God's Politics

God's Politics


Reclaiming Islam’s History and Future /by Rose Marie Berger/

posted by God's Politics

Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain aired this week on PBS in my viewing area. The film, which looks at the period of “Moorish” rule in European history when religious diversity was accommodated within a social and political system, and culture among Muslims, Christians, and Jews thrived, is part of a renaissance movement to reclaim the history of religious tolerance in Islam.


The Unity Production Foundation, producers of Cities of Light, is a nonprofit educational foundation that works through the media to produce films and documentaries that serve the cause of peace and understanding. Many of UPF’s current projects focus on creating greater understanding about Muslims and Islam. (See American Muslim Teens Talk and Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.)


Additionally, An Esoteric Quest for the Golden Age of Andulusia is a conference to be held this September in Granada, Spain. Theologians, authors, artists, poets, and others will come together to examine the extraordinary culture of religious tolerance in medieval Spain that produced works of enduring spiritual and artistic genius—such as the mystical traditions in Judaism and the writings of Spanish Christian mystics St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. (Sojourners writer Mirabai Starr will be making a presentation on both these saints. See her article, A Garden of Righteousness, in the August 2005 issue.)


According to Irshad Manji, author of The New York Times‘ bestseller The Trouble with Islam Today, many Muslims are attempting to restore in Islam the spirit of ijtihad (pronounced ij-tee-had), Islam’s own tradition of creative reasoning. “As globalization persists and pluralism spreads,” writes Manji in her column On Faith, “both Muslims and non-Muslims need to know that Islam offers a positive alternative to the tribal mentality.


Ijtihad has a history of achievement. In the early centuries of Islam, 135 schools of interpretation flourished. In Muslim Spain, scholars would teach their students to abandon ‘expert’ opinions about the Qur’an if their conversations with the living, breathing Qur’an produced better evidence for their peaceful ideas. And Cordoba, one of the most sophisticated cities in Muslim Spain, housed 70 libraries. That rivals the number of public libraries in most cosmopolitan cities today!


“From the 8th to the 12th centuries, the ‘gates of ijtihad‘ – of discussion, debate and dissent – remained wide open. This is also when Islamic civilization led the world in ingenuity. If ever we Muslims needed to renew our commitment to ijtihad, it is now. From the emerging generation, I continually hear this question: ‘Is there a way to reconcile our faith with freedom of thought?’”


Manji’s own organization, Project Ijtihad, is an international network of reform-minded Muslims who want to work with Christian and Jewish allies in promoting religious diversity and a renewal of the creative, life-promoting Spirit that is the original impulse of our faiths.


In the midst of extreme religious intolerance and violence, celebrating the richness of the arts together is one way to move beyond simply “religious tolerance” or “interfaith understanding” to deep enjoyment and savoring of the flowering imaginations in our shared and diverse heritages and traditions.


Rose Marie Berger, associate editor of Sojourners, is a Catholic peace activist and poet.



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neuro_nurse

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm


In 1977 I was 15 years old. December of that year, my family moved to Tehran, Iran. I’m not talking about living on some sheltered compound or military base; we lived in the city. We shopped in the local markets, bought wonderful barbari from the baker down the road, and learned enough Farsi to get around.
I was young and rebellious, and I thought my parents were crazy for moving us to some country that no one had ever heard of. (I laugh when I heard Iranians call themselves “Persian,” but considering the hatred of the ignorant in this country, I can’t blame them.)
I’ll spare you the details and cut to the chase: I now know that moving to Iran was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Not only did I gain the experience of living in a fascinating culture, I also learned that there are (at least) two sides to every story. I also learned to be very skeptical of the media.
The news cameras showed you the anti-American demonstrations. Yes, there were several times when I found myself in very close proximity to people chanting, “Bad, bad, America!” What the news media didn’t show you were the majority of people behind the cameras who were apologetic, assuring us that “We like Americans.”
It seems to me that what many Americans lack an appreciation for is the fact that Iranians have very good reasons for being angry with the U.S. For starters, our C.I.A. overthrew the democratically elected president to reinstate the Shah, who was a despot of the worst stripe. (Why? One word: OIL)
For the last 30 years I have found it very difficult to get caught up in American zeitgeist. Our media and our government deceive us. It shocks me to see how willing people are to uncritically accept those deceptions as truth. It’s easy not to question, but hard to think for yourself – and I’ve found that when I challenge people’s beliefs or perception with the truth, it often makes them angry.
But didn’t Paul tell us this would happen?
Seek peace and pursue it.



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Jeff

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm


Neuro-nurse,
Thanks for a great post. To live in Iran in 1977, you must have many great stories. I’ve heard many people with similar experiences with media and government. It makes it difficult to know what to believe.
Jeff



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Eric

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:22 pm


Rose Marie – Thanks for reporting on these efforts. Let’s hope they are successful. Being able to blend Christianity into a pluralistic society was a great acheivement. Hopefully Muslims can do the same (again) with Islam.
Let’s keep this discussion on topic…



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Alicia

posted August 28, 2007 at 1:32 pm


Thank you, Rose Marie, for highlighting the work of Irshad Manji. She is a true heroine in my opinion – a gadfly who is deadly serious about what she believes but who doesn’t take herself at all seriously. If Ayyan Hirsi Ali is the Churchill of the Muslim world today, then Manji is the Scarlet Pimpernel.



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splinterlog

posted August 28, 2007 at 2:43 pm


I also grew up in a Muslim country. I’m saddened by the recent protrayal of Islam as a fanatical religion. Don’t get me wrong – there are fanatical and highly volatile extremists but they were not the religious ones.
For example, the Pasthun people that I knew were among the gentlest and most honest – I still find it incredibly strange that they are protrayed as bloodthirsty maniacs on the news networks. When I see these thigns I ofteh want to say – wait, aren’t these the same people who encountered Alexander the Great and spawned one of the great ancient cultural syncretisms of Hellenistic Buddhist art and thought. Don’t forget the legacy of Gandhi’s great diciple int he North West Frontier Province who led a non-violent protest movement against the British colonialists in the 1930s and 40s.
The devout Muslims I knew were sincere people and if we ever had any religious discussion they were respectful and quite kind. On the other hand it was the thugs who would intimidate, bully and provoke – the same ones who were dealing porn in school and getting into fights were the ones who made a big hooplah about religiously divisive issues.
Thugs are thugs – religious or not. I think it’s time we learned to distinguish them from those who are genuinely religious!



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Moderatelad

posted August 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm


This is why I try to make the distinction between the ‘radicals’ and ‘mainstream’ Islam. We are dealing with ‘radicals’ but do not have a problem with the ‘mainstream’.
There are radicals in all religions.
Blessings -
.



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Drew

posted August 28, 2007 at 5:49 pm


Wow!
There is no accident that I came across this blog today. This summer, I have read Irshad Manji’s “The Trouble with Islam Today” which was a very powerful book, and reminded us that in religious tolerance, we cannot tolerate any religion that undermines the dignity of any human being, whether it be Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. Although all the religions have extremists, Islam is very unique in which literalism is very mainstream, and it has caused internal conflict and oppression in various areas of the Muslims world as well as some Western nations. As a result of reading Manji’s book, I have taken a considerable interest in Islam, mainly in trying to help other Muslims reclaim the spirit of ijtihad. After “God’s Politics,” Manji’s “Trouble with Islam” is my favorite book.



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b g curtis

posted August 28, 2007 at 6:14 pm


Thanks, neuro_nurse, for your excellent post.
How can the moderate Muslim majority take charge of its political future and overcome the violence?
Byron



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Annette

posted August 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm


I live in Britain, as well as having grown up in Ethiopia and South Africa. I’ve always found Muslims to be polite and very committed to their faith and quite inspirational in their willingness to talk about it and share it with others, who show an interest. Not to convert, I might add! Islam had some wonderful, enlightened rulers, including in Jerusalem, where people of all faiths and creeds were tolerated for their beliefs. Great leaders inspire great citizens.
We are all human beings beneath the labels, and I too, would like to see much more realistic portrayals of ‘ordinary’ Muslims. Many politicians and journalists seek to inflame situations to persuade readers/viewers to their biases.



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Don

posted August 28, 2007 at 6:35 pm


I wonder if the media folks (e.g., History Channel, Discovery Channel) would be willing to do some features on Islamic culture during the Middle Ages, when indeed they were way ahead of Europe in the sciences, especially astronomy and medicine, and when they had many renowned philosoper/theologians who even influenced Western (Christian) philosophy.
A Discovery feature on Arab astronomy or medicine might be very enlightening. Biographical features on some of the great philospher/scientists like Averroes and Avicenna would be equally enlightening. We all should learn more about the influence of Islamic thought on the West.
My favorite story from that time period is the story of St. Francis of Assisi’s encounter with Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt during the fifth crusade. Well worth looking up to read about.
Peace,



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neuro_nurse

posted August 28, 2007 at 8:20 pm


Annette,
Where in Ethiopia did you live? I spent a year volunteering in Kaffa Zone (SNNPR).
“How can the moderate Muslim majority take charge of its political future and overcome the violence?” Byron
I would say that the perception that “radical Islam” – or whatever you want to call those extremists – is some how ‘in charge’ is a product of our media and, in no small part, our government.
Do idiots like Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson represent American Christians? Are they ‘in charge?’
I used to participate in a liberal blog until I realized that I was wasting my time trying to convince them that the religious right does not represent the majority of Christians in the U.S. (kind of like trying to convince some God’s Politics readers that ‘Muslim’ extremists are the exception to the rule – or that they are really not Muslims at all). Those folks held me – us – personally responsible for allowing “Christian extremists” to ‘take charge.’
Peace!



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kevin s.

posted August 28, 2007 at 11:44 pm


Neuro,
The problem with Islam runs deeper than an occasional weirdo. Muslims in Britain are now demanding their own school system. The mainstream press in many nations features editorial content in praise of Hitler and cartoons featuring Swatikas.
Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps do not even represent Christian conservatives (Phelps isn’t even a Republican).
I am not saying that we punish all Muslims for the sins of many of their leaders, but we are running in circles if we pretend that American Christianity and Islam have the same problems on order of magnitude.
In terms of the future of Islam, obviously a more peaceful religion is desirable, but wouldn’t the ultimate goal be for Islam to function as a cultural element, with Christ supplanting Mohammed as the symbol of their faith? That would solve a lot of problems.



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Mick Sheldon

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:05 am


neuro_nurse said
Do idiots like Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson represent American Christians? Are they ‘in charge?’
Are you putting them in the same category ?
neuro_nurse said
I used to participate in a liberal blog until I realized that I was wasting my time trying to convince them that the religious right does not represent the majority of Christians in the U.S.
I am not sure what you mean by this , are you saying Conservative Christians are un Christian ? Are you actually saying this organization represents the majority of Christians ?
I am not really sure if there is an organization that does represent Christianity in this country , Billy Graham comes to mind that teaches what I would say is a fundamentaly sound doctrine of Christianity , but it is from an orthodox view . Any organization that takes the name of Christ and links it to a POLITICAL PARTY needs to realize they are putting the Lord’s Teachings in a compromising position . Mainly there are many organizations linked to either party that reflect a Bibical view point . I have seen much hate full rhetoric from the left , and telling political allies your a better Christian then others somehow does not seem like you. You sound like your political allies on liberal blogs only tolerant religious believers if they promote politics as a liberal, for them to be tolerant of Religious Faith you have to see things my way .



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Deryll

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:39 pm


[The problem with Islam runs deeper than an occasional weirdo. Muslims in Britain are now demanding their own school system. The mainstream press in many nations features editorial content in praise of Hitler and cartoons featuring Swatikas.]
[I am not saying that we punish all Muslims for the sins of many of their leaders, but we are running in circles if we pretend that American Christianity and Islam have the same problems on order of magnitude.]
kevin s
In my “rural” conservative community; some Christians have their own schools and are demanding funding (vouchers) from government. Some commentators here have praised the Shaw and denounced those perceived as allowing him to be overthrown. I’ve been in Christian churches which display flags of “earthly” powers.
The perceived and self-proclaimed Christian US has overthrown elected governments and supported tyrants. A more peaceful religion, Christianity, would be desirable. Magnitude of problems is not the issue; but not as disparent as you suggest.



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neuro_nurse

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:17 pm


“Are you actually saying this organization represents the majority of Christians ?”
No, that is not what I said, but there is a perception among secular liberals that the religious right, conservative Christians – whatever label you want to use – has been the dominant voice in American Christianity. I sincerely believe that the behavior of some of these people (I cited two of the most damaging) has turned more people away from Christianity that any single evangelist has brought to Christ.
“are you saying Conservative Christians are un Christian ?”
No, that is not what I said. I am married to a conservative Christian. I would say that Robertson and without a doubt Phelps have demonstrated extremely un-Christ-like behavior – and very publicly!
“Are you putting them in the same category ?”
I presume you mean Phelps and Robertson in the same category as Osama bin Laden or the like.
Taking my cue from kevin s., I do not believe that “American Christianity and Islam have the same problems on order of magnitude.”
“[W]ouldn’t the ultimate goal be for Islam to function as a cultural element, with Christ supplanting Mohammed as the symbol of their faith?” kevin s.
For Catholics, that is an eschatological matter. I’m sure that as many times as I’ve cited it, you can find the Catechism online and see what the Church teaches. I would also defer to Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, which, as I understand it, says that we should show our love, and let that be our testimony to our Savior.
I believe above all else that for us to be effective evangelists, we must approach non-Christians with the highest level of respect, regardless of whether or not we accept their beliefs. I don’t see that as being a strong characteristic of many Christians. We are too quick to dismiss, if not condemn all together other people’s beliefs and cultures. This, IMO, not only affects our credibility with people of other faiths, but with non-Christians (liberals, if you must) in this country.
John Lennon said “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”
I have always understood that to mean: how do we expect to effect change if we come at people with an attitude that makes them want to close the door in our faces?
Now, I agree with much of what you wrote in your last paragraph. Even as a Catholic, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Billy Graham.
I would not call the people on the “liberal” blog I used to visit my political allies – or truly liberal for that matter, for the very reason you wrote: “I have seen much hate full rhetoric from the left.”
“…telling political allies your a better Christian then others somehow does not seem like you.”
Me? A better Christian than whom? I’m a sinner. How can I condemn anyone else in the face of my own sins?
“Any organization that takes the name of Christ and links it to a POLITICAL PARTY needs to realize they are putting the Lord’s Teachings in a compromising position .”
I completely agree.
Seek peace and pursue it.



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N.M. Rod

posted August 29, 2007 at 3:41 pm


Over the last year, I’ve encountered an unusual figure frequenting the DVD movie section at the public library.
Obviously this gentleman is a Muslim – at least by his most unusual garb, which is not western in the least!
I engaged him in conversation, realising that his dress might seem provocative in our nation especially at this time – but I didn’t mention that! Moreover, I am sure that dressing like that subjects him to retaliatory behavior at times. After all, I’m programmed too to think like that.
However, after discussing some films, conversation moved onto peripherally more dangerous ground!
Seeking safety, I think it steered more to philosophy and religion than to politics. :-)
The upshot of these several meetings has been an openness and frank exchange of views without antagonism.
Interestingly, my acquaintance approves of my Christianity – but believes such an enlightened person ought to convert to Islam! It was clear to me that his own view of Christianity was a distorted and unreal caricature despite his being an educated and intelligent man. He had many straw man arguments developed by, I am sure, leading Islamic religious authorities who sought to disprove Christianity by zeroing in on weaknesses or the conduct of some, or misundertsanding theology or combining elements of it in a way most unflattering to Christianity. Therefore, he saw my Christianity, which is actually very typical of many, as an anomaly.
I have to say that listening to him, and having evaluated other traditions, especially Tibetan Buddhism which shares a common concern for returning only good for evil in conformance with Jesus’ own teachings, I realised that all too often we ourselves have been inculcated with versions of other religions that don’t honestly reflect their reality. Therefore, we often misunderstand those of other faiths we encounter and our arguments nbot only aren’t relevant, they are quickly seen by those we’re seeking to evangelise as patently false.
How did we get to this state? I suppose it’s a confluence of several factors – some understandable.
We have pastors and apologists who really don’t have intimate experience in any serious way with other faiths, and so find it easy to dismiss what they don’t undertand with arguments passed on by others that haven’t been tested. We also have those who regard other faiths as positively evil or dangerous, to the extent that we feel the need to exaggerate and demonise to scare people from being influenced. Think the religious version of “Reefer Madness” – caricature like that of enemies in war as evil subhumans in service of propaganda – all supposedly in a good cause. Except, it’s counterproductive when the truth’s not told, as without truth there’s no basis for understanding or cooperation – only manipulation.
And since true Christianity doesn’t depend on manipulation through deceit or force, that is not God’s way.
Interestingly enough, this devout Muslim agreed that conversion can’t be real if not an act of free will and faith.



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Jedidiah Palosaari

posted August 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm


Unfortunately, PBS has a record of producing movies on Islam that are unquestioningly pro-Islamic, to say the least. The historical critical methods they routinely apply to the Bible are not even touched upon on the Qur’an, to say nothing of Islamic history.
So, yes, there was tolerance in Moorish Spain. As long as the Christians and Jews didn’t get too uppity, of course. When they did, we get something called the Spanish Martyr’s movement.
And, yes, there are some Muslims attempting to reopen the door to ijtihad. They are the type of Muslim that gets a better hearing on PBS, and it would be good if there were more of them. Unfortunately, they are also in an extreme minority- far fewer within Islam than the Christians who openly accept historical criticism.



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kevin s.

posted August 29, 2007 at 6:31 pm


“In my “rural” conservative community; some Christians have their own schools and are demanding funding (vouchers) from government.”
Those schools cannot discriminate based on religion, however, which is a big difference.
” I’ve been in Christian churches which display flags of “earthly” powers.”
I’m not a big proponent of flags in churches, but again I think this speaks to the question of magnitude.
” I sincerely believe that the behavior of some of these people (I cited two of the most damaging) has turned more people away from Christianity that any single evangelist has brought to Christ.”
I agree that this is a problem when we allow fallible human political systems to serve as an emblem of our faith. However, I think attirbuting Fred Phelps to conservatism is entirely opportunistic (considering he was never conservative and is now simply insane). I am not a believer in election, but I do think that people reject Christ, and will find easy reasons to do so.
Do you know Christians who are not embarassed by Fred Phelps? I really don’t. Most of the ones I know are embarassed by Robertson, though I’m sure some folks at my church watch the 700 club (which is pretty innocuous, by and large).
“I believe above all else that for us to be effective evangelists, we must approach non-Christians with the highest level of respect, regardless of whether or not we accept their beliefs.”
Absolutely. I am not going to go into Muslim quarters and chant “death to Islam”. However, what I know is that God desires us to accept Christ as our savior, and worship him as God. In an ideal world, Islam would submit to Christ.



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Payshun

posted August 29, 2007 at 6:41 pm


I wish more Christians would get to know Sufi’s. They could then see how the mystical branch of Islam works and why they are so important in this discussion.
p



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neuro_nurse

posted August 29, 2007 at 7:22 pm


Payshun,
My sister-in-law is Muslim. She and my brother gave my wife and I copies books of the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz (whose grave I believe I visited 30 years ago). My wife, the conservative Baptist pastor’s daughter, looked at them with great suspicion. I was delighted to receive them! They are exquisite and thought-provoking.
Kevin S.
Perhaps conservatives do not claim Phelps as one of their own; nevertheless, there is a perception (deserved or not) that he represents at least a segment of conservative Christians, just as there is an undeserved perception in this country that Islamic fundamentalist/extremists represent a significant segment of Muslims. I suspect that the majority of Muslims are embarrassed by the extremists (“Bad, bad, America” vs. “We like Americans), just as Christians are embarrassed by Phelps & Robertson.
Many people (liberals, secularists – however you want to label them), rightly or wrongly, associate homophobia with the religious right, and some have generalized their negative impression of some Christians to all of us (as I saw on the “liberal” blog I used to frequent).
What are we, as rational, level-headed Christians supposed to do about the Robertson’s & Phelps’? I suspect that most of us would really like to get them to shut up and stop giving the rest of us an undeserved bad name. I suspect that most Muslims would like to see an end to the so-called Islamic extremists who, I maintain, are not Muslims at all.
Considering some of the inflammatory remarks Pat Robertson has made on the air, I have a hard time calling the 700 Club ‘innocuous.’
“I am not a believer in election, but I do think that people reject Christ, and will find easy reasons to do so.”
I agree, all the more reason we should denounce the bad examples who claim to share our faith.
“In an ideal world, Islam would submit to Christ.”
I agree, but as many have pointed out on the “Left Behind” threads, the “ideal world” will not exist until Christ returns. Catholic tend not to spend much time on eschatology but rather, “what do we do in the mean time?”
Peace!



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N.M. Rod

posted August 29, 2007 at 7:58 pm


If Fred Phelps didn’t exist, it sure would be useful to invent him as a kind of provocation! Robertson looks completely innocuous by comparison – despite occasional loose cannon outbursts – Phelps is just thoroughly and consistently mad and mean all the time. A real junkyard dog of a personality.



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Payshun

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:22 pm


Neuro:
My sister-in-law is Muslim. She and my brother gave my wife and I copies books of the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz (whose grave I believe I visited 30 years ago). My wife, the conservative Baptist pastor’s daughter, looked at them with great suspicion. I was delighted to receive them! They are exquisite and thought-provoking.
Me:
Rumi is one of my teachers. As a contemplative I can’t think of a better teacher of Islamic mysticism. He has transformed my life and I really wish others would study his works. The poem Jesus and a Donkey is my favorite piece of his. What’s yours?
p



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kevin s.

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:24 am


“nevertheless, there is a perception (deserved or not) that he represents at least a segment of conservative Christians, just as there is an undeserved perception in this country that Islamic fundamentalist/extremists represent a significant segment of Muslims.”
But this isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Phelps is incorrectly labelled a conservative when he is, in fact a Democrat, and ran as such. The man despises Reagan. Granted, now he is just bats, but the connection between him and conservative politicians is sheer fantasy.
” I suspect that the majority of Muslims are embarrassed by the extremists (“Bad, bad, America” vs. “We like Americans), just as Christians are embarrassed by Phelps & Robertson.”
The polls show that they are not quite so embarassed, and that many do not even hold them accountable for the attacks the carry out.
“What are we, as rational, level-headed Christians supposed to do about the Robertson’s & Phelps’? ”
They are two different animals. As someone above said, Phelps makes for great provocation. There are 300 million people in this country. You can essentially craft any story you like about Christians by finding anecdotal evidence that confirms your own prejudices. Thus, Phelps.
Robertson, on the other hand, is a particular breed of Christian who can sustain his media presence by funding his own station. Televangelism operates on money, by its very nature. As such, it tends to produce folks like Robertson and worse.
With Robertson in particular, it is a nasty cycle because he is invited on to panel shows in the hopes that he will say something incendiary.
Do draw a parallel between these phenomena and the relationship between moderate and extreme Islam really doesn’t work.
“Many people (liberals, secularists – however you want to label them), rightly or wrongly, associate homophobia with the religious right,”
And they always will, so long as Christianity holds that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, the majoriy of Americans agree that this is true on some level, so it is best to short circuit the debate by pointing to Phelps.



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neuro_nurse

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:20 pm


“The poem Jesus and a Donkey is my favorite piece of his. What’s yours?” P
To be honest, aside from my morning devotions, my current reading list is filled entirely with material related to malaria. Mysticism has taken a back seat to public health. Even my neuroscience continuing education has suffered. Rumi and Hafiz sit on my bookshelf waiting for the day when I can devote myself more fully to my spiritual pursuits. But, by way of thanks for bringing up the subject, I’ll read Jesus and the Donkey today… sometime.
“The polls show that they are not quite so embarrassed, and that many do not even hold them accountable for the attacks the carry out.” kevin s.
Which polls? Who took them? What was their methodology? The polls you cite may be accurate, but without a critical review of the methodology… I don’t need to tell you, of all people, this!
“[T]o draw a parallel between these phenomena and the relationship between moderate and extreme Islam really doesn’t work.”
I disagree. In both cases we have people who are misusing the teachings of a particular faith to promote an agenda that, as far as I am concerned, has nothing to do with God’s will. I agree that the degree and type of damage done are much more extreme in the case of Islamic fundamentalism (whatever), I believe the misguided motivation is the same.
“And they always will, so long as Christianity holds that homosexuality is a sin.”
Believing that homosexuality is a sin (which, incidentally, is not what the Catholic Church teaches) is not, IMO, equivalent to homophobia, although I agree that there are people out there who do not distinguish between the two and will always equate Christianity with homophobia.
My point is not whether or not fundamentalism (again, whatever) and its consequences, regardless of its religious affiliation, are right or wrong. The damage done by SOME of its proponents is undeniable. My point is related to public perception.
Reading previous God’s Politics threads related to Islam it is apparent that there are people, perhaps even a majority of Americans, who are fearful of and hateful towards Muslims. There are also a lot of people out there that have generalized their feelings and opinions about a slim minority of bigots who call themselves Christians to ALL of us.
I primarily blame the media for both of these misperceptions, but there are other culprits (I’m tempted to rhyme ‘culprit’ with ‘pulpit’ – enough said).
I married to a conservative Christian. My wife and I have some significant disagreements between our beliefs, but I love her with all of my heart.
I have lived in Muslim countries. I do not share most of their beliefs, but I do not fear Muslims nor think of them as my enemy, and I do not believe that you do either.
The question is, how can we educate people who have these misperceptions about Islam and American Christianity that we are not what many people believe us to be based on the behavior of the minority that get print space and airtime?
Deus Caritas Est.



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Don

posted August 30, 2007 at 2:36 pm


“…my current reading list is filled entirely with material related to malaria.”
Off topic, I know. Neuro, you earlier wrote to me about the virulent strains of malaira in East Africa after I mentioned that my college-age son will be in Tanzania for four months starting in January. I spoke with him yesterday and he has learned more information. He will be in Dar-es-Salaam for about a month, then they will be traveling to the Lake Victoria area for their service work. It could involve anything from construction work to working in an AIDS orphanage. I asked him about the medical issues, including malaria prophylactics and told him that chloroquine won’t protect him. He said the professors overseeing the program just returned from the summer there, and they should know the medical situations there.
He should also get a Hepatitis-B vaccination, wouldn’t you think? He has had Hep-A from the trip to Central America.
I have Rumi on my ‘to read’ list, too. I’ll try to find the donkey poem. To some of my more fundamentalist friends, I’ve compared Sufi spirituality to that of Emeth in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. An apt comparison?
Peace,



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neuro_nurse

posted August 30, 2007 at 3:21 pm


Don,
I’ve taped a map of areas of malaria transmission and drug resistance to my monitor – chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum (the most deadly malaria species) is found almost every where malaria is found. There are very few places in the world where chloroquine can be used for prophylaxis.
Mefloquine is currently the drug of choice for malaria prophylaxis, but mefloquine resistance has been found along the Thai-Myanmar and Thai-Cambodian borders and in the Amazon Basin.
Mefloquine got some very bad press for reports of psychiatric side effects. As far as I know, the incidence of serious side effects from mefloquine is no higher than for other antimalarials. I should do a literature search, but I just started classes yesterday (and really shouldn’t be blogging!). Let me just say, be very skeptical of what you read about mefloquine in the popular press or on the Internet. The CDC (www.cdc.gov) would be a good place to start for information about malaria.
Hepatitis A is transmitted by the fecal-oral route and fairly common in areas with poor sanitation – it’s also vaccine-preventable (if he’s had it, he should be immune to it, but I can’t advice him not to take the vaccination based – see a travel medicine doc). Hepatitis B is blood-borne and also transmitted sexually. I was required to take the series (3 shots, $40 a pop back then, but I think it’s less expensive now) when I was in nursing school. Hepatitis B is now one of the recommended childhood immunizations in this country (kevin s. don’t get me started!). It’s probably a good idea for your son to take it, but even more importantly, make sure he is up to date on all of his vaccinations. Measles is still common in Africa, polio has not been eradicated and there are still sporadic cases (none in Tanzania recently, if I’m not mistaken). DTaP was approved for use in adults within the last couple of years (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine – long explanation) – get one! Pertussis is still a very common disease in the U.S. It causes a nagging cough in adults who have been the reservoir for the bacteria prior to DTaP, but it causes severe respiratory disease and can kill young children who have not yet acquired full immunity.
My best advice is to go to a travel medicine clinic. The Public Health clinic can work in a pinch, but unless you are well-versed in the epidemiology of the area which you will be visiting, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Tanzania has one of the highest incidences of malaria in the world. Dar es Salaam shouldn’t be too bad, but…
Here’s one you might not get elsewhere: bring lots of Pepto-Bismol. He’ll need it (In the words of Justin Wilson, “I guarantee!”), and he won’t be able to find it there. Traveler’s diarrhea is a fact of life in Africa (boil it, peel it, or forget it).
I’d like to hear more about what your son will be doing. Who is he going with?
Most aid agencies in Africa have been moving away from orphanages to supporting the extended-family system for AIDS orphans (a rampant problem in Africa that is only going to get worse). The World Bank and WHO have some good publications on the subject available online.
God bless your son!
Peace!
aeauooo@yahoo.com



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carl copas

posted August 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm


Don,
all of us will be praying for your son as he embarks on this exciting, and treacherous, adventure.



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Don

posted August 30, 2007 at 6:59 pm


Thanks Neuro_nurse and Carl.
He’s going with a group from Goshen College, a small Mennonite-based school in northern Indiana. It’s part of their Study-Service Term (SST), in which almost all the students who attend there participate. The term is a full semester, usually in a third-world location and gives them a chance to, yes, study and serve. Often they live with Mennonite families during their stay. I don’t know what arrangements they’ll be making for this trip, though. They were originally going to Ethiopia, but that nation’s instability with the Somali warlords caused them to look elsewhere.
I can let you know more as the details unfold and are shared with us.
Peace,



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neuro_nurse

posted August 31, 2007 at 1:04 pm


Don,
Very cool! I look forward to hearing more.



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Rick Nowlin

posted August 31, 2007 at 9:35 pm


They are two different animals. As someone above said, Phelps makes for great provocation. There are 300 million people in this country. You can essentially craft any story you like about Christians by finding anecdotal evidence that confirms your own prejudices. Thus, Phelps.
If you’ve ever seen Phelps’s faxes — we get them at work — you might think differently. I have a hard time calling him anything but a conservative since I recently learned that he’s Reformed.



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kevin s.

posted September 1, 2007 at 12:17 am


” I have a hard time calling him anything but a conservative since I recently learned that he’s Reformed.”
I meant conservative politically. The reformed folks that I know are generally more politically moderate than evangelicals or baptists. And his theology is about as reformed as a squirrel’s. He mentions TULIP, but generally babbles.
I’m not trying to saddle Democrats with the guy either. He’s just a fruitcake. To try to draw a line between his statements and conservative political thought is disingenuous.



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Payshun

posted September 1, 2007 at 1:02 pm


Quick correction the name of the poem was Jesus on a lean donkey.
p



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Don

posted September 1, 2007 at 7:02 pm


I was in a Borders bookstore today and looked at a volume of Rumi poems. I couldn’t find the donkey poem. Maybe another collection has it (I didn’t buy that one).



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Payshun

posted September 2, 2007 at 9:48 pm


It’s in an anthology.
Jesus on the lean donkey,
this is an emblem of how the rational intellect
should control the animal-soul.
Let your spirit be strong like Jesus.
If that part becomes weak,
then the worn-out donkey grows to a dragon
It’s on my blog too. Let me see if I can find a full copy of it. Here ya go.
Jesus on the lean donkey,
this is an emblem of how the rational intellect should control the animal-soul.
Let your spirit be strong like Jesus.
If that part becomes weak then the worn-out donkey grows to a dragon.
Be grateful when what seems unkind comes from a wise person.
Once, a holy man,
riding his donkey, saw a snake crawling into a sleeping man’s mouth!
He hurried, but he couldn’t prevent it.
He hit the man several blows with his club.
The man woke terrified and ran beneath an apple tree with many rotten apples on the ground.
“EAT! You miserable wretch! EAT!”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Eat more, you fool.”
“I’ve never seen you before!
Who are you? Do you have some quarrel with my soul?”
The wise man kept forcing him to eat then he ran him.
For hours he whipped the poor man and made him run.
Finally, at nightfall, full of rotten apples, fatigued, bleeding he fell and vomited everything.
the good and the bad, the apples and the snake.
When he saw the ugly snake come out of himself, he fell on his knees before his
assailant.
“Are you Gabriel? Are you God?
I bless the moment you first noticed me. I was dead and didn’t know it.
You have given me a new life.
everything I’ve said to you was stupid!
I didn’t know!”
“If I had explained what I was doing you might have panicked and died of fear.
Muhammad said,
‘If I described the enemy that lives inside men, even the most courageous would be paralyzed. No one would go out, or do any work. Now one would pray or fast, and all power to change would fade from human beings,’
so I kept quiet while I was beating you, that like David
I might put feathers back into a bird’s wing.
God’s silence is necessary, because of humankind’s faintheartedness.
If I had told you about the snake, you wouldn’t have been able to eat, and if
you hadn’t eaten, you wouldn’t have vomited.
I saw your condition and drove my donkey hard into the middle of it, saying always under my breath, ‘Lord, make it easy on him.’ I wasn’t permitted to tell you, and I wasn’t permitted to stop beating you!”
The healed man, still kneeling,
“I have no way to thank you for the quickness of your wisdom and the strength of
your guidance. God will thank you.”
Rumi



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