, Amy!

I've been so full of fear watching this whole Cordoba House "controversy" unravel. It's scary when people talk about your religion this way. It makes me scared to be in this country sometimes.

Thank you for reminding why I should be braver.

Unknown said...

Amy...I wish that I would have read your blog sooner.
This is awesome. I completely agree with everything you said especially with the "Cordoba House" issue. My thoughts are so in sync with your own and I thank you for being able to put those thoughts into words that I couldn't form myself.
We need to live in a world that is open to ALL people. Fear is what drives this country and it needs to stop.
I'm proud to call you my friend.