Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

“First they came for the Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, poor people, intellectuals and scientists and then it was Wednesday.”

 

I saw this tweet last week.  It someone managed to sum up all of my feelings, along with the difficulty of fighting against everything at once.  As Jon Stewart said, “The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public,” but it already feels like months.

 

Two weeks ago, almost to the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and at the end of the day, I felt like, “Okay, well, we’re all still here, good start…”  The next day I was at the women’s March in Boston.  I had wanted to write a blog post about it, but, you know, life.  It was a great day, though, as a person with a disability, the standing took a toll after about three hours and I never even got to actually march…but I was there and I stood for what I believed in.  I really felt the small children who got to ride in strollers and sleep when they were bored were doing the March right…  I loved how many people came out.  There were people climbing trees in order to see the speakers, and, for all the complaints about protestors, I didn’t see a single person disrespect a police officer or engage in any sort of vandalism.  It was very peaceful.  I do want to note, though, that while I am proud of everyone for ensuring that that was the result, it is a lot easier for things to remain peaceful when no one is opposing you.  The water protectors at Standing Rock are facing an entirely different kind of protest, and it’s important to remember that instead of just patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

 

So, what has happened in those two weeks?  Well, I could write articles on specific issues, BUT THERE ARE TOO MANY OF THEM and I have a job.  We’ll go through the greatest hits and we’ll do our best to ignore anything that’s just stupid or doesn’t happen to be to our taste (example: I wouldn’t have picked that person for the supreme court, but I have no objections to his qualifications and I’m willing to take an agree to disagree on that one (even though I remain disgusted that, with a year left in office, no one would even vote on the president’s nominee as required by law).

 

In no particular order…

 

  • EPA has been put on some sort of lock down. No communicating with the press.  No renewing grants.  No projects.  In other environmental news, the Utah senator tried to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land and the House just repealed a regulation banning mining companies from dumping waste in rivers and streams.  I was reading about that this day and…I was just so confused.  So there are people who don’t believe in global warming.  So there are people who believe that there’s too much regulation and government overreaching.  But who really thinks companies dumping waste in our water supply is a good thing?  Where are your children getting their drinking water for schools?  This really just made absolutely no sense to me.
  • Half the federal agencies have gone rogue on twitter what would be really amusing if it wasn’t real life.
  • Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon replaced the chairman of the joint chiefs and the head of the CIA as voting members on the National Security Council. This, frankly, is insane. Neither of these people have any experience or role that qualifies them to weigh in on national security.  I assure you, also, when they’re deciding whether or not to use force, I want the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs weighing in.  When they’re debating whether or not to bomb someone in the Middle East, I want the CIA there giving the best information they have available.  Even numerous Republicans have denounced this move.
  • Apparently we all need guns in our schools to defend ourselves from grizzly bears…. In case you missed it, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for secretary of education, advocated guns in schools, citing a school that needed to defend itself from grizzly bears attacking the students.  The best part of this story was that when they called the school that was referenced, they don’t have a gun…
  • The House just repealed a regulation that prevented people with serious mental illnesses from buying guns. This again falls into the category of “aren’t there some things that we can just all agree are bad ideas?”
  • Trump announced that we are indeed going to build a wall. And who’s going to pay for it?
  • We have spent a lot of time arguing over things like how many people were at the inauguration
  • He has accelerated the approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
  • And then we come to the one that caused mass chaos this past weekend: the Muslim Ban.

 

There are numerous issues with the ban, some practical, some ethical.  First of all, the utter airport chaos indicated how poorly thought out and executed this idea was.  It targeted people who already were in this country legally but just picked the wrong time for a vacation.  People detained in airports were denied due process or the right to see attorneys, even when attorneys were provided for them or congressmen and women wanted to help intercede for them.  The ban ended up affecting numerous Christians and Yazidis, the very religious minorities that Trump suggested would not be affected by the ban.  The implication that Christians are the only religious minorities in these countries shows just how clueless Trump is about foreign policy.  If we are going to show favor to religious minorities in the immigration process, does that include Shiites coming from a Sunni-majority country?  No one has been killed by a refugee since the 70s.  Since 9/11, no one has been killed in a terrorist attack by anyone from these banned countries.  The main country that the 9/11 hijackers were from, Saudi Arabia, was not included in the ban (some people have noted that Trump has business ties in Saudi Arabia).  All of these refugees are heavily vetted, in a process that usually takes over two years.

 

But most of all, all I can say is that I felt a punch in the gut as all of this came out.  I am, like all of us who are not Native Americans, descended from immigrants, and mine are within the twentieth century.  More than that, my heart hurt for all of the people, God’s people, who were being shut out, who were being rejected, who were being damaged and ignored by this order.  All I could hear was the verse in Matthew: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”  As a nation, we have rejected God’s people and therefore we have rejected Jesus.  All I can hope is that the religious extremists who believe that the collective country bears the sins of their leaders are wrong, for our country has committed a great sin and God hears the cries of those whom we have turned away from.

 

And so, moving forward, I’m doing the best I can.  I take deep breaths.  I pray.  I work.  I hope.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

When I’m at work tomorrow, I will be praying for Donald Trump.  I’ve been praying for him to have wisdom and compassion, and to make the right decision for all of God’s children living in this country.  Donald Trump will be praying tomorrow too, at his pre-inaugural prayer service.

 

His choice of pastors is deeply concerning.  He chose Robert Jeffress, a man who is best known for his controversial comments in the 2012 primaries where he discouraged people from voting for Romney because he wasn’t a real Christian and Mormonism was a cult.  He is a frequent guest on Fox news and leads a Texan megachurch.  In addition to his critiques of Mormonism, Reverend Jeffress has also insulted the Catholic Church, which he believes is a “counterfeit religion” under the direct influence of the devil, referring to it as “the genius of Satan.”

 

He has made inflammatory comments about Islam, referring to it as a “heresy from the pit of hell,” an “evil religion,” and that Muslims, along with Hindus and Mormons, worship a false God and are therefore not heavenly favored like Christians.  Additionally, he has made despicable comments about homosexuality, stating that is a “miserable lifestyle” that leads to suicide or substance abuse.  He argued that gay rights have the potential to destroy our country and that people who are gay are attempting to brainwash people into being gay.  He compared it to incest, pedophilia, and bestiality.  He has argued that Obama’s support of gay marriage shows the ease with which the antichrist will takeover our society.  I haven’t read anything about derogatory comments about women and their roles in society…but I really can’t imagine that someone who takes these kind of Biblical views doesn’t have those on the record somewhere.

 

This is who Donald Trump has chosen as his spiritual guide as he steps into the Presidency.  It sends a heart-rending message to those of us who believe in a God of love, who see Catholics as brothers and sister in Christ, who believe that Muslims pray to the same God, and who, above all, want this president, who claims to be LGBTQ –friendly, to represent all Americans and to see justice done for them.

 

In addition to that, two of the pastors speaking at his inauguration are proponents of the “prosperity gospel.”  The prosperity gospel, or prosperity theology, sees religious faith as a contract between the believer and God.  If a person is a good Christian, God will reward them with wealth and health.   Donations to churches or religious organizations will lead to a person receiving more wealth (for more details on this, see John Oliver’s segment on church financing, it probably will make you nauseous).  The corollary of that is, of course, is that those who are poor or sick or otherwise struggling are doing so because they are bad Christians, that God does not favor them or care about them as much, and that it is their fault, for their lack of faith and obedience, that they are not well-off.  This is a theology that I believe is painfully contradictory to the words of Jesus Christ, who exhorted us to care for the poor and to have compassion for all those who were struggling, whose deep and equal love for all human beings is the foundation of Christianity.  I suppose it should not surprise me that someone with President-Elect Trump’s background would gravitate to the prosperity gospel, but I find it tragic that this theology, and the bigotry expressed by Jeffress, is being promulgated on a national level from the white house.

Read Full Post »

Modesty isn’t what I’d describe as a universal religious issue.  When modesty is being couched in religious terms, it almost always is from our more conservative members.  I think there’s the misperception by many in our culture, including in the Christian community, that calls for modesty are either a) attempts to inhibit freedom of expression b) sexism/patriarchalism c) both.

I attended a Christian school for three years.  There was a dress code for boys and for girls.  I still remember one of my male teachers telling me and the other girls in my class how we had a “responsibility” to dress modestly so as “not to cause [our] Christian brothers to sin”.  All us girls also were held back one day after an assembly and were reminded about our need to dress modestly and how it distracted the boys while they were in class.  Overall, the message about modesty was that we girls needed to dress modestly because of the boys.  That is, so often, the message about modesty that seems to come through.  Very rarely do Christians focus on the benefits of modest dress for girls and feminists seem to oppose modesty on the very basis that it so often seems to be about the boys and therefore must be something we should get over.

I prefer to dress modestly and to cover myself and I do this for several reasons.  How we dress is part of how others form perceptions, whether we prefer it or not.  It comforts me to know that I’ve mitigated, as much as I can, someone looking at me in an uncomfortable or inappropriate way.  I like to know that I portray an image of maturity and moderation.  While it’s sad that people are judged based on their dress, it is a fact.  I find that when I’m dressed modestly, it’s not simply that others take me seriously, I take myself more seriously. 

I find that in modest dress I am more comfortable with myself.  I have more confidence and am more self-assured than I would be otherwise.  Living as a girl in modern America, we are constantly assaulted by advertisements and marketers.  One cannot even walk in the mall near my town without televisions showing more advertisements.  Everyone, it seems, is telling girls who they should be, what they should wear, what they should look like.  Everyone wants a piece of who girls are.  Dressing modestly is my way of owning myself.  In this advertisement-saturated society, it is my reminder that there is something in this world that belongs solely to me and cannot be taken away.  It reminds me that I have a self, I am in control of that self, and that it is no one’s but mine. 

While women in America often look at women in the Middle East who wear burqas and hijab as oppressed and unfortunate, many women look at American women and see the same thing.  In the book Half the Sky (an excellent book, by the way) it says, “When Nick quizzed a group of female Saudi doctors and nurses in Riyadh about women’s rights they bristled.  ‘Why do foreigners always ask about clothing?’ one woman doctor asked.  ‘Why does it matter so much what we wear?  Of all the issues in the world, is that really so important?’  Another said: ‘You think we’re victims, because we cover our hair and wear modest clothing.  But we think that it’s Western women who are repressed, because they have to show their bodies—even go through surgery to change their bodies—to please men.’”  In another excellent book called Nine Parts of Desire a veiled woman said: “She felt easier dealing with men.  ‘They have to deal with my mind, not my body.’” 

While I agree that in an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter what we wore and we would be free to choose our clothes simply by self-expression, we live in a world that is more complex in that.  I am not trying to say that there is anything wrong with dressing less modestly, or that it is ever condonable when women are forced to dress modestly against their will, but I feel in America, feminists currently view modesty as selling out.  I believe that it is an option that should be respected just as much as any other choice of dress, and should be seen not as a symbol of oppression but a reclaimed tool of self-empowerment.

Read Full Post »

Religious Tolerance in Egyptian Protests

Disclaimer: This is not my photo. I downloaded this from a friend’s wall who had shared it from their friend’s wall. The photo was public.  My main source of information was the caption beneath this picture.  While I have not verified this, I have no reason to believe it’s not legitimate.

This photo was reportedly taken from the protests that were taking place in Egypt, where police crackdowns were also occurring.  This is a picture of Muslims at the protest performing daily prayers, and Christians holding hands around them to protect the Muslims from the police violence while they wee praying. 

I think this is a powerful photo.  With all people’s talk about the violence and divisiveness that pervades the Middle East, I think this photo underscores a poweful message.  If this photo speaks to the future of the Middle East, then there is abundant cause for hope.  It nearly brought tears to my eyes with happiness. 

I will admit that later, I experienced a bit of sadness when I thought about the poem, realizing that in many places in the United States, where we claim to be so open-minded and accepting as opposed to the rest of the world, I am not sure that this have happened, that many Christian Americans would have been so ready to protect Muslim Americans, and I pray in the future that may change and that we may take a lesson from this photo. 

We must protect and care for one another, no matter of what faith.  What binds us together can be stronger than what divides.  As Jesus has said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, we must protect others’ rights to worship, as we want ours to be.  And most importantly:  we are all Children of God.

Read Full Post »

I know I haven’t posted in awhile, my apologies.  The past few weeks have been rather crazy.  Here is the long-promised Part 3 of 4 on Religious Literacy.

Religious Literacy: what every American needs to know and doesn’t is written by Stephen Prothero. It both discusses the history of religious literacy and illiteracy, chronicles the increased lack of religious literacy in America, and proposes solutions to religious illiteracy.

His first chapter is entitled “A Nation of Religious Illiterates”, discussing the staggering lack of informed knowledge that many Americans have on religion.  He mentions the odd paradox that while religion has fallen from prominence in the debate in many European countries though religion continues to be taught in schools, here in America, religion has flourished in the public debates, despite the fact that there are staggeringly few instances of the Bible or religious classes being offered in school.  The religious literacy quiz that you see below?  The vast majority of Prothero’s college students failed the exam.  When I was reading this book a few years ago, I sometimes informally administered it to friends and family, my observation was that performance on the exam was directly correlated with age.  Older people were much more likely to be able to answer the Biblical questions, but younger people were much more likely to be able to answer about other faiths (though it has been pointed out, and is true, that the test is more geared to Judeo-Christianity, I probably should have come up with a new test, but I’ll admit that I’m not sure enough in some of my knowledge of other religions to really create one I felt was really accurate and represenative, though I continue to try to improve my knowledge of other religions).  What I found troubling was his quoting of the statistic that apparently “two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life’s basic questions”.  Since Biblical illiteracy is so ubiquitous, the idea that while the majority look to it as authoritative but know little about it, I find concerning and dangerous.

Prothero goes on in quotation of statistics from surveys on Biblical illiteracy.  Half of American adults can name one of the four gospels…most Americans cannot identity the first book of the Bible…many believe that Billy Graham gave the Sermon on the Mount (for the record, it was Jesus)…most believe Jesus was born in Jerusalem…oh, and ten percent believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife (I’m holding out hope that about half of those were just messing with the person taking the results).  In 2005, there was a bill in Alabama that proposed to protect public displays of the ten commandments.  A reporter interviewed all ten cosponsers of the bill and only one could name all ten.  A gallup poll found that 8 percent of teenagers thought that Moses was an apostle.

Propthero continues on to emphasize the importance of religion and to discuss both the religious literacy we once had (much do to the Protestant focus on reading the Bible at the start of our nation) and then how the literacy diminished.  Prothero also discusses an interesting phenomenon, that many of the organizations that were assumed would instill religious values and knowledge in their children, church, family, et cetera, now are not.  Prothero discusses that “some friends tell me that they don’t bring their sons and daughters to worship services or talk with them about their faith because they want their children to be free to choose a religion for themselves.  This is foolhardy, not unlike saying that you will not read anything to your daughter because you don’t want to enslave her to any one language.  The fact of the matter is that you cannot avoid teaching religion to your kids; if you offer them nothing, you are telling them that religion counts for nothing.”  I have to agree with much of this statement.  While I can accept that many parents do not want to repeat their parents’ mistakes by enforcing worship or dogma on their children, I think not bringing children into faith is equally a mistake.  I do not mean that every child should go to church or synagogue, etc.  Many parents do that, bring their children to church because they think they should and not out of any personal faith.  Except in rare cases or when there is a strong community in the church as a pull, most of those children will leave the church soon, and so will their parents.  Worship or religion is going to do little good if you don’t tell your kids that it matters.  I also think that the opposing idea, that we shouldn’t constrain our kids by teaching them a faith, is while well-intentioned, is rather naive.  There is a difference between explaining what you believe to your children, and telling them that they have no choice but to believe that too.  It is a crucial difference.

The rest of the book is Prothero’s argument on the necessity of religion in education.  He argues that every school should have a required Bible course and a required world religions course.  He discusses how many people are afraid to teach or mention religion in school because they feel it is unconstitutional.  It is not.  It is illegal to teach religion, it is not illegal to teach about religion.  We cannot advocate any particular creed or religion or idealogy, but that does not mean that we cannot teach information on it so that our students can be informed citizens.  Prothero maintains that his push for increased teaching of religion in schools is civic, not religious.  Prothero’s book is interesting and informative.  However, there’s a good likelihood that if you want to read the book in the first place, he’s preaching to the choir, but it still might be worth reading if you want to be more informed on issues of religious literacy.

Read Full Post »

Now, I first want to say, that I am going to add in those next two parts on religious literacy, however, I came across this and felt that it was important and wanted to share.

I am one of the many people who continues to be concerned over dialogue in the political arena that seems to foster anti-Islamic sentiment or to reinforce people’s narrow views of the religion.  I’ve at times noticed similarities between the preoccupation with many on the right with the supposed threat of Islam to our country and national identity and with the red scare of the mid-twentieth century, including senate hearings.  Another parallel is politicians use of specific words to incite fear or prejudice, trying to appeal to the concerns of a number of Americans.  One of these code words that has appeared is the sudden obsession with sharia law and the so-called danger that it poses to our country.  I found this article by Amy Sullivan of the Huffington Post entitled “The Myth of Sharia Law in America” and thought that it was excellent and certainly worth sharing and discussing.

Link to the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-sullivan/sharia-myth-america_b_876965.html

Sullivan starts out with the phrase “if you are not vitally concerned about the possibility of Muslims infiltrating the U.S. government and establishing a Taliban-style theocracy, then you are not a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination”.  Part of this is people’s idea of the concept of ‘creeping sharia’, that sharia law will slowly come into our laws and culture without us noticing it and in the process take away our American values, freedoms, and identity.  Sullivan goes onto some of the examples of Republican presidential candidates who have started speaking out against Sharia.  Rick Santorum referred to sharia as a “threat” to the country.  However, this is nothing compared to some of the concrete suggestions at combating sharia law that have been discussed by Republican candidates that Sullivan quoted.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain stated that he “would not appoint a Muslim to a Cabinet position or judgeship because ‘there is this attempt to gradually ease sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.  It does not belong in our government.’”  I first want to state that what Herman Cain is suggesting, keeping people out of government posts because of their faith, is illegal and it is stated in the constitution that “all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (article VI, paragraph III).  It is worth noting that Herman Cain also believes that it should be legal for towns to refuse to accommodate mosques being built if the majority of the population opposes them.  However, by that logic a town could refuse to accommodate any minority religion’s house of worship, for instance a town that was predominantly Catholic, as my own town is, could choose that the Episcopalian, Unitarian, Methodist, Baptist, and Congregationalist churches in the town, along with the Jewish synagogue, could also be banned.  I hadn’t realized that in our country that rights of the minorities were dependent on the whims of the majorities.  Herman Cain continues to be an outspoken critic of sharia law and Islam, saying that “our constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.  Islam combines church and state” as his argument for why Islam is entirely antithetical to America.  The major flaw in his argument is that, as anyone who has read the Old Testament or the Jewish Torah is well aware, Christianity and Judaism both have strong roots in the combination of church and state.  There are laws and regulations in the early books of the Bible on many of the same subjects as sharia such as prayer, contracts, interest, dietary needs, crimes, and welfare.  Christianity and Judaism’s holy texts combine church and state just as much as Islam.  Cain doesn’t seem to realize this however, reasserting: “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws—sharia laws.  That’s the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”  Christianity has, plenty of times in the past, instituted governments where there was no separation between church and state, many of these governments existed very recently as well, even now national churches exist in many European country.  The separation between church and state was a new and radical idea at the inception of our nationhood, it is not a religion itself that opposes or affirms the separation between church and state, but how the people of that religion choose to carry out their faith.

Sullivan also cites Newt Gingrich, current presidential candidate and former speaker of the house, who has been calling for a federal law stating that sharia cannot be used in any court case.  The issue is actually a familiar one and has not been confined to sharia.  Many people in the past have said that judges should not be able to use international precedents (as in, decisions or laws from another country) as justifications in American court decisions or sentencing.  The logic behind this is valid.  However, singling out sharia as a threat isn’t quite as valid.  Sullivan addressed the issue of when and where sharia is used in United States courts, describing how examples where sharia might be brought in is when the two litigants are Muslim who would like a Muslim arbiter to settle issues around marriage contracts or business deals in compliance with sharia, or in executing an Islamic will.  Sullivan points out: “They are no different than the practice of judges allowing Orthodox Jews to resolve some matters in Jewish courts, also known as beth din.”  The other times that sharia is brought up is when courts hear cases where the litigants are from different countries, or deals or custody arrangements were made in other countries under different laws, in this case sharia is brought in as the foreign law, it should also be noted that Catholic canon law is permitted in such cases as well, as Sullivan pointed out.  A large number of states in the past two years have debated or passed laws to ban the use of sharia in courts.

However, it actually wasn’t Newt Gingrich’s attack on sharia’s use in court cases that I had a problem with, it was his assertion that supreme court justices and other judges who oppose that idea should be removed.  The judicial system is critical to our fundamental system of checks and balances.  Our judges are meant to augment our legal system and to provide a check on the legislative and executive branches; if we start removing judges based on what decisions they make, not only do we undermine the job they’re meant to be doing, but then we might not get the same opinions, judges might change their verdicts based on which political party is in power out of fear of losing their jobs.  They can no longer contribute to the system in the same way.  When the supreme court handed down their decision in the case of Brown versus the Board of Education, President Eisenhower was in office.  President Eisenhower was a segregationist, but the courts said that schools had to be integrated.  Though Eisenhower didn’t agree with the court’s decision, he knew that as president it was his job to carry out the court’s decisions no matter what.  The courts and judges need to be able to come to their own conclusions about cases and laws, no matter what those conclusions may be, and threatening the very judicial system’s principles that our nation relies on not only undermines that system but fundamentally threatens it.

Sullivan continued her article by defining sharia, noting that although it has become a word in many sound bytes, few people actually understand what sharia is.  Later in the article she quoted the example of a state senator from Alabama, Gerald Allen, who was sponsoring a bill banning sharia, but when asked to define it by a reporter could not actually say what sharia was.  In her explanation of sharia, Sullivan says: “More than a specific set of laws, sharia is a process through which Muslim scholars and jurists determine God’s will and moral guidance as they apply to every aspect of a Muslim’s life.  They study the Quran, as well as the conduct and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and sometimes try to arrive at consensus about Islamic law.  But different jurists can arrive at very different interpretations of sharia, and it has changed over the centuries.”  I think one of the closest parallels to sharia, as so defined, would be the Talmud, a text in Judaism of discussions by rabbis over Jewish laws, ethics, and traditional customs, among many others.  I also will admit that I smiled a bit at the last part of the quotation.  In my daily listening to the news and in the research for this article I’ve heard a number of the candidates expounding on how Islam is different from what we think (though I’m not exactly sure who “we” is supposed to be and I wish they would all stop using pronouns like “us” and “they”) and Muslims are therefore fundamentally different from the rest of us.  However, that last part of the quotation sounds exactly like Christianity or Judaism or any of the other major religions.  We all interpret God’s will for us, the Bible, and Jesus’ teachings in very different way.  We come to different conclusions about what the text says or what God means every day and what we believe has evolved greatly over two millennia since Jesus first spoke his teachings.  I think if someone said that all Christians believe _________, if it wasn’t something like “in God”, I think most of us would realize pretty quickly that all Christians don’t agree with whatever it was.  Christians disagree amongst themselves on basically everything, from marriage to gender roles to morality to government to economics to hell to the Bible to church.  The idea that you could say that all Christians think alike or believe in the same things is absurd.  I think the idea that all Muslims think alike or believe in all the same things is equally absurd.  You can’t lump people of all the same religion into one box.  It seems to me that much of sharia is just the process through which through study and faith, many Muslims try to find the best way to live out what they see to be God’s will, the same as any of us.

Sullivan noted at the end that “unlike the U. S. Constitution or the Ten Commandments, there is no one document that outlines universally agreed upon sharia” (though it is worth noting that different faiths use different versions of the ten commandments as well) and began to answer the question of how some Muslim countries use sharia in their legal systems.  While Sullivan acknowledges the extreme scenarios, such as the Taliban ruling Afghanistan using sharia, most countries sharia usually makes up the laws around contracts.  In other countries, where the government is secular, Muslims still use sharia in their practices like prayer or diet.  Sullivan adds, “In general, to say that a person follows sharia is to say that she is a practicing Muslim.”

Lastly, Sullivan addressed many people’s fears about the “extreme punishments” in the sharia like stoning someone to death, beheading, et cetera.  She points out the very important fact that even though a judge can consider sharia in their decisions, sharia cannot override our laws or constitution.  Sharia cannot be used in a way that contradicts the laws that we currently have and no one can force a judge to consider sharia.  Also, despite people’s horror about some of the punishments described in sharia, people have to remember that things that many of us would describe as equally inhumane are proscribed in our Bible.  Stoning is named as a punishment in the Bible.  Yet, in our country’s long history with a Christian majority in the population, I don’t recall stoning ever being chosen as a punishment by a judge, certainly not within the last century.  The fact that the Bible named it did not mean that judges rushed to use it in their decisions and I find it equally unlikely that something different will happen with sharia.

Sullivan questions why sharia has become such a concern for many Americans and such a force in our national debate and elections.  She points out that many people either believe that such laws against sharia are necessary to preempt sharia’s invasion of our laws or, “assert that all Muslims are bound to work to establish an Islamic state in the U. S.”.  Aside from the fact that there is no evidence of that, I don’t see why if people are afraid of something like that why they’re not more worried about the many public figures who continue to call out that our nation is a “Christian nation” and that we must preserve its status as such.  Personally, though hypocrisy among politicians is nothing new, I still have to say that I wish we could expect better of our presidential candidates.  The Republicans are running on the core value that we need to restore America’s focus on the document of the constitution, while many of them are not only threatening the first amendment’s protection of people to be able to practice their religion freely but are also disregarding laws about religious discrimination in public offices and the checks and balance system of the three branches that was at the very core of the constitution.  Sullivan seems to think it is more likely (and I agree) that instead of Muslims slowly working together to impose their religion upon us “that politicians who cry ‘Sharia!’ are engaging in one of the oldest and least-proud political traditions—xenophobic demagoguery.”  She says that one of the easiest ways to tell “is when politicians carelessly throw around a word simply because it scares some voters.”  A sad example of the many ways that politicians like to use emotionally charged words to incite people to make emotional decisions motivated by fear rather than reason.  Sullivan finishes her article strong, stating: “The anti-communist Red Scare of the 1950s made broad use of guilt by innuendo and warnings about shadowy conspiracies.  If GOP candidates insist they are not doing the same thing to ordinary Muslims, they can prove it by explaining what they believe sharia is and whether they’re prepared to ban the consideration of all religious codes from civil arbitration.  Anything less is simply fear mongering.”

Now, for my final word, I’d like to say why any of us who are not Muslim should be actively involved in fighting against any attempts to limit Muslim’s religious freedom.  It might be easy to not be too concerned, since either way, we could argue, it doesn’t affect us.  However, there is first the danger that the erosion of the religious civil liberties of any one group threatens the religious civil liberties of us all, and we might very well find ourselves in the same place later down the line, one never knows.  There’s also the simple fact that it’s wrong, and as the Bible extolls us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” this should mean that we are vitally concerned with the treatment of other people.  Lastly, I think history has shown, that while those who led charges against discrimination against a people are always villified, it is really the people who stood by and let it happen that history lays the most blame at the feet of.

Read Full Post »

Here are the answers to the quiz that I posted the other day.  Some of the questions have flexibility in answers, such as it being said differently in another language or so on so please take that into account.  Two more parts to this series of articles still to come.  Again, the answers to this quiz (like th quiz itself) come from Stephen Prothero’s book “Religious Literacy”.

1. Name the four gospels.  List as many as you can.  (1 point each).

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

2. Name a sacred text of Hinduism. (1 point).

There are many possiblities here.  They include: the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Yoga Sutras, Laws of Manu, and the Kama Sutra.

3. What is the name of the holy book of Islam?  (1 point).

Quran

4. Where according to the Bible was Jesus born?  (1 point).

Bethlehem.

5. President George W. Bush spoke in his first inaugural address of the Jericho road.  What bible story was he invoking? (1 point.)

The Good Samaritan

6. What are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament? (1 point each)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

7. What is the Golden Rule? (1 point.)

“Do unto others as you would have them do unot you” (Matthew 7:12), or a similar sentiment from Rabbi Hillel or Confucius.  (“Love your neighbor as yourself” is NOT the Golden Rule)

8. “God helps those who help themselves.” Is this in the Bible?  If so, where? (2 points.)

No, this is not in the Bible.  It was said by Ben Franklin.  It contradicts Proverbs 28:26: “He who trusts in himself is a fool”

9. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”: Does this appear in the Bible?  If so, where? (2 points.)

Yes, this appears in the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3)

10. Name the Ten Commandments.  List as many as you can. (1o points)

The Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish traditions all have different versions of the ten commandments.  Give yourself credit if you have any ten of the following twelve.

1. I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.

2. You shall have no other gods before me.

3. You shall not make ourself a graven image.

4. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

5. Remember the sabbath day and keep it hol.

6. Honor your father and your mother.

7. You shall not kill/murder.

8. You shall not commit adultery.

9. You shall not steal.

10. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

11. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife

12. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

11. Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.  List as many as you can.  (4 points.)

1. Life is suffering

2. Suffering has an origin

3. Suffering can be overcome (nirvana)

4. The path to overcoming suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path

12. What are the seven sacraments of Catholicism?  List as many as youcan. (7 points).

1. Baptism

2. Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion

3. Reconciliation/Confession/Penance

4. Confirmation

5. Marriage

6. Holy Orders (Nuns or the Priesthood)

7. Anointing of the Sick/Last Rites

13. The First Amendment says two things about religion, each in its own “clause”.  What are the two religion clauses in the first amendment?  (1 point each.)

“Congress shal make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  The words before the comma are referred to as the establishment clause; the words that follow constitute the free exercise clause.

14.  What is Ramadan?  In what religion is it celebrated? (2 points.)

Ramadan is a Muslim holiday characterized by a month of fasting.

15. Match the Bible characters with the stories in which they appear by drawing a line from one to the other.  Some characters may be matched with more than one story or vice versa.  (7 points).  (I’m not going to retype this whole thing.  I’m just going to put the answer).

Adam and Eve and the Serpent-Garden of Eden

Paul-Road to Damascus

Moses-Parting of the Red Sea and Exodus

Noah-Olive Branch

Jesus-Garden of Gethsemane

Abraham-Binding of Isaac

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: