Monthly Archives: June 2009

Understanding Islam!

The images of 9/11 still haunt many Americans today.  Families were forever changed as loved ones were taken away from this life without regret or care.  News travels quickly about the attack on United States soil.  President Bush is at an elementary school as children read from a book when he receives the news.  I am in a class with Professor Reese as Professor Schantz sticks his head in the classroom, quickly interrupting and asking that we come and watch the television because the United States is under attack.  Our entire college meets after watching the horrifying events unfold in the gymnasium.  We all sit together, most of us crying.  Some crying out of fear for what might happen next.  Some crying for the lives that have just been lost.  Some crying because the emotion of over 100 students, staff and faculty are all holding hands and crying together is just too much.  The scene is impacting and makes an everlasting imprint on your memory.

As details begin to unfold in the following days, names of the terrorist hijackers are released.  They all have one thing in common.  They are Islamic extremists.

They are bent on death.

On war.

On hate.

On what they call their “Jihad.”

I must admit that I do not have a firm understanding of the Islamic faith, but have a deep desire to learn more about them.  To understand more about their faith and what drives them to be who they are.  I see Muslim families periodically in different towns I visit.  Not in my small town here in Illinois, but in bigger places like Springfield, St. Louis or Indianapolis.  As I have been honest with myself, I have come to realize that the people who call themselves Muslims, the people who practice the faith of Islam, they are in our culture. They are a part of us. They are a part of the United States of America.

Many were born here.

They are citizens.

Fellow country-men.

Fellow country-women.

And I know very little about them.

While almost every group, race or gender has certain stereotypes they carry, I think none are greater than the stereotypes that have been attached to Muslims.  Within Christianity, there are extremists.  They hold bull-horns and protest signs.  They preach hell and damnation at funerals of dead soldiers.  They march in “Crusades,” killing anyone with a different perspective.  They are bent on nothing but destruction, the tearing down of anyone who disagrees with them.

They thrive on war.

They live for debate.

They wallow in hate and misery.

They do it in the name of their “Jihad.”

As I have contemplated the idea of “Coffeehouse Christianity,” I have pondered many topics for dialogue.  One that has continually come to mind is the chance to open up a dialogue between leaders of the Islamic faith in our country and leaders of the Christian faith in our country.

Bring them together.

Sit them down.

Side by side.

To talk.

Not to lob dogmatic bombs at each other from our separate corners, but to come to the middle and talk.  I believe that the Christian and Islamic faiths are different in many aspects.  The biggest difference, and the very topic that I believe will keep us from ever seeing eye-to-eye completely is the issue of the Divinity of Jesus.  Christians believe Jesus was Divine, the God-man.  Fully God and fully man at the same time and that the entire Old Testament points to Him.  God’s entire plan was meant to lead to Jesus Christ.  Muslims hold Jesus in high regard as a prophet, but do not hold to his Divinity.  For them, Mohammed was the last of the prophets, God’s final revelation was given to him.  This is a major division  between the two faiths.

I had the chance to sit down at a dialogue between members of our community, some with Christian backgrounds, and the special guests from Springfield, who were Muslims.  We were able to ask them questions, to hear from them, to sit and talk without dogmatically abusing each other.  Myy eyes were not opened to what they would consider to be the truth of Islam, but they were opened to the fact that they are people.

Human beings.

Mothers.

Fathers.

Sons.

Daughters.

Their hands are the same as mine.  Their eyes are the same as mine.  They want a great life for their kids, as I do mine.  They want a happy life here in America, as do I.  It is my firm belief that if followers of Christ wish to make any progress with people of Islamic faith.  We must come away from their media sound bytes and email forwards that do nothing but preach hatred toward Muslims.  We must get to know people who hold to the Islamic faith on a personal level.

Meet them.

Shake their hands.

Introduce ourselves.

When did Jesus ever reach someone by destroying bridges and sending hateful email forwards?  When did Jesus reach someone by calling them “terrorists” and ignoring them?  It is my understanding of His life and ministry that He never did.  Not once.  He reached them through His love.

Touched them.

Cleansed them.

Healed them.

Ate with them.

Nurtured them.

Taught them.

Why aren’t the followers of Christ, the followers of His example, doing the same with an entire faith of people that live among us?  Maybe it’s time for the followers of Christ to do the same.  Maybe it’s time for Christian leaders to lead the way in bridging the gap with people of Islamic faith.  Is it possible for us to blend the same love and understanding that Jesus had for the people and culture of His day with the true message of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament?  Is this a divide that followers of Christ think simply can’t be bridged?  Is it a bridge worth building?  I say yes.  What do you say?

This video has been used in FBI sensitivity training.  I would like to get your thoughts on it as well.

Am I Missing Something?

Each morning when I open up my Mozilla Firefox browser, I have four tabs that open up as my home page.  Email, facebook, this blog and a streaming web cam of a morning radio show out of Springfield.  A friend of mine from Petersburg hosts the Morning Grind on 99.7 Kiss FM.  I listen because I like to laugh and sometimes they have great topics that make listening very interesting.  Along with their live, streaming web cam is a chat room.  People sign in and chat with each other while watching the web cam.  It’s an amazing community of people.  And while my screen name in that chat room is preacher_man, they have received me with open arms.

I was listening, and watching, early this morning as what turned out to be an extremely controversial topic came along.  The phone lines lit up and many people couldn’t even get through to express their opinion on the topic.  That’s where the chat room comes in handy.  The community of web cammers, webbies as we have named ourselves, can chat their own opinions and the host of the show reads them and will comment on them live on the air.  Which is really cool when you get a live shout out from the host.  This is where it gets interesting.

The story is being reported of a mom who had a thirteen year old girl, who was terminally ill with cancer.  The 13 year old comes to her mom and begins talking about sex to try and understand it before she passes away.  The 13 year old is upset because she will never be able to experience that act of intimacy.  There is an older sister in the picture who has a 16 year old boyfriend.  The mom goes to the boyfriend of the older sister and asks him to sleep with the 13 year old so that she can experience sex before she passes away.  He agrees and sleeps with the little sister.  4 months later the 13 year old passes away.  The 16 year old boy goes on to marry the older sister that he was dating at the time.  Now begins the debate within the chat room and the phone lines.  Some call in to say they would do anything for their dying child.  Some call in to say how crazy the mom is.

I of course chat my opinion in the chat room.  Not expecting much, just sharing my opinion.  My friend, the host, begins mentioning my comments on the air, calling out my screen name and asking me to call in.  I can’t say that he and I completely agreed on the subject because he seemed very eager to debate a little.  I don’t mind though because as I mentioned he is a good friend of mine.  Although he is a Missouri Tigers fan, I have been praying for him.

The point I wanted to make was this; if it’s wrong for a 13 year old to have sex at their age, then it is wrong in any given situation.  If it is okay for 13 year olds to be out experiencing this act of intimacy then in my opinion she should have already experienced it.  My friend the host, couldn’t get me on the line because the phones were too busy.  The discussion in studio was that we don’t know what we would do in the situation.  We would want to give our dying child anything to make them happy in their last days, months, etc.  I fall on the side of the issue that believes that parents have to choose sometimes what is best for their kids.  My children want a lot of things and I have to decide between them, which will be good for my children and which won’t.  My concern ends up being not only on the 13 year old girl, but the 16 year old boy.  It seems like there are other factors beyond just the physical act of sex going on here.  With sex come some deep emotional questions.  There is a relationship that is missed out on completely.  How did the mom play with her daughter’s emotions, not to mention that of the 16 year old?

What if there was a miracle and the 13 year old lived?  Her cancer goes into remission and she lives a normal, healthy life?  Then what?  What has the mom done to her?  I have to decide what is best for my kids at every stage in their life until they have moved out of my home.  This situation is no different in my mind.  This is why situational ethics has destroyed our culture at so many levels.  When we pick and choose our morality based on a current situation, then we don’t really have morals at all.  To say, “I won’t sleep with you for $10, but I will for $1 million,” doesn’t make you less cheap, it just proves that you will do cheap for a more expensive price.  These types of decisions just cheapen our morality.

What do you think about this story?  Have I missed something?  What would you add?  What do you agree/disagree with?  Comment me.

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