"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Too much freedom is a bad thing

More notes on Journey Into America by Akbar Ahmed

Speaking of equality between men and women is like comparing apples to oranges

So I finished the chapter on immigrants and it was interesting reading about people from the various communities in the United States. Some are very pro-America; some not so much.  From the section on Salafis, I marked a quote I found thought-provoking.  This from a "forty-seven-year-old Jordanian man from New Jersey [who] said it was 'unfair' and 'unjust' to speak of gender equality: 'You cannot compare apples with oranges.  So there is no justice when you try to make people equal because people are not equal in their abilities, and treating them equally is not fair. For example, when a woman is pregnant, she is not to fast during Ramadan. So she is not treated equally, but it is fair and better for her. So obligations are based on abilities. Justice is better.'"  (pg. 260)

What do you think?


Now I'm reading a chapter on American converts to Islam.  They are only about 30,000 out of the country's 300 million people so a "tiny fraction." And the women to men ratio is 4 to 1 surprising to some who think Islam is oppressive to women. I've read about half the chapter and so far the overall theme to me is:


I was reading a bit and then came inside to clean and was pondering what Mr. Ahmed shared in this chapter.

We often celebrate freedom as a good thing. The Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and beyond are rightly touted by many as people yearning for freedoms we often take for granted in the United States. Freedom to speak against the government if we choose. Freedom to express our views on most any topic. Freedom to assemble peacefully. Freedom to elect our leaders in fair elections.  Freedom to use Facebook and Blogger and YouTube.

Yet freedom without any structure is a recipe for chaos. Like anarchy.  If I am that free and there is no higher authority around to stop me, I can punch you in the nose because I am bigger and faster than you.  And, whoa to me if someone is bigger or faster than I as the same fate could await me!   So, how does this freedom stuff relate to this chapter on American men and women converting to Islam?

Because many of those who have converted found structure in Islam that they were unable to find in American society.  They've seen Christianity as too broad a thing without enough guidelines.  For them, you can go to church on Sunday and do whatever you want the rest of the week. By contrast, Islam with its emphasis on salat (prayer and worship of God) is structured around remembering God all the time. Five times a day, every day of the week, every week of the year, for your whole life.   It doesn't have ambiguous rules on the subject of alcohol. There is no freedom to drink moderately or abstain. You abstain if you follow the teachings of Islam.  There is no freedom to eat pork or abstain. You do not eat pork products at all.  One male convert who formerly used drugs and was attracted to Islam for the discipline it brought into his life said "Islam was unlike Christianity...in that 'it sets out a process for the entire day, every day.' In Christianity, 'you don't actually follow anything; you just say you're a Christian.'"***

Female converts often hated how sexualized American society is, how a woman was objectified by her body and the types of clothes she wore.  They were attracted to the ideas of modesty, honor and shame in Islam.

A former party girl, this Texan found dignity in the modest dress of Islam

Lesson for me:  the more liberated and relativistic America has become in its morals and values and style of dress, the more people will associate this with Christianity and when they find this lifestyle empty and start looking for something more satisfying in the spiritual realm, they will not go searching for Jesus. Why should they if America as a "Christian nation" has lead to this longing of their souls?

Carrie Underwood showing what is valued in American society?

*** Note: I have some problems with this, but for the sake of letting the converts speak for themselves, I won't offer my thoughts on their views of Christianity.  I know much of it is warranted by the way Christians have failed to be salt and light.  I'm sure those who know me can articulate what I would say anyway.

But I would love to hear YOUR thoughts so share! Do you think there is too much freedom in Christianity? In American society?  What did Jesus mean when he said, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed"? What about the truth setting us free?  Is freedom good; but rules better?  Thoughts?


Suroor said...

Christianity emphasises that correct belief will lead to correct action. On the other hand, I feel that Islam like Judaism focuses on correct action leading to correct belief. Both are valid and it is very unfair to blame Christianity for how SOME people may behave in the US. In all honesty, I have seen little religion in Europe and all the Americans I know are pretty religious people. There is indecency every where - some societies do it openly while others hide their actions.

I just came across an online advertisement for a sex doll in the form of Jesus! Yea, holy cow! Now because it is sold in the US does it mean that Christians think about making love to Christ?! Some weirdos are definitely doing it but they are weirdos not good Samaritans :) We have weirdos in every religion...and this is where I derail :-D

Amber said...

*blink* I came to comment and then I saw Suroor's comment and now I'm horrified by the sex doll!

*cough* Okay. So, I think, as far as Christianity goes, the idea that there are no rules for life comes the more you move away from the older, Eastern flavors. There are rules for every day life in Eastern Orthodoxy (and I assume Coptic, etc.). There are rules for daily life in Roman Catholicism, though they are less. And on and on, as each 'break' becomes a more Western rooted movement.

But I think that the general attitude of 'do whatever I want' has less to do with religion and more to do with society. People (religious or otherwise) aren't taught self sacrifice in the way that they used to be. We live easy lives, most of us, in comparison to how we would have lived not that long ago. We're taught to indulge ourselves - it's the reason most people spend beyond their means. Why credit card companies do so well. Because we've been taught that we need to have the next shiny thing. And that's all over the place. It cross cultural, religious, every boundary.

I think that too much freedom can be bad. If you don't have control, there's excess and excess is never good. But the same thing is true for too little freedom. There needs to be a middle road, where people are free, but it's not anarchy.

Suroor said...

Amber, I loved your comment! Agree with it so much.

Yea, that doll will give me nightmares tonight I know!

LK said...

But that is the thing. America is not a Christian society. Is it technically the dominate religion sure. But the agnostics may be close to outnumbering them. Or those that just ignore religion all together. There isn't really anything Christian about America. Not in value, or belief, or in priorities. I think people need to stop identifying it as Christian and just call it a melting pot. Because that is what it is.

Lat said...

Islam is definitely structured! I think a balanced approach is the better way to handling this,whoever you are,a Christian or Muslim.I'm sure a devout Christian wouldn't have a problem finding the kind of structure he is looking for in his religion.It's there but maybe not so common anymore.

I used to have Christian neighbours both Indians and Chinese, when I was a child.They fasted and did a lot of prayers stuff not just on Sunday.
I think they were Catholics,I don't know.

As for the sex doll,I had my gasps of it while reading the Mother Teresa book :)
LK's comment is also interesting.Then how does one explain the commitment that the US has for Isreal? So just economical etc but not religious?

Allie said...

I can certainly see the logic. I've found that I need structure in my religion as well. I could never be anything but Christian, but I do find it lacking in structure and ritual. So I looked for a more structured Christianity (and landed in Episcopalianism from Presbyterianism). But I got here and it turns out there weren't many rules-- I just thought there were because I'd grown up with so few.

So now I'm creating my own. Rules for me that are hard and fast.

I think the function of rules like that is less to restrict choices in a practical sense, than to remind people that GOD IS IN CHARGE no matter what else they want to think. For example: many people find solace in dietary rules, whether kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, what-have you. It doesn't matter what the specific rules *are* because they all provide solace, but the reason they provide solace is because they remind you that God is in all things.

LK said...

Lat: If Israel was poor I'm pretty sure the US wouldn't pay so much attention to them. :) Its an economic and political partnership. I see no connection to religion. I'm not even sure how the US being Christian would build an alliance since Israel's dominate religious practice is Judaism.

Amber said...

re: American support for Israel - I think the answer depends on who you ask. For some people it's purely economic and strategic. They're rich and are a friendly nation in the middle of nations that are less than friendly with the US. For others, those who are certain stripes of Christian, they honestly, religiously believe that Israel's existence is mandated by God. More than that, that it is a prerequisite for bringing about the second coming of Christ.

Other people, in fact, probably most, don't think about Israel all that much and when they do, are only confused and horrified at all the hate and bloodshed that flows through the country on both sides.

observant observer said...

Well...lots of finger pointing at how religious people represent what's happening in the nation. Should I also blame the fellow Muslim Indonesian who constitute the majority in Indonesia, of 85% the population that they fail to focus on the application of structure in governance in almost all sectors? corruption is too rampant, I don't understand what has it got to do with being religious,almost none seem to be scared at all about the fire of hell or anything like that for their action of stealing public's money.
The fact that law enforcement was very low here, everybody can bribe as long as you have the power and money, so everybody is chasing power and money (a never ending sircle), really makes me question of what comes from structure and all that rules of religiosity.

Susanne said...

Suroor, yes, I tend to believe correct belief influences your action since I think change comes from within. Kind of like a plant...it displays outwardly what is happening at the root. I remember as a child being taught to water the root. You'd think one should water the lovely flower, the leaves, the petals, but, nope, the root is where the life of the plant is and that's what needs the water. Jesus said what comes out of a person displays what is in the heart. Same concept. He even tells us we need to be rooted in him in order to produce fruit. (John 15)

Where I added the "***Note" on my post, I wanted to defend my position, but refrained. I let the converts speak although I felt I could give a good argument against how they (mis)represented Christianity. Yet I felt also that they made valid points and I was sad moreso that Jesus was being misrepresented by those who CALL themselves Christians, but do not follow him. Those who care not at all that their self-labeling of Christian is making people question what it was about Jesus that lead a nation to dress indecently, sleep around, get addicted to alcohol and drugs and have a hardline approach to any conflict (no compassion, but hatred of enemies). WE know this is not how Jesus was, but for those who have not studied Jesus, how would they know the difference?

I also thought about bringing up this point that you made: "There is indecency every where - some societies do it openly while others hide their actions." I have read enough Muslim and/or Arab and other blogs and books to know this is true. People may see Muslims and think everyone is chaste and holy, but those abayas and shalwar kameez often cover some pretty unholy folks if truth were told. So,I know all that. I could argue all that, but I refrained in this post.

Thanks for sharing what you did! I really hope you did not have bad dreams about that weird doll! Yes, some people are so warped thinking up stuff like that. :-/

Susanne said...

Amber, very well stated! I loved everything you said. Thank you!

I actually have a post I may write about that attitude of indulgence in the US. Akbar Ahmed touched on it when talking of Girls Gone Wild and the Natalee Holloway types. Your comment reminded me I wanted to discuss what he said about that and Natalee being a "victim" of sorts.

LK, agreed!! I have thought the same thing for a looooooong time. I told someone that if **this** was what Christianity was all about, please I so do not want to be a Christian! Not that I am some super-holy saint or anything, but ugh. I can't see Jesus in much of American society 80% of the time. :-(

Susanne said...

Lat, the thing is Christians maybe don't have a written code. I'm speaking of Western ones since Amber tells me Eastern ones do. But we believe if we yield daily to the Holy Spirit, God will lead us in the way we should go. It may not be a cut-and-dry list of "you will do this today" thing, but it's a connection to God always, an awareness that He is with us and the way we conduct ourselves, the words we use, the way we dress, the ways we handle conflicts, the ways we reach out to the hurting with compassion, the way we refuse to curse at someone who disrespected us...we represent Christ in all those things and God enables us to live in such a way that we model how Jesus lived. It's a following Jesus daily, hourly ... not a list of rules, but a relationship and the more we are in touch with him, the more we will emulate his habits, his lifestyle.

People love Israel for different reasons. Some are religious. Some are because they think Israel is the only democracy in the ME. They are our strongest ally and we must help them. Stuff like that. A lot of it does have to do with the Bible and various groups' understanding of it, but that doesn't mean they represent Christ well by their 100% support for Israel.

Allie, welcome! It's very nice to read your feedback. Thank you for dropping by! I like your reasons for rules as reminders about God. I see nothing wrong with making rules for yourself. In fact, it denotes disciple to me and I think we all need that to curb our indulgences. :) Just so long your rules dont' become ways you "earn" salvation, I don't see them as ungodly. I think the Pharisees were mistaken because they added rules that God didn't intend *and* forced them upon others. That's not so good.

Susanne said...

LK and Amber, thanks for chiming in on the Israel thing from your perspectives! Enjoyed that!

Most people I know are probably in this camp that Amber mentioned: "religiously believe that Israel's existence is mandated by God. More than that, that it is a prerequisite for bringing about the second coming of Christ." You who are friends of mine on FB may see people who speak about their 100% support of Israel and most of them believe this way about that country. They sincerely believe Israel only acts militarily because the Arabs provoke them and it's all in self-defense because the Muslims want to drive them into the sea. Sayings like this - truly stated or not - are just fuel for the fire for the pro-Israel camp. They feel Israel is the underdog -- only a few million of them compared to all those hostile Arabs and Muslims surrounding them. And we all know how violent those guys are... that is how they feel and what they say. And seeing Muslims in the news as terrorists only adds to that thinking.

Observant, good to see you again! I hope all is well for you in Indonesia! It's always nice hearing your thoughts.

I think your problem is the same as mine only it's different religions in the majority that perhaps aren't practiced how they really should be and are misrepresenting Islam for Indonesia and Christianity for the US.

Thank you for sharing that!

Everyone - I greatly appreciate all your feedback. It was very interesting to me!

Becky said...

But how can you say the US is not Christian, considering 9 out of 10 Americans believe in God? (and the vast majority of those a Christian God). (http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/06/07/far-reaching-faith-poll-shows-9-out-of-10-americans-believe-in-god/)

As for the apples and oranges comparison I absolutely hated it. The reason why women don't fast during Ramadan is because of their health and the health of the baby. If you have diabetes you don't have to fast either. If you are old and feel unable to fast, you don't have to. If you are sick, you don't have to. It's about your bodies ability to fast which has NOTHING to do with equal rights.

(And I know this is not your opinion Susanne, but the opinion presented in your book, just commenting on it).

Yes, women and men might be different, but that doesn't mean equal rights doesn't apply.

Susanne said...

Becky, thanks for sharing your perspective. Yes, I understand what you are saying about why people fast or "get out of it" so to speak. I just wanted to share the quote for feedback for people who thought it was great or those who disagreed completely. I thought it was interesting that people like this guy I quoted actually thought making the sexes equal was unfair to women. Maybe it was too demanding to make women be treated like men. Perhaps someone would argue in a country with compulsory military service: why make the women fight in wars just like the men? Of course some women would totally agree with that. Some would not. I appreciate your perspective!

The US is made up of a majority who call themselves Christians. Very true! But calling yourself a Christian does not mean you act like Christ. If the true definition of "Christian" is "Christlike" or "little Christs" meaning we act like him, then I'd say we are calling ourselves one thing and living something else entirely. It's like my calling myself a car when I act and look nothing like one. That's what I meant for this post.

Thanks for your comment.

Becky said...

Well I agree with you that saying you're something, doesn't necessarily mean that you are (or aren't) that thing.

Reminds me of all these people going "not to be racist but..." and then spew the most racist slur ever.
"not to be sexist but..." misogynistic crap.

Anonymous said...

Love this post, Susanne.

I have to disagree with LK in that there is much to do with religion in the US, Israeli ties. MUCH!

Becky I love your comments!

Susanne said...

Thank you, Sarah! Yes, I think we both see the religious ties to Israel. I believe in the past you've spoken of people you know who support Israel for those reasons. I recall us discussing it on your blog. :)

I appreciate your feedback.

Susanne said...

By the way, according to Mr. Ahmed's face-to-face research the group most likely to say America is a Christian nation are Mormons. I don't know how he subdivided groups entirely, but I do recall he said Mormons were more likely to say the US is a Christian nation than Protestants or Catholics. Sorry if I've already shared this. I am not rereading the comments now as I need to run errands ... :)

Anonymous said...

well i agree like being gay is just not natural i am not sure its even a choice
i don't have anything against gay but its just wrong
i will give your another example if guy think they can do anything that doesn't anyone then they would have the right to kill themselves even child marriage but i don't if the girl hit puberty and perfectly know what happening and happily agree and parent consent but i doubt that will happen but there still a can a chance and you even do bestiality think it like that protrusion and zoo like prison or keeping pet like very well treated slave but extremely doubt that will happen too

Anisah said...

Becky, I also hated the apples and oranges remark. That reminds me of the phrase "Separate but equal" that was used when Blacks had separate schools than Whites. It is not really equal. That is just an excuse. A really crappy one at that!

I am a former Muslim. I think I converted because I grew up in a religious community (Seventh-day Adventists, who are pretty heavily involved in their religion), and I was looking for a community. I wasn't afraid to look or be different because I had grown up that way (In a small town, everybody knows who goes to church on Saturday and to the church schools!).

I wasn't really bothered by America's sexuality, that is not why I converted. When I left Islam, I didn't just strip off my clothes and put on a bikini to wear everywhere.

Some Christians do follow a lot, that is how I grew up, but most don't.

To me now (I am agnostic), I think doing what gyou (General you) should (and not doing what gyou shouldn't) because it is right, not because gyour religion says so, is more real than doing it because of gyour religion. If that makes any sense lol.


Anisah said...

When I say most, I mean most I have come across, in my experience. Sorry if that comment kind of came across the wrong way, I didn't mean it to sound like most Christians are not good people.


axpence said...

thanks for a great post I really appreciate it! keep it up! love it !