Thursday, April 14, 2011

King of Everything

I'm going to say it. And you might not be happy about it, but happiness isn't the bigger issue here.

First, you should know that I love God. I love Him by every name you could possibly give Him, and there are hundreds...and I love every single one. They are all the same to me. The same being in our ever present existence.

I cried the other day for what you may think is really silly. It was the first time I've cried since I've been here and I'm pretty sure it was the first time I've ever cried over something that wasn't completely selfish. But I’ll get to that…

Last summer, I visited a different church almost every Sunday. In Baton Rouge, it was a different religion every week. For no reason in particular, really, other than that's just the way it worked out. When I came home, I knew I needed a church to go start going to. Danae and I visited lots of churches and talked about each one after, until we found one that was the perfect fit for us both.

Last semester, I took a trip to Salt Lake City for AIChE, where I started learning a lot about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Soon after realizing how little I really knew about them, and what they believe, I also realized I knew very little about what any other religions believed. So when I was looking through classes to take here, I considered religious classes, since none are offered at the U of A. Because World Religions wasn't offered at a time I could take it, I decided to take Islam. And why not? It's a major world religion that I knew absolutely nothing about and has been spotlighted lately.

I've been in the class for 7 weeks now, and I love it. At first, I was bummed, because I wanted to talk about the theology of it the whole time, instead of learning about the culture and history as well...but I've loved every part it. If I hadn't learned the history, I wouldn't have learned that everyone really does have an ugly side. That Christians haven't always been as great as most, including myself, may think. The things that were going on behind the slogan "God's wills it" might honestly horrify you. It did me. And I'm not saying that Muslims didn't do their fair share of wrong-doings, but it's one thing for everyone to be aware of it, and another to be hypocritical of it.

Where to begin? Well, I'm not Muslim, I know that better now then I did at the beginning of the semester. I never intended on converting, I only meant to learn a different side of God. What they think, how they feel, and why. And they are a very religious group of people. More religious than some if not most of my Christian friends. I'm not trying to offend anyone; I hope you know that. I'm just stating what I've learned. They not only believe and profess but they live it. They are doers.

Among the slides of history and theology, my professor puts up verses from the Qur'an that stand behind what he teaches. Now, I know how they feel about the Qur'an, who it was written by, what it stands for and where the Bible falls into place among Muslims, but that’s not the bigger issue either. My point is on judgment.

One verse says “Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him.” Qur’an, 112:1-4.

This seemed to raise a number of concerns when I made it my status on Facebook. As I suppose I should have seen coming, but I didn't, because I just don't see things the way most people do. Maybe I'm wrong, but this is what I believe. This is what is inside of me. It comes from the same place that makes me cry. It's what makes me, me. It's who God made me and I know it's playing a major role in the person He's helping me to become.

So here it goes: I loved it. I loved a verse in the Qur'an. As it turns out, I love a lot of verses from the Qur'an. I love things about Islam too. Not everything, but some things. And I don’t agree with a lot of things, but I do some things. And for me, there's nothing wrong with that. I learned something in class, and I wanted to share it. Not to convert or offend anyone, but just to share. For me, it would be no different from putting a quote from an author, or song lyrics.

At this point, you may be wondering...Well if you're so ok with what you're doing, then why get upset? That's simple. I knew people didn't have a problem with the words; it was the fact that I was quoting from the Qur'an and that's why I cried. I knew that if I had just put up the quote, and not put where I had gotten it from, lots of people would have liked it. And why not? All it says is that God is the ultimate. There's no lie in what the verse says. No one would have cared if I had said I heard it in a song, or even if it was just my opinion or if I had found it worded so eloquently written in the sand. And I can't speak for God, but for me that's wrong.

Just so you know: Muslims believe in the same God. There are differences, of course, as with any religion. But ultimately, He is the same God for Muslims. He's the same God for a lot of religions. And they all love and worship Him.

It's one thing for people to not like me, fine. Don't like me. Don't like what I have to say. I didn't cry because it hurt me or my feelings. I cried because I think it's a truly sad day when people forget to love and decide to judge instead. Instead of having a yearning to learn, they decide to criticize what they don’t fully understand. And that’s what this boils down to. Let’s judge what other people believe in, even if I know nothing about them.

I love Yahweh. I love Allah. I love Elohim. I love Him in every language. He is King of everything. Not just Christians. Not just Jews. Everything. He made every plant, animal, and bug in love. Everything was done in love. And for me, Christianity is supposed to be about love, acceptance, and forgiveness. If Jesus wasn't put on this earth to judge, then what gives us the right to think that we can?

When Jesus was here, he never said he couldn’t be around someone. He was with lepers, tax collectors, Jews, and Gentiles: sinners all the same. “…for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). And Romans 3:9 talks entirely about how we are all the same, “Shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.”

I believe that the world would be a much better place if we got rid of all the Us vs Them complexes and we all decided to love everything the way He loves everything and the way He still loves us. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I judge people sometimes. People walking down the street. People at the train station. People in my classes. People in the library. I do. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m not even saying I should try to be. It’s about acceptance. This isn’t just about Christians and Muslims, it’s about judging every book by its cover, and I’m going to make a serious attempt to stop. To love everything God made because He loves me and I don’t deserve it.

I’m also not saying you should go out and learn all about other religions. Maybe you want to, and that’s fine, and if you don’t, that’s fine too. We are all different. Every person unique to themselves. We should appreciate that in everyone. Every color. Every religion.

My point is made clearly by some wise words from a friend: “No matter what other people believe in, we serve a God who loves them all.”

If God loves everyone, then so should we. It’s that simple.

I love you. No matter what you believe and how it may contrast in what I believe. I love you even if you don’t love me.

And I hope you have a great day. Or night, of course. Depending on the hemisphere you're in.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Silver Linings

Hello. You. There.

I didn't really know where to go after my last blog. What do I blog about if I don't blog about myself? Well, that may be the point. Perhaps for a while I'll focus less on me and rules here and there and more on everything else in between.

I have no revelational thoughts. Just something I learned in my Aboriginal Studies class last week! So here's a little history lesson for you...

Basically, Australia's beginnings weren't the most innocent. Go figure, right? The English colonized the place with convicts and ex-convicts. When they got here, they found the Aborigine people. The Europeans wanted the land plus they had guns (all happening around 1770), the Aborigines had the land and no guns, so I'm sure you can guess who won. The settlers saw the people as an eye sore and thought it would be better to just get rid of them all, so they set up this fancy board of people to "protect them." This meant that they would move them all to reservations, take away all their belongings, break apart their families, and force them to act as European as possible. They weren't allowed to do traditional things, tell their stories, dance, or even speak their language. Their every move was watched, because the settlers thought they would die out. I read a quote that said they were "smoothing the pillow of a dying race." Sad stuff!

When they weren't dying off, they took the lighter skinned people and married them off to out breed them, and they took at least one child from every family to send them to schools to teach them to be slaves. It's called the stolen generations. And people were taking their kids, legally, until 1969 when it was outlawed, but it still happened long after! That was only 42 years ago!

Ok, so among the research I did, I found out that part of the legislation set (Aboriginal Protection Act 1909), said that the board distributed things like blankets and clothes. The people weren't even allowed to own things as simple as a blanket or something to wear! It says that it all belonged to the board. So I was really upset about all this, but then in my tutorial class, I learned something really incredible.

Because none of the things distributed belonged to the people, the managers of the camps kept blanket lists, to ensure they were all returned. It was the only record keeping they had of the people. And now, years later, people who were taken from the camps used these lists in order to find their families, and find out about where they came from.

I just love that God works in the most mysterious ways. Honestly, if the blankets were just blindly distributed (granted, like they should have been), there wouldn't have been lists. And years later, these people would be left to wonder where they came from and about their family! It takes a special kind of plan to make things work out like that, right? I think it's a special kind of beautiful.

Other updates? I finally went to the training day to start volunteering! I signed up to work a Moms and Kids weekend camp over Mothers day weekend. I'm really excited since I can't spend Mother's day with my own mom. I can't wait to tell you all about it!

I love you. That's all I have to say. I hope you enjoyed the short history lesson I offered.