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Now we’re really confused

posted by awelborn

Put this one in the "Protestants and Catholics in Latin America" file…except..the Protestants are sort of wondering why some of "theirs" have converted to Islam.



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Veronica

posted July 26, 2005 at 1:51 pm


Well, duh. Once these people have left the true faith and have been expelled from their communities to go into the newest religion fad, what do you expect? They’re as likely to become protestant than to become Muslim… it’s all the same for them, since they really have nothing to lose.
Most (if not all) of these people live in poverty and ignorance. They have been led astray from the Catholic faith of their ancestors and abandon their customs and traditions because they’re told they’re pagan and idolatrous. Seriously, what else can they do?



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Catherine L

posted July 26, 2005 at 2:41 pm


“Islamic teachers promoted fruitful activities among their flock in three main areas: food, carpentry and textiles. An almost totally self-reliant economy was established, allowing men to practice Islam around the clock, while women – engaged in textile handicrafts – were assured of an independent income that improves the domestic economy, noted Gonzalez.”
This is really interesting. Does this mean that the women do all the practical work while the men pray?
Any Christian missionary worth his salt should be teaching people practical economics as well. Although…..isn’t this the region of Mexico where Liberation Theology took root? Could that be the cause of this?



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Caroline

posted July 26, 2005 at 2:52 pm


It’s very easy to become a Moslem. Make, sincerely of course, the simple profession of faith, “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet,” and you’re in. No complicated theology, no growing lists of required beliefs. No RCIA! The five things you are required to do are also simple and straight forward. Maybe difficult to do but at least simple to figure them out. In Catholicism, more and more you have to be either an uneducated person who is satisfied with popular piety or a highly educated yet “simple” believer able to navigate through theological and moral complexities. We produce fewer and fewer of the first category and not enough of the second. Also in Islam there is an equality of believers before God. We make invidious distinctions even among our canonized saints as we speak of great and greatest saints! We invert our earthly distinctions and therefore feel justified into projecting them inverted into eternity but insist on a heavenly system of ranks nevertheless.



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Jimmy Mac

posted July 26, 2005 at 2:54 pm


Caroline is 100% on course!



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Sydney Carton

posted July 26, 2005 at 3:26 pm


Caroline,
Getting into Islam is easy.
Getting out is a killer.



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Local Man

posted July 26, 2005 at 3:49 pm


I started reading Catholic blogs a few months ago, and I’m struck by the fact that all of them include numerous threads trashing Islam, various Protestant denominations, you name it. What causes it, this urge to crow about how much better we are than everyone else? Someone writing in another thread here called it “obnoxious triumphalism” — an apt description.
Many of you know that in Cincinnati, a priest was recently arrested on several child molestation charges. This priest, who not that long ago was convicted of public indecency, had recently filled in for my parish’s vacationing pastor.
On the Sunday following the arrest, the Gospel was the “wheat and weeds” parable. A perfect launching pad for our pastor to address the week’s events, no?
Not in his mind, evidently. His one, oblique reference to the arrested priest was, “Weeds crop up in every field, even our own.” Way to make a statement there, Father!
We should be humble, since we don’t really have room to be anything but, and we should quit peeking in our neighbors’ windows. We have our own house to get in order.



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TSO

posted July 26, 2005 at 3:52 pm


Caroline is right. The more simple the religion the more it appeals to modern man. Thus Protestantism trumps Christianity and Islam trumps Protestantism.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:01 pm


“We have our own house to get in order.”
Agreed. Now if only the Islamo-fascists would stop trying to blow up our house. Criticizing other religions on blogs is one thing; waging bloody jihad is another.



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Simon

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:03 pm


It’s very easy to become a Moslem. Make, sincerely of course, the simple profession of faith, “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet,” and you’re in. No complicated theology, no growing lists of required beliefs.
Yes, accepting Islam is simple. Just as becoming an evangelical Christian requires nothing more than a one-time sincere act of repentance and profession of Jesus as “my personal Lord and Savior.” Bingo: Saved forever.
But God is not simple. He is the Holy Trinity, an unfathomable mystery. And His glory is reflected in all the beauty and complexity of His creation.
Christians (or anyone else) who make a false idol out of religious simplicity are missing something that goes to the essence of the Divine Being. Simplicity is no substitute for Truth.



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amy

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:16 pm


Local Man:
Your comments are misplaced at this blog, anyway, so you might want to go cluck about triumphalism elsewhere. Count the number of posts discussing Catholic misdeeds here during the course of a month. Go ahead, do it.
If anything, people use the opportunities to discuss other faiths and denominations to try to understand their appeal, what element of human experience they appeal to, and so on.



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Simon

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:17 pm


Local Man, what Catholic blogs have you been reading? Here on Amy’s site, there’s more discussion of clergy abuse cases than any other topic. And while there are indeed a handful of “triumphalists” around, the vast majority of commentators (and certainly Amy herself) pull no punches in discussing either the perpetrators or the bishops and religious superiors who cover-up and/or enable those crimes.
So what is your point? That so long as there are perverts in the priesthood or corrupt bishops the rest of us as Catholics should never form or express opinions about Islam, Protestantism, or anything else we consider true, false, good, bad, right, wrong, beautiful or ugly?
Sorry, but that’s a false humility.
Multiculturalism kills brain cells. I refuse to kill mine just because there are pervert priests in Cincinnati and many other places.



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Touchy Tech

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:33 pm


I don’t think that it is triumphalist to point out the clear fact that the Koran is a ragtag compilation of the contradictory rantings of an ignorant camel driver who was both a pervert and a murderer. A good Christian aspires to be like Christ; a good Muslim has to be way better than Mohamed.



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Sydney Carton

posted July 26, 2005 at 4:33 pm


Local Man: “We have our own house to get in order.”
Because there’s NEVER been a discussion of 100+ comments on this blog about the scandals affecting Catholicism right now?
Sheesh.
“What causes it, this urge to crow about how much better we are than everyone else?”
First, our faith is True, theirs is not. That doesn’t guarantee that we’re “better” than anyone else, but I’ll say right now that I don’t see a lot of Catholic priests exhorting the faithful to engage in suicide bombing. In fact, what I have seen are apologies from the Pope for the excesses of the crusades and for the historical failure of anti-semitism that has been associated with the Church. And eventually, we’ll get around to an acknowledgement of the failure of the hierarchy involved in the sex scandals.



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DJP

posted July 26, 2005 at 5:11 pm


Local Man:
You are have bought into the left’s notion that if you attack the Church using the priest scandal than maybe we won’t talk about Jesus being The Way, The Truth and The Life and we would reject the belief that the “fullness of faith subsits in the Roman Catholic Church.”
Well, you are dead wrong because as others have pointed out, we on this blog are probably the hardest on the church when it comes to perverted priests abusing our most precious gifts: children.
But that will never stop us from loving Jesus and from being loyal to the Apostolic faith. If anything, we will shout from the mountain tops that Jesus Christ is Lord and that there is only one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.



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Father Ethan

posted July 26, 2005 at 5:22 pm


The missionary problem in Latin America is very interesting. I met a presbytarian minister who said to me that the church sends funds and missionaries to Mexico. I said to him, “why are earth are you sending missionaries to a Catholic country? Are we not Christians?” He turned red.
I also agree with Caroline. The simplicity of Islam fits well with the difficult lifestyles of the poor and the modern world. This may be a call to the U.S. Bishops to simplify the RCIA programs availble. I think the new compendium to the Catechism may help. Has anyone seen the Latin version?



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Lynn S

posted July 26, 2005 at 5:47 pm


Nearly all proselytizing religions do well in areas where there has been serious oppression. That is not in my view the fault of the Catholic Church nor of protestants, at least not in the modern era.
Local Man,
Though I post on this board with some frequency, I am not Catholic. I have been impressed by the depth of discussion people on this board have had on the priest molestation scandals and what the Church needs to do about it. The level of honesty and (for the most part) true discussion is what keeps me coming back to this blog.



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Caroline

posted July 26, 2005 at 5:56 pm


I do agree with Simon above that “simplicity is not a substitute for truth.” Truth is both simple and complex.
Our faith is both simple and complex. And in faith, as in art, the simple and the complex are one, never antagonists. Simplicity without complexity is boring and complexity without simplicity is unintelligible. What we need to distinguish is the complex from the complicated. To what extent have we Catholics made Catholicism complicated is the question? Really simple people, be they the uneducated wise or the highly educated wise, are drawn to the complexity of the simple and the simplicity of the complex, study their art, but are repulsed by the complicated.



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Kenjiro Shoda

posted July 26, 2005 at 6:57 pm


I think I remember writting about this in this column not too long ago. It is surprising, but also a very positive thing.
Though it would be better for these Mayan peoples to re-convert to the Catholic Church, it is heartening to see them discard the form of Protestant Christianity exported from the USA sixty years or so ago in favor of the ancient faith of Islam.
I’ve seen the Protestants on TV, and could never understand why anyone who came from a strongly traditional Catholic culture such as anywhere in Latin America would turn their backs on it and embrace the Billy Graham style Protestantism of the USA heartland. I can’t imagine anything more boring. The fundamentalist Protestant music is even worse. I watched “Bill Gaithers’ Bible Hour” or something like that title on a Christian cable channel, and it’s like something straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. The handwaving, crying, jumping up and down stuff as the preacher preached was just too much. I’d convert to Islam too to get away from this.
But seriously, Islam is growing at the expense of Protestants in Latin America…especially Mexico. It serves them right actually. For years they’ve been crowing about all the converts their taking from the Catholic Church. It is sad but true.
But the conversion to Islam of so many former Protestants after such a short time proves that the Latin Americans really didn’t have any special affection for their new Protestant religion….they were just looking for something else than the Vatican II style Catholicism they were being offered by the local clergy.
I hope Islam succeeds to nourish the souls of many more of these Latin American people in a way that Protestantism never can. But it is very unfortunate that the Catholic Church has so little to offer that these people sought spiritual refuge elsewhere in the first place.
It’s time for the Latin American Bishops and the Pope to realize that the liberation theology, liberal Catholicism is a failure in Latin America and has driven the people elsewere. It’s time to return to traditions of the Church….then maybe the Latin Americans won’t look to Protestantism or Islam but instead will be devoted to their own Catholic Faith.



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Donna

posted July 26, 2005 at 7:39 pm


So, Kevin,…,better for someone to have no faith in Christ as Savior at all than for them to be one of those awful Protestants?
I’ve never been attracted to Protestantism myself, but to lump all Protestant ministers in with vulgar televangelists (the article says many of the converts were Presbyterian and I don’t think Presbyterians are big into the hootin’, hollerin’ thing)is as simplistic as Protestants who say we pray to idols and worship Mary as a goddess.



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mark

posted July 26, 2005 at 7:41 pm


“a good Muslim has to be way better than Mohamed.”
I don’t know, Touchy, it seems to me that good Muslims are supposed to emultate Mohammed, which, unfortunately, means warfare against your enemies, polygamy, and subjugating women. As Mr. Carton says, “Getting into Islam is easy. Getting out is a killer.” One better not make that profession of faith in an Islamic country and then change your mind — that’s called apostacy, a capital offense in those countries.



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Donna

posted July 26, 2005 at 7:41 pm


Excuse me, I really must get reading glasses. My comment was directed to Kenjiro, not “Kevin.”



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HA

posted July 26, 2005 at 7:53 pm


In fact, what I have seen are apologies from the Pope for the excesses of the crusades …
Do you have any quote to back this up? I recall a vague statement (at Assisi?) about the second millenium, and general wrongs done, but there was no apology for the Crusades (or even excesses therein) that I can recall. That’s why Muslims have asked Ratzinger to issue one. See Rod Dreher’s posts on a recent thread:
http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2005/06/oriana_fallaci_.html



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Susan F. Peterson

posted July 26, 2005 at 8:23 pm


It really is upsetting to hear someone say that it is better for people to be Moslems than Protestants!
Protestants know Jesus as their Savior. They are baptized, they profess the Apostles Creed and usually the Nicene Creed also. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
To say that it is better for them to convert to Islam because it is an “older” faith…maybe because it has more rituals??(I don’t know much about the actual practice of Island except that the men stop and pray facing Mecca 5 times a day) boggles the mind.
And certainly the position of women in almost any Protestant denomination is better than in Islam.
Did you really think about what you said before you wrote it?
It does seem though as if this particular group of Moslems worked out a commendable way to help these people in a practical way. By all means, lets copy them. Still, it does make one wonder about the solidity of the people’s faith in any of these religions.
But maybe it seems to them, in their poverty and desperation, that those willing to make the effort to help them and improve their lives must be the ones motivated by the truth.
Susan Peterson



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Donald R. McClarey

posted July 26, 2005 at 9:16 pm


“It really is upsetting to hear someone say that it is better for people to be Moslems than Protestants!”
During the Revolt of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth Century some of the Dutch Protestants adopted the slogan “Better Turk than Papist!” This was of course nonsense. I think equally it is nonsense to say “Better Islam than Protestant”. Protestants are our fellow Christians, as much as we differ with them, and whenever any Christian turns his back on Jesus, it is a cause of mourning for us all. Susan is correct.



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Donna

posted July 26, 2005 at 9:23 pm


it is heartening to see them discard the form of Protestant Christianity exported from the USA sixty years or so ago in favor of the ancient faith of Islam.
Well, if “ancient” automatically makes for a superior form of monotheism , than it would be even better if the Mexican Protestants converted to Judaism. Compared with Moses, Mohammad walked the earth the day before yesterday.
Somehow, though, I don’t think Kenjiro would applaud that.



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Sherry Weddell

posted July 26, 2005 at 10:42 pm


I read the comments before the article. Based upon the serious tones of the comments, I assumed that we were talking about ten of thousands of converts at the very least – but the article only mentions a single community of 300.
It *might* be the first of many or just the first, period. But 300 out of a nation of 106 million (and over 6 million Protestants) is hardly big enough to draw sweeping conclusions about the state of Protestantism in Mexico.
As to the scandal of Protestants converting to Islam – they’ve been doing so in the black community in this country for decades although I’ve never witnessed a discussion of this on St. Blog’s. And of course, Catholics in the US and Europe are converting as well.
David Barett – the guru of world Christianity stats points out that the major religions are very fluid. He estimates that *20 million* people voluntarily change their religion on this planet *every year*. It is apparently quite normal for people to choose to change their religion if a different faith is accessible to them.
Somehow, westerners tend to look upon the major religions (Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) as essentially stable, even static communities that only grow or decline through birth/death. Somehow it strikes us as unnatural or odd or even wrong that voluntary large scale religious change should happen in nations or cultural groups (hence the knee-jerk resentment of any evangelism).
It just isn’t true, it has probably never been true, and is especially not true now in the age of easy global travel and communication which favors the zealous evangelizers.
“God has no grand-children” was a phrase that I’ve heard evangelicals use. What they meant was the faith must be proprosed afresh to every generation but it seems especially appropos if it is the natural course for religious communities that do not evangelize to decline or eventually be evangelized by some other faith.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 26, 2005 at 11:17 pm


Kenjiro’s remark about it’s better to be Muslim than a Protestant believer in Christ is imbecilic. Good grief, man, get hold of yourself!
About the appeal of Islam, the writer Robert D. Kaplan makes a fascinating observation in his travelogue “The Ends of the Earth.” He began his journey in West Africa, which is a cesspool of chaos and misery in his telling. The next leg of his journey took him to Egypt, where he visited persecuted Coptic communities, and spent time in Islamic areas. He noticed that the lives of the Egyptians were poor and brutal, and that for most of them, Islam was the only thing they had to give their scanty lives dignity and order. The contrast with the desperately poor non-Islamic country he’d come from struck him deeply. There is something about Islam’s severe austerity that gives the desperately poor what they need, Kaplan observes.
Me, I cannot see the appeal of Islam, but I think we learn nothing if we assume that anyone who accepts it (or Pentecostal Protestantism for that matter) instead of Catholicism must be a hopeless idiot or a villain.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 26, 2005 at 11:23 pm


Oh, I forgot to mention: the other day in Dallas, I ran into Archbishop Dimitri, head of the Orthodox Church of America’s Southern diocese. His cathedral is in town. He’s a fascinating figure, and was born a Southern Baptist in small-town east Texas 82 years ago, and converted to Orthodoxy as a young man. Anyway, he had with him the Orthodox bishop of Mexico. Who knew there were Orthodox in Mexico? Dimitri told me a story about his paying a pastoral visit to a group of 23 Orthodox villages in some remote rural part of Mexico. If he told me where, I forgot it. These are Indian villages who, in Dimitri’s telling, were abandoned by the Roman church. An Orthodox missionary went to live with them for 30 years, and helped convert them. Dimitri says it’s quite something to travel to the farthest corner of rural Mexico and be greeted by Indians in their native costumes, then go into their churches and find them as Orthodox on the inside as any you’d see anywhere else in the world.
Before I went on my way, Dimitri went on about the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and what a fantastic thing it was. I wish I spoke Spanish so I could have talked directly to the Orthodox bishop of Mexico. How often do you suppose you meet such a person? Hopefully more often than you meet the Ayatollah of Chiapas. ;-)



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Rod Dreher

posted July 26, 2005 at 11:28 pm


Oh, I forgot to mention: the other day in Dallas, I ran into Archbishop Dimitri, head of the Orthodox Church of America’s Southern diocese. His cathedral is in town. He’s a fascinating figure, and was born a Southern Baptist in small-town east Texas 82 years ago, and converted to Orthodoxy as a young man. Anyway, he had with him the Orthodox bishop of Mexico. Who knew there were Orthodox in Mexico? Dimitri told me a story about his paying a pastoral visit to a group of 23 Orthodox villages in some remote rural part of Mexico. If he told me where, I forgot it. These are Indian villages who, in Dimitri’s telling, were abandoned by the Roman church. An Orthodox missionary went to live with them for 30 years, and helped convert them. Dimitri says it’s quite something to travel to the farthest corner of rural Mexico and be greeted by Indians in their native costumes, then go into their churches and find them as Orthodox on the inside as any you’d see anywhere else in the world.
Before I went on my way, Dimitri went on about the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and what a fantastic thing it was. I wish I spoke Spanish so I could have talked directly to the Orthodox bishop of Mexico. How often do you suppose you meet such a person? Hopefully more often than you meet the Ayatollah of Chiapas. ;-)



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Andrea Harris

posted July 27, 2005 at 6:38 am


The Coptic Christians are “desperately poor” and have “scanty lives” that only Islam can give “dignity and order” to because Coptic Christians have traditionally been persecuted in Egypt by the Muslim majority. Of course their lives are going to be materially better if they convert!
As to why Christians convert to Islam, I can’t say for sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that Muslims aren’t big on guilt. From what I see just looking from the outside there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that “I am a miserable sinner” attitude that modern people find to be such a bummer. Also, Islam rejects downers like the crucifixion death of Christ, and complicated theologies like the Trinity are rejected as heresy in favor of a nice, neat, singular “real monotheistic” God.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 27, 2005 at 7:04 am


Andrea: The Coptic Christians are “desperately poor” and have “scanty lives” that only Islam can give “dignity and order” to because Coptic Christians have traditionally been persecuted in Egypt by the Muslim majority. Of course their lives are going to be materially better if they convert!
Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Kaplan wasn’t talking about the Copts’ poverty. He was talking about what Islam gave Muslims, at least on a sociological and psychological level.
Further, I’m no specialist on Islam, but I find it hard to believe, as you seem to, that people convert to Islam because it’s a religion of simple, guilt-free livin’. Where on earth do you get that idea? Do those people seem like happy-go-lucky libertines to you?



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Tim F.

posted July 27, 2005 at 7:29 am


Two things popped into my head regarding the Protestants converting to Islam. One being predestination, in light of the converts formerly being Presbyterians. The other was that many Protestants treat the bible as if it dropped out of the sky into our laps. Muslims pretty much believe that the koran did.



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Andrea Harris

posted July 27, 2005 at 7:49 am


Well, yes. Muslim men anyway. (Muslim women seem attracted to the outward stability and the half-hearted gestures towards at least acknowledging that they have some worth that exists in Islam even if only in some passages in the Koran. And of course there is the promise of marital fidelity that at least exists in the early stages of the Muslim version of the Earl-just-got-saved syndrome.) And of course, there isn’t any traditional of self-denial and celibacy — and don’t bring up the sufis, many Muslims consider them heretics,.
Of course I am committing the NuThoughtCrime of making a sweeping generalization, but I have come to my conclusions to what I have seen (and read). And from what I have seen (and read) Muslims don’t seem to sit around worrying about how bad they are to their fellow men — all men, not just fellow Muslims. There is a certain sense that non-Muslims are not really to be regarded as part of the “family of man” in Islam, and I don’t just mean in colloquial folk belief. The amount of condemnation of unbelievers in the Koran and juicy anticipation of the fires of hell that await those who don’t acknowledge the ascendancy of Islam over all makes the Old Testament look like a manual on how to behave at a cotillion.
But don’t believe me. Crack open a news website and read the latest ravings — excuse me, pronouncements — of some spokesimam or other. You won’t read a whole lot of mea culpa on any subject — it’s mostly all “you’d better be nice to us” this and “non-Muslims are mean to us!” that. Every once in a while there will appear a more mollifying column urging fellow Muslims to be more understanding of other people, but mostly it’s all about You Unbelievers and Your Sucky Suckiness. Don’t discount the attraction to the downtrodden of getting to be a member of the self-satisfied, better-than-Them club.
Also, I get what I know about converts from actual contact with some of them. When I was taking a class in Islamic Thought (what, you thought I pulled all of this out of my own behind?) at my local university a few years ago we had one of our professors come in to talk to us. No wait — I was taking Islamic Thought, but actually he came in to the Multicultural Contemporary Humanities class I was taking after the Islamic Thought one. Anyway, he was African-American, and he had converted to Islam some years back. He was very confident, vibrant, articulate, blah blah — a walking advert for the wonderfulness of converting to Islam. No really, I found him quite personable. It’s from him that I get the idea that converting to Islam means you can toss all that Christian oh-evil-me-I-killed-Jesus stuff away. He was careful to stress how Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was crucified. You don’t think this is one way Muslims get Christians to convert? I think it is.
By the way, the over-scrupulous attention to personal matters of dress, eating, male-female contact, and the like with which Muslims seem to always be preoccupied, isn’t necessarily sign of either a higher spirituality or a joyless, no-fun attitude towards the world. Anal-retentive obsession with physical details is often a sign of voluptuousness, even gluttony. Among converts is can be another sign of the Muslims version of the “Earl just got saved” syndrome. The problem is, in Islam, Earl isn’t allowed to get un-saved, not if he wants to save his skin.



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AnotherCoward

posted July 27, 2005 at 8:58 am


Sorry, but I have to say it:
Convert me once, shame on you.
Convert me twice, shame on me.



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Ronny

posted July 27, 2005 at 9:27 am


I have not seen any comments about what strikes me as being one of the most interesting aspects about this news item — where it is happening.
The poor Indian state of Chiapas has been a source of tension in Mexican politics since the Zapatista revolutionaries came on the scene there in 1994. The Zapatistas are seeking greater autonomy from (and at one time promoted of) the Mexican government. Military skirmishes have been limited to the very early stage of the uprising, but political tensions between the government and the rebels and even occasionally the potential for a resumption of open hostilities have remained.
The issue of Islam in the region is interesting given that religion’s frequent association with rebellions in other developing countries. Someone above remarked about the failure of liberation theology for driving people away from the faith. I wonder whether what has been happening in Chiapas is in part a logical outgrowth of liberation theology in which successive religions are cast off and taken on, each embodying a more austere version of earthly revolutionary promise than the one before: from Catholicism to Protestantism to Islam. Whether this is indeed what is driving at least some of the conversions in this process is a matter of hypothesis only for me and admittedly may not be borne out in fact.
Still, I find the potential link intriguing — and worrisome. Hopefully, Islam will remain a small demographic curiosity in Chiapas. I cannot help but think that if the religion takes a strong hold in the region, then our neighbor to the South eventually will have open civil war with jihadists in Chiapas. If that were to happen, it won’t be just Mexico’s problem.



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Ronny

posted July 27, 2005 at 9:28 am


Parenthetical comment in paragraph 2 in my above post should have read “and at one time promoted overthrow of.”



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Simon

posted July 27, 2005 at 10:00 am


Who knew there were Orthodox in Mexico? Dimitri told me a story about his paying a pastoral visit to a group of 23 Orthodox villages in some remote rural part of Mexico. If he told me where, I forgot it. These are Indian villages who, in Dimitri’s telling, were abandoned by the Roman church. An Orthodox missionary went to live with them for 30 years, and helped convert them.
Rod, the story of these Orthodox Mexican Indians is charming.
I can’t help but wonder, though, how these Orthodox hierarchs view Catholic missionary work among the unchurched in the Ukraine, which would seem to be just the flip side (though on a larger scale) of Orthodox outreach to these rural Mexicans “abandoned” by the Catholic Church.



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TSO

posted July 27, 2005 at 10:29 am


On second thought, maybe blaming the greater simplicity of Islam & Protestantism is too simplistic. The Mormon church is growing wildly (even outside America) despite the complication of additional scripture and all the planetary/extraterrestial stuff. what is it about Mormons? Perhaps the strong strong sense of community.
Richard Ostling in the book “Mormon America” quotes former Presbyterian Jana Riess:
“[Joseph] Smith’s doctrine that God the Father has a physical body was a challenge for me because I was trained as a theologian.” She says that the church at the grassroots level “creates a community like none I’ve seen in other religious groups….I’m much happier as a Mormon than a Protestant.”
Ostling goes on to say that “faith is primarily a matter of belonging…and [Rodney] Stark maintains that those with frail interpersonal attachments are most likely to be recruited…New Mormons [are] socialized into the church through a broad range of activities and enjoy the support of an emotionally satisfying and highly responsive community while gradually identifying with very demanding lifestyle commitments.”



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Simon

posted July 27, 2005 at 11:07 am


TSO, you might want to check out the piece Amy posted above on how frail that Mormon “growth” turns out to be.
One thing I find odd about these conversion/proselytism threads is all the hand-wringing among Catholics that seems to presume that other religions are spreading quickly while the Catholic Church is stuck in a comfortable, no-growth, suburban funk. What planet are these hand-wringers living on?
Only Islam is adding numbers worldwide at a rate comparable to that of the Catholic Church, and that’s largely due to the Muslim birthrate. Three hundred Chiapas peasants notwithstanding, there is simply no large scale movement of conversions to Islam anywhere in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, Islam is growing only slowly, while Christianity — ESPECIALLY Catholicism — is spreading like wildfire.
Mormons, for all their talk about mission work and conversions, are statistically neglible everywhere outside the USA. And, pace Rod Dreher, Orthodox Christianity seems to have little inclination or ability to evangelize at all outside of historically Orthodox territories, with the lone possible exception of the Southern United States.
But sometimes I think a lot of folks here view the state of Catholicism worldwide as just an extension of the somnolent condition of their local US diocese. There’s a lot of tremendous Catholic evangelization going on, and the Holy Spirit is doing great work through it.



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peggy35

posted July 27, 2005 at 12:35 pm


Caroline,
Are you by any chance a convert to islam?
I am a well known windbag, but I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.
Tell me where else in life is the easier way the better way? The easier way is better if you want or need to save time on a task. A good short cut is preferrable to the long way around. A dishwasher is better than handwashing the dishes three times a day.
But in matters of character and spirit easier is never better. Would you ever tell your children to take short cuts with their homework or cheat on a test? Or to take drugs to enhance athletic performance? I could go on and on.
When it comes to the ultimate in character building, our personal santification or salvation if you will, the easier path cannot but be the worst possible path. And those faiths which attract because they are easy and simple sound exactly the same as the tempting little voice that all of us have heard at one time or another to cut corners and take the easy way out. If its wrong in other character related situations to take the path of least resistance, then it is even more wrong to take the path of least resistance in matters of our eternal salvation and in our worship and religious life on earth.
It seems to me that you have a very poor understanding of Christianity by your remarks on equality. Allow me to give you a short primer.
All Christians are absolutely equal in our access to grace. We are promised the exact same reward in heaven and can neither subtract from that reward nor earn a greater reward by doing good deeds. Our reward was earned for us once and for all by Jesus. We either get the whole thing by accepting his gift or we get none by willfully and without repentence rejecting that gift. In contrast, muslims are told of numerous ways that one earns a greater reward in heaven for such and such and that certain good deeds are worth more credit than others for the covering of sins. Because all Christians are exactly equal in our promised reward and since it is ours for the accepting or rejecting, we are provided a way to do good deeds just for the sake of doing good instead of never being able to escape calculation in our relationship to God and others. No matter how sincerely a muslim does good deeds for others it is impossible to escape such calculation since muslims are taught that their good and bad deeds will be weighed at judgement. How is such a person supposed to forget that such and such a good deed will be credited to them on judgement day? Do you want your children to do good for the sake of good or for ultimate reward?
I can’t say that all Christians do good for the sake of good and not for reward but the path is/has been laid for many to take it and many have.
These are the saints that we speak of as being examples and great and greatest. But Christians do not at all believe that these people are better and more righteous than us. Christians are not only exactly the same in the reward that we are promised, we are also exactly the same in the greatness of our sinfulness and weakness. The saints were no different from us. They are held up as outstanding examples of the power and grace of God at work in them. God transformed them. They did not transform themselves. They are models of hope for all. They are promises of things to come which we will all receive someday. Someday we will all be saints and will be the equals of our brothers and sisters who went before us and got there ahead of us and used by God to inspire us. Their purpose was to inspire so they were given special sight and receptivity and were amazing examples to us of ultimate goal of the Christian life but not all Christians are given the same gifts not because we aren’t as special but because our purpose is simply different. It is all about God’s gift of grace. It manifests itself differently in different people for the purposes of God. It is a pure gift not based on merit and given equally to all but in different ways of expression.
There is no one more righteous or less righteous among the Christians. The prostitute is not a greater sinner deserving of worse punishment than the liar. No Christian sins less because their intentions are good. All sins are equally bad. All sinners are equally sinners. All sinners are equally deserving of punishment but have the exact same right to fair and decent treatment on earth because we are also equally heirs of hope and equally Gods own children. No sinner can suffer worse physical punishment than another. Christ ended the stoning to death of adulterers and the amputation of the hands of theives because it is manifestly unfair to so brutally punish just these sinners when all people equally contribute to the misery and corruption of society.
Lastly, in Christianity, there are no special circumstances where we are permitted before hand to sin. There are no conditions given by Christ where we are permitted to lie or cheat or deceive to save ourselves or defend our religion. There may be forgiveness afterward for the truly penitent but no permission beforehand. Right and wrong behavior for us is always the same and equally applies to everyone from the Christ in his Incarnation and God in heaven and on down to us his people. God chooses to live by the same code that he expects us to live by including acting humbly and with self-scarifice. He doesnt exempt himself as islam falsely teaches. His prophets and holy ones are not exempted from the rules that others are expected to live by either in contrast to the special mohammed only verses in the koran which among other things allowed him to have more war booty and more wives.
Theologically, Christianity is the harder and better way. It is the religion where everyone is more equal. It is more morally consistent.
This doesnt make Christians better people. It is just a fact. It is wrong to judge who is right on appearences anyway. islam only seems to have greater simplicity or equality to you, but to someone else who has both studied it and dug deeper, I see the opposite. The first step to seeing truly is to ask God to heal your sight for noone sees truly except by an act of God’s grace. Then we can judge a religion not how it appears to our subjective judgements about its believers or its values but on its true merits.
As one who almost converted to islam because I couldnt understand or logically defend Christianity but was blessed with a night of clear perspective by God’s healing grace, I can say that Christianity is not hard to understand once the mind has been healed and our vision transformed. The simplest people have been Christian saints and some of its greatest teachers because understanding it comes from a gift of understanding from God not through our own natural ability. Anyone can receive this gift if we ask for it and are patient to wait for God’s own time in revealing it to us. It does not come at our demand or on our clock because we do not command God.
If you gave up trying to understand Christianity and that made you angry with it so that you suddenly saw so much wrong with it, I ask you or anyone else reading this, if you weren’t expecting God to gift you on your time schedule when you expected it. I suggest to you that you understandably gave up just when the going got the hardest not realizing that God was testing you to see if you would accept his time and was going to reward you for your patience if you had only held on a little longer. The wait makes us stronger. Waiting just a little past our endurance makes us that much stronger much like strengthening a muscle only occurs when it is pushed a little past its endurance.
Sorry for the length but I got inspired to write :) I just so want to help those who get lost on the way to receiving Christ because I was so close to losing out on him forever not so long ago.



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peggy35

posted July 27, 2005 at 1:39 pm


One last quick thing regarding Christian heirarchy.
The most perfect equality will be found in heaven according to the true teachings of the church. There we will all be like the greatest saints.
Yet on earth Christianity teaches the better equality in that it is at once more comprehensive but also limited somewhat in religious practice by Christian heirarchy. In the same way that patience and waiting a little past our endurance benefits us in this life and the next, so “suffering” or enduring heirarchy in this life strengthens our humility. The Pope, the bishop, the saint is not naturally better than any lay Christian. They are not more righteous or worthy than we. But here in this life where humility is the hardest for us to accept, we are asked by the Christian church to bow before someone who is not any better than us and in some cases may be worse. We wait by the power of the God’s Holy Spirit for the full equality of heaven and humbly accept bowing and genuflecting to others in this life by the same grace in order to benefit us and to grow us in holiness in preparation for the next life.
Everytime a Christian bows or kneels to another person, a great act of God is occuring in that proud and willful human beings are not having their way about things and have chosen the role of the lowly one (as Christ also did) instead of insisting and demanding that others honor us the same way. It is a greater challenge in fact to our humility to bow to a man than it is to bow to God who is so much greater than us. It is hard for the Christian to think themselves better or more righteous than other people when we are bowing to someone else although I’m sure its still possible. Our bowing to others in the heirarchy is the gateway to true equality. True equality is found when the despised and most obviously immoral are raised to the same station as everyone else and when those who think themselves more righteous than others are knocked down and humbled. A false equality results otherwise as it does in islam, where there are better and worse sinners deserving better and worse punishments and where every good religious person is granted the automatic deference and respect that they most want without having to work or suffer for it or to ever suffer themselves to humble themselves before their equals or those who seem to them to be not as good, nice or as right living. In other words the reward that we most want, respect and equality comes easy in islam. Converts receive instant gratification and full priveledge right up front. Christians must wait but the wait does our humility endless good.
I could go on to speak about how the true humility that Christianity teaches can actually lead to less pain and misery in the world coming from wounded pride and from the grasping for equality from others, but I just dont have the time. But the implications of heirarchy for our world in the here and now are very great. Lets just say that God has a way of giving us what we want and giving us the good things after we have renounced desire for them. One of the greatest problems with islam is that the instant equality that it seems to give actually causes more problems than it seems to solve. When we get something easily we become pampered and unused to not having our way. Then reality comes knocking and we are inevitably humiliated and disrespected by someone and then we can’t help but act out of wounded pride to wound the person who also wounded us by demanding some legal penalty in a law suit or by taking the law unto ourselves. Then the person who we wound in turn finds a new way to wound us. And so a new cycle of resentment and venegence in some form is brought into being which drags everyone even remotely connected to it into its field of misery even down the generations after.



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john c

posted July 27, 2005 at 4:51 pm


I agree with peggy35′s comments: I am a well known windbag and I could go on and on.



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Charles R. Williams

posted July 27, 2005 at 5:07 pm


San Juan Chamula is not a Catholic town. It is synchretist. Chamula threw out the priests in the 19th century.
The Chamulan Protestants were thrown out of Chamula when they converted and so they moved into the suburbs of San Cristobal. They were converts from an indisputably pagan religion and they paid a heavy price for their faith in Christ.
In many places in Latin America, the process of evangelizing indigenous peoples to the Catholic faith has stalled for one reason or another. This is certainly true in Chiapas.
Why have Catholics in Latin America dropped the ball on this? Certainly, the late marxist bishop of Chiapas, Samuel Ruiz, did little to further evangelization in his diocese. He was mostly interested in politics.
Why the 300 Protestant Chamulans converted to Islam is a mystery. The Mayan peoples in Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala are deeply religious but their religious sensibilities seem to accomodate easily to a variety of external forms. Sufi Islam has a strong, complex mystical character under a simple veneer of external Muslim practice. The people who converted may have found Protestant Christianity lacking in deep spiritual content and intrusive on their customary religious practices. These are just speculations.



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HA

posted July 27, 2005 at 8:05 pm


Further, I’m no specialist on Islam, but I find it hard to believe, as you seem to, that people convert to Islam because it’s a religion of simple, guilt-free livin’.
Maybe the distinction between shame and guilt deserves mention. Muslim societies are generally more concerned with the former than the latter. (David Pryce-Jones’s decidedly non-PC book The Closed Circle gets into this at length.) Andrea and Peggy35 have already co-opted much of what I’m about to say, but Islam, as I came to understand it, makes fewer demands on one’s inner beliefs; it is traditionally much more about works than faith (to use Christian terminology). The same can be said of Judaism (obviously, there is a lot of variability within any of these faiths, and I don’t mean to oversimplify, much less denigrate). The initial affirmation of Mohammed is definitely the starting point to becoming a Muslim. But to the extent that one recites the prayers, tithes, fasts, and tries to make the Hajj, one is a good Muslim regardless of what goes on inside. The personal relationship with God is not given the same emphasis as it is in Christianity. I wonder whether psychoanalysis would have ever arisen within a predominantly Muslim culture.
Rod’s overall point about dignity is also an important one. I remember a St Anthony’s Messenger bulletin in which a Coptic or Muslim child was pointing out the harsh Biblical portrayals of Egypt and other Middle Eastern cultures. In the Hebrew Bible, these peoples are typically portrayed as the heavies, whereas in the Koran, it is the sons of Ishmael who wear the white hats, so to speak. They’re the dignified ones. That makes the centuries-long perseverance of the Copts all the more admirable.
Good post, Peggy35 — it’s always good to hear from someone who’s been there.



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Veronica

posted July 28, 2005 at 7:03 pm


Why would a woman (any woman) actually want to convert to Islam voluntarily? I can understand the appeal Islam might have over men, but why would an educated woman feel attracted to a religion well-known everywhere for it harsh treatment of females? What little I know of the Koran does not indicate gender-equality in the eyes of God, to say the least… so then why?
Any explanation will be most welcome!



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tutut

posted September 30, 2005 at 10:56 pm


Dear All,
Never try never know.
If you think Islam is wrong.. learn about it
If you think Islam is right .. learn about it.
Buy a translation of Koran and do your own study..
Your first challenge is to prove that the Quran in not a HOLY BOOK
Tutut.



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