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

Friday, July 29, 2011

July Books

Islam & Christianity: A Revealing Contrast by James F. Gauss -- I recall this being an Amazon.com recommendation.   I ordered it back in 2009, but it didn't really interest me once I received it.  It sat on my bookshelf for a year and a half before I decided I should read the books I'd bought before checking out new ones from the library. Thus, it got read finally.  The author had some good points. I enjoyed many of the biblical passages. But overall the theme of the book was one that didn't encourage me to be more like Jesus.  I felt the author misrepresented Islam on many points and I found myself arguing against what he wrote in defensive of a fuller context.  I even marked a few pages with my arguments!  So I'm glad I finished it and can move on. 

In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands by Martin Gilbert -- This was another Amazon.com recommendation which I got for my birthday. I learned quite a lot from this book and it inspired four posts because I really wanted to make notes on some topics discussed. ; see previous posts for more details

The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. -- mentioned it here  and in my post about Christianity in the ancient world

Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People by Jon Entine  -- see some things that took my attention from this book in my Jews, Hispanics, Chosenness, DNA, Lost Tribes, Sheep & More post

Sharing the Love of Christ With Your Muslim Neighbours by Ahmad Aygei -- this guy spoke at our church earlier this year and offered his book for sale. It's actually 2 books in one thus the following book is by him as well. He is from Ghana and grew up in a large Muslim family. He briefly shares how he became a follower of Jesus and then shares the trials of a new convert and God's heart for Muslims. 

One of my favorite parts is from the Introduction:

"It is a sad fact that many Christians are ignorant of God's purposes for the Muslim world. Rather than having God's heart for the Muslims, they feel threatened and become hard-hearted towards them.  Some see Islam as a threat which can only be conquered by military might.  They have forgotten that we do not use the weapons of the world (2 Corinthians 10:4) and we are not fighting against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). ... The fact that a sect or religious group is opposed to our beliefs does not mean we should hate them and wish to see evil befall them.  The spirit of Christ is full of Love.  Loving when we are hated is what makes Christians different."  (pg. 1-2)

My other favorite part was dealing with trials and avoiding self pity while going through them.  He encourages us to deal with trials properly and not allow ourselves to be self pitying or fearful, but realize God is our strength. (see pg. 28)

Ishmael Shall Be Blessed by Ahmad Aygei -- the second part of this 2 in 1 book.  The author shares about Jesus from both the Bible and Quran.  I found the final chapter on the Comforter of great interest.  He shared the Islamic argument of the Comforter being a prophecy of Muhammad and compared it to the Christian belief of the Comforter being the Holy Spirit just as Jesus stated.

A Christian Perspective on Islam by J.L. Williams -- this guy is the one who actually brought Ahmad Aygei from Ghana to our church for the 3 day conference.  I would not have bought this book because I have read so many books of this type already, but Andrew bought it without my knowing  thus I figured I'd go ahead and read it.  And there was some stuff that was different from most books of this type. I enjoyed the discussion of community, culture, the Crusades and colonialism. Some of it turned me off because I feel such people really are fearful of Islam and I just am not. Perhaps I am naive for being this way.

And with that, I have finished all the books on my own bookshelves aside from the few that are Andrew's.  And on July 20, I went to the library and got more books which I shall begin shortly!

After the Apple by Naomi Harris Rosenblatt -- see previous posts for notes

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner -- NPR correspondent decides to travel various parts of the world to determine what makes people happy or unhappy in the case of Moldova. This was a fun way to learn interesting tidbits about several countries like Bhutan, Iceland, Qatar, India and so forth. The subtitle is "one grump's search for the happiest places in the world."  I love the conclusion that he reached about happiness being relational; it's "utterly intertwined with other people" and also, I believe, with our relationship with God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two British Guys in Walmart - so funny!

What was your favorite Alex and Liam discovery?  :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Last Notes from "After the Apple"

After the Apple by Naomi Harris Rosenblatt --  last notes (see previous posts for more details on this book)

Lesson from Eve and Adam's scapegoating - "Taking responsibility for our imperfections is empowering, because blaming someone else for our actions necessarily assumes that we are victims who are acted upon. Acknowledging that everything we do matters focuses on the adult in us rather than the child. There must follow a behavioral change or at least a genuine effort; words alone are empty."  (pg. 11)

I liked this reminder and it made me think of things I see sometimes in blogs about men who cannot control their actions because women dress provocatively or, maybe not even that, women just exist and men find them irresistible.  To those who believe such things I say: grow up!

"Death confers a sense of urgency to life; the fact of death tells us that whatever we do is important, that we must not procrastinate."  (pg. 20)

Makes me wonder what I need to do before I die.

Lesson from Sarah and Abraham heeding God's word and leaving home later in life - They teach us "that we can start a new life at an advanced age, that we need not stagnate or despair as we grow old."  (pg. 24)

Good reminder as I age and feel less worthwhile.

"To me, the biblical emphasis on the barrenness of the matriarchs points out the importance of each individual to the survival of a minority community, by definition a people small in number.  By focusing on one couple's struggle to conceive, the Bible transmutes the mundane occurrence of childbirth into a momentous event and thereby reinforce the Hebrew Bible's overarching principle that each individual is uniquely formed in the Divine image. The dignity of an individual is absolute and must be respected." (pg. 35)

It is rather odd how often women in the Bible are barren especially in a culture where, to many, children basically represent your only hope of immortality.

Re: hospitality -- "So central is this precept that the book of Genesis admonishes us not once but thirty-nine times to be kind to strangers."  (pg. 57)

I thought that was pretty neat!

Concerning Rebecca and Isaac and his immediate love for her and how she comforted him after his mother's death:  "The narrator could have ended here by saying that Isaac and Rebecca lived happily ever after.  But this is the Bible, not a sequence of fairy tales designed to soothe the soul with comforting bromides.  On the contrary, the Bible is written realistically for adults and continually alerts us to the ups and downs of marriages, the rise and fall of families, as well as the virtues and flaws of the protagonists."  (pg. 61)

So true.

Remember the story of Tamar who dressed as a prostitute in order to have a child?  By her deceased husband's father, Judah?  He had shirked his lawful responsibility to her so she planned and took matters into her own hands by "do[ing] her homework, keep[ing] her focus on her goals, and think[ing] creatively and constructively on how to achieve them."   The author notes that "the biblical scribes treat Tamar's resourcefulness and defiance of convention with dignity and sympathy. Her story affirms that a single human being is able to make a profound difference to history, even if that person is 'only a woman,' an outsider, [she was Canaanite], and one of society's least powerful members. Tamar deploys imagination and initiative to control her own destiny rather than waiting for a miracle or resigning herself to perpetual servitude.  The Bible lauds and rewards her courage because they serve a goal larger than her own immediate welfare: the preeminent biblical values of family and continuity."  (pg. 115)

Note: Tamar's line went on to produce King David and still further Jesus Christ. She is one of the only women mentioned by name in the genealogy given in the book of Matthew.

About those who blame Delilah for Samson's fall - This "is similar to blaming Eve for Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Neither Adam nor Samson is forced ... Both are free moral agents responsible for the actions they take. Depicting men as weak-kneed victims of female machinations only serves to infantilize them and to deprive them of personal responsibility and accountability."  (pg. 128)

See my note above about growing up.

Hagar - first woman to whom an angel appeared

Michal - only woman in the Bible said to have fallen in love with a man; perhaps as the daughter of a king, her wishes were taken into account more than a common woman's would have been

Abigail - her "plea to David is the Hebrew Bible's longest single quotation attributed to a woman" (pg. 157)

I thought those were neat tidbits and wanted to share.

"The story of David and Bathsheba is a prime example of the Bible's 'tough love' approach to life. The Bible acknowledges that humans are both vulnerable and fallible, but it also holds us responsible for our actions. It teaches us that sexual behavior must be subordinate to a tradition of moral and ethical beliefs, and that lying to cover up sexual or other misdeeds is wrong. When David flouts this rule of life, the consequences of his behavior impinge on the lives of his children and bring misery and loss into his private life." (pg. 176)

This is what I mean when I say that I try to learn from the examples within the Bible. I don't use David as an excuse for having an affair. On the contrary, I realize God sees what I do and there are consequences - even for a king!

And since I'm a queen...heheheh, well? ;)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rosenblatt on the Bible's Presentation of Polygamy

See introductory post on this book, After the Apple by Naomi Harris Rosenblatt.

The author notes polygamy and the fact that this is a polygamous society a number of times throughout the book. 

From chapter 1 when God creates one woman for Adam's partner, she writes, "Another point the Bible suggests is that monogamy is more rewarding than polygamy. God creates one, not multiple, companions for Adam. Anthropologists tell us that men are generally polygamously inclined in consequence of a genetic drive to procreate whenever the opportunity arises. Yet it seems to me that by creating just one woman for the sole man the story is telling us that monogamy is the preferred state and that men need to curb, tame, and control their instinctive sexual drive.  Monogamous marriage has been referred to by the psychologist Ned Gaylin as 'the institution for civilizing' sexuality.  The Bible suggests that human beings are most nurtured by deep and lasting emotional relationships and the more we put into a relationship the more we get out of it.  Multiple or serial relationships dilute the intensity that a monogamous relationship can develop because it concentrates the emotional, sexual, and intellectual aspects of human beings into a single focus. Each time we read of a biblical polygamous family, we read of suffering and pain."  (pg. 6)

In the chapter of Jacob with his wives Leah and Rachel -- "In this story the Bible demonstrates a preference for monogamy by detailing the miseries of polygamy. Polygamy is shown to encourage rivalry among multiple wives to gain the single husband's sexual and emotional attention, to have the most children, to receive the most kudos, and to gain the most favor for their children...Modern men may fantasize about a plethora of available women, but the Bible depicts polygamous men as forced to deal with the politics and rivalry among their wives and their children, a rivalry that often extends into the next generations. It offers the sobering suggestion that the husbands (such as Jacob with Rachel, Abraham with Sarah, and Elkanah with Hannah) endured unhappy domestic lives because they had to deal with the misery and suffering of many women..."  (pg. 91)

Through the laws of their days, Leah and Rachel each owned a servant given to them by their father. And as permitted in their times, they could give their servants to their husband in order to have children through the servants. Thus Jacob not only dealt with the politics of sleeping with his own wives, but was told by those wives to sleep with their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, in order to have more children for Jacob.  (Rachel was barren at this time so Bilhah was the only way she could have children.)  (pg. 97)

You'll also recall Sarah came up with the plan to have children through her servant Hagar since she was barren and she decided to take matters into her own hands and have children through Hagar. Of course that all backfired and got rather ugly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hebrew Bible and Women

First library book finished...just a few notes for now. I need to watch NCIS.

In the back of the book there is a ten question conversation with the author, Naomi Harris Rosenblatt. I especially enjoyed the author's answer to question 8 about the most important thing she wanted people to know about these women in After the Apple and what biggest misconception she wanted to dispel.

First, I would like to challenge the widespread notion that the women of the Hebrew Bible were timid and crushed under a harsh patriarchal boot. After the Apple demonstrates that, on the contrary, these women used their power as women; they seduced, they challenged, they subverted authority, to work everyday miracles in a male dominated culture.

Second, to refute once and for all the widespread notion of Eve as an underhanded seductress.  (pg. 268)

"In piecing together a book that is both a history of a people and its moral code, the Hebrew Bible esteems women who refuse to surrender to misfortune but marshal whatever resources they have available to defy what others view as inescapable fate. ... [She then mentions Ruth and Tamar's ways of making themselves part of the family after being widowed.] These women are alert to the rare appearance of opportunities for them to achieve justice, and they have the courage to act on their convictions."  (pg. 233)

"What I find particularly intriguing about the women is that most of them circumvent male authority in a patriarchal society, and some even subvert it.  Even more remarkable is the fact that the women, other than Jezebel, are never punished for their unconventional conduct.  On the contrary, the biblical scribes treat the women with deep sympathy, and are sensitive to their plight." Most are even "rewarded for their boldness." (pg. 255)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here are my library books, colorful sack and notebook! Whee!

In yesterday's post I mentioned a trip to the library. Here are the books I checked out. You can even see the colorful sack that I took along with me and filled. OK, so it was only 7 books. It sure seemed like more!  :)

Also you can see page one of my list of books to look for at the library. These are all books they have at one of the local branches per the website search feature.  I have title, author, reference number, which branch of the library has the book and even a place for when I read it.  Sometimes I even note where I heard about the book (e.g., Bridget's blog, footnote in book).

Nerd I am.

Two of these were on my list; the others just made it to my house somehow.

Any guesses which two were on my list?

Click photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ollie's, Library, Jesus

Today I went to the Grand Opening of a new store in town, Ollie's. It's kind of like Big Lots. Has a lot of close-out stuff or slightly irregular products at cheaper prices than if you found them in other stores in pristine condition. I usually avoid crowded stores, but I was just in the mood to go so I did.  They have a books section that I checked out with interest.  An older couple was browsing in the same area and the husband walked away with a laugh saying he didn't need to get any more.  He had 2 or 3 books in his hands already. I talked with them briefly and joked about his library. Good-natured stuff.  I started to go back to looking and the man requested permission to ask me something "rather personal." I didn't mind and told him "sure." 

"Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"

I smiled broadly and assured him I did.

He then grinned and held out his hand to shake mine, "Glad to meet you, sister." 

Hehehe...I thought that was cute. 

And, no, I am not offended.  You care for my soul?  Thank you very much!  I mean that for people of any religion who care enough for my soul to share their faith. 


I was down to half a book left to read from my quest to read all my books so I treated myself to A TRIP TO THE LIBRARY!!!!!!!!!  When I read books, sometimes I notice in the footnotes a book that seems interesting. First I'll look online to see if my library has it. If not, I resort to Amazon.com and my Wishlist.  I keep a notebook of the library books I may want to check out and I took it with me today.

I found a few from my list and - as always - a few not from the list that just, you know the drill: jumped off the shelves into my arms.

*tsk*  Naughty books.

I'm glad I took my reusable bag to carry them all. I had a sack of books!


You know that verse in Luke about Jesus coming to seek and save that which was lost?  I figured out this week part of that must be relationships.  He came to seek relationships and restore them. And the more I see people having problems within families - mothers rejecting daughters; fathers abandoning families; children rebelling - the more I see the wonderfulness of this aspect of Jesus.

Thank you, God, for your willingness to heal relationships!

More and more I see the value in whole relationships. It's really awful to be at odds with people who should be bound by love.

Wouldn't it be nice to just sit around, enjoy your family and have peace?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Christianity in the ancient world

The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark -- a few more notes; see this post for a brief introduction to this book written from a sociologist's perspective and his attempt at answering the question:

"How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge classical paganism and become the dominant faith of Western civilization?"

These are just some random notes of things that interested me. Sorry if they are too rambling and make little sense apart from the context within the book.

The author claims "a primary cause of low fertility in the Greco-Roman world was a male culture that held marriage in low esteem.  One hundred thirty two years before Christ, a Roman censor "proposed that the senate make marriage compulsory because so many men, especially in the upper classes, preferred to stay single."  Stark adds that men in that world "found it difficult to relate to women."  (pg. 117)

Ha!  I think.

Some reasons why Christianity rose / "women's improved status in the Christian subculture"  -- The author discussed other reasons some having to do with more Christians surviving the devastating epidemics, but one of my favorite chapters had to deal with the role of women.

1. Christians prohibited infanticide. Thus more women were allowed to live. Women have children and Christian women often raised their children as Christians.

2.  Christianity condemned divorce, incest, marital infidelity and polygamy

3. While pagans also "prized female chastity," Christians extended this by rejecting the "double standard that gave pagan men so much sexual license" ;  Christian men were urged to remain virgins until marriage and extra-marital sex was condemned as adultery.

4. Widowed women were not forced to remarry (Augustus fined them if they didn't remarry within two years); Women who remarried lost their inheritance as it became the property of her new husband

5. There is evidence that Christian women married later (we're talking more marrying closer to 18 rather than 12 or 14) in greater numbers than pagan women.

6. Christians rejected abortion and there were apparently a lot of women who died due to bad abortions back then.  Sadly, many of them were forced to abort by their husbands/lovers since women were property of men.

He also discusses the role of women within a Christian marriage based on the writings of Paul. The author notes, however, that later Christian leaders showed a more patriarchal view (reflective of the culture) that Paul did not (the author believes Paul's thoughts of marriage show more "symmetry of the relationship."  see I Cor. 7:2ff).  He also says Paul's thoughts of women within the Church were more favorable than the surrounding culture.  The author notes Paul addressed 18 men and 15 women by name in the book of Romans, and Paul speaks of women deacons* and such like Priscilla who taught others.

* That the King James Version chose to use the word "servant" rather than "deaconess," the author says is reflective of 17th century sexism rather than what Paul truly wrote. Deacons and deaconesses in Paul's day "assisted at liturgical functions and administered the benevolent and charitable activities of the church."  (pg. 108)

The author talked of the role mercy and love played in this ancient culture which deemed mercy and pity as "defects of character to be avoided by all rational men." (pg. 212)  "Plato had removed the problem of beggars from his ideal state by dumping them over its borders." During epidemics when many people fled to the countryside, Christians often stayed and cared for the sick.   Though he loathed the Christians, emperor Julian is reported to have "complained in a letter to the high priest of Galatia in 362 that the pagans needed to equal the virtue of Christians, for recent Christian growth was caused by their 'moral character, even if pretended,' and by their 'benevolence toward strangers and care for the graves of the dead.' ... 'The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.'" (pg. 84)

As stated in my introductory post, some things in this book were a bit too technical for my non-sociologist brain. But many things were of great interest since I tend to enjoy cultural tidbits.  My favorite chapters dealt with epidemics in the ancient world and the people's responses to it, the role of women especially how Christian women differed from pagan women and the chapter on "urban chaos and crisis" where the author described ancient cities to such a degree that I felt the misery of living there even if it were only in my imagination.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jews, Hispanics, Chosenness, DNA, Lost Tribes, Sheep & More

So I'm reading a new book that's been on my shelf for about a year when Amber had her last giveaway.  The title Abraham's Children sounded rather interesting when I selected it, but it's about 400 pages and I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest a lot of time in something that talks about, well, the subtitle is Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People so...?  But in my quest to read books on my own bookshelf before submerging myself in library book bliss, I picked it up the other night. And found for the most part that I liked it. Now there are bits in it that, eh, I really don't care about, but since I find the Jewish question (for me that is race or religion?) of interest, it's been a good read.

Some highlights for me thus far. (I'm on page 242.) 

According to the author, Jon Entine, a "bar mitzvahed and confirmed" Reform Jew who lost his faith when his mother died of ovarian cancer in his teen years ...

1.  For most Europeans of Jewish ancestry, "lineage trumped faith" or as Hannah Arendt put it, "'Believing in his own chosenness without believing in Him who chooses.'" (pg. 17)

2.  The Bible is probably an account written by the religious Judeans (of the southern kingdom which includes Jerusalem) looking down on the "infidel" north, Israel where those ten tribes were "lost"  (pg. 103ff); "In writing their history, the surviving pastoral nomads of Judea combined fragments of the truth with liberal doses of political propaganda."  (pg. 105)

3. The Hasmonean campaign "resulted in the absorption of more gentiles into Judaism than any Jewish government or social movement in history" (pg. 116); Gentiles were killed or forced to convert.

4.  Re: Jesus -- "While the imprint of Judaism could still be found in the genes, Christianity came to be centered in the soul.  It is a momentous fracturing of the tradition of tribal ancestry as the defining component of Jewishness. For the followers of Jesus, henceforth faith would take precedence over scripture and ancestry." (pg. 119)

5.  Re: The Lost Tribes -- The fact that "some Christians believe that almost all Asians are of Semitic ancestry" traces back to a 19th century Scottish missionary who said Shem's ancestors "escaped to the east during the Assyrian debacle" wandering all the way to Korea, China and Japan.  This part made me laugh:  "What was his proof?  The sheep he came across in Asia looked eerily like the breed of sheep from Palestine and sold in Smithfield market in London!" (pg. 162)


I enjoyed some of the stories of groups such as the Lemba in Great Zimbabwe and even Hispanics in North America and their connections to the Jews.  Sometimes DNA was used to prove or disprove a supposed connection.  Some Mexican-American Catholics found their historical ties to Judaism compelling enough that they formally converted to Judaism. (Many of these had ancestors who most likely fled Spain during the Inquisition.)  On the other hand some with newly-found ancestral Jewish ties chose to keep Jesus as the Messiah, but also observe some Jewish religious practices such as a Sabbath day service because of "'all the Sephardim went through.'" (pg. 193)

I also liked the story of the LDS church trying to prove the Native Americans as Lamanites, those cursed by God with dark skin due to their rebellion. Apparently DNA didn't work in their favor on that project and one Mormon anthropologist had the integrity to say their insistence on trying to prove this is "tantamount 'to claiming the earth is flat'" and that "'Many people would like to see the LDS Church publicly acknowledge that it is no longer appropriate to label Native Americans as Lamanites or heathen Israelites.'" (pg. 147)

There is more, but this post is too long!  Perhaps I'll share a few more notes later.

Did you learn anything new from this? Anything highly suspect as not true? Please share your thoughts!  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jesus: Confronting Racism in His Hometown

Have you ever had the kind of relationship where things were going really well as far as you could tell? Outwardly things were great. You were praised for your intelligence and tolerance. You were well-liked.  You were thought of as amazingly sweet and witty and merciful.

So you didn't want to rock the boat by bringing up anything negative.  Like the fact your friend generalized all Muslims as women-hating terrorists or referred to Christians as unclean or Jews as apes. Maybe she used offensive words to describe black people or the Mexican family living down the street.

You wanted to bask in the glow of knowing you were charming.

It's not your place to confront people and challenge them on their bad traits after all.  How intolerant would that be?

Luke tells this story about Jesus.

 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
   18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 

So far, so good.  Jesus returned to his hometown, spoke in the synagogue and amazed his people.  Why did he not sit there, bask in their affirming words and share a smile with his mother who was probably beaming with pride at her son?

He'd had his say. He'd gotten their attention. He'd made himself known. Was there any need to continue? To challenge them..with this...?

 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
   24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. 

My gracious, what just happened?! 

Why did the hometown crowd go from being amazed by Jesus' gracious words to wanting to throw him off the cliff?  What was so offensive about bringing up the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian?

Was Jesus confronting racism?  If so, why was this important? What possible good could have come out of his deliberate stirring up this Nazarene crowd?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Book and Blogs, Lack of Women and White Folks, Bible Stuff and Single Moms (though married)

Ah, I have so much on my mind, but don't know where to start. Some days I go through droughts with not much worth sharing, but then I go through, um, spouts where I have too much. It's not that stuff I want to share is oh-so-fascinating especially to you, but it's just thoughts that come to mind. So maybe this post should just briefly mention those things and maybe I'll "flesh 'em out" in later posts if the mood strikes.

I started a new book, The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. He's not a historian, but a sociologist and he's trying to answer the question about Christianity's rise from that perspective. It's slightly technical at times when he gets into the arithmetic part, but I am enjoying much of the cultural tidbits very much!  His main question is this:  "How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge classical paganism and become the dominant faith of Western civilization?" He explores such things as primary (often women) and secondary (often their husbands) conversions, social networks, epidemics, status of women, fertility, conversion of Jews being higher than we think, Christians being from all social groups not only slaves.  Well, those are the ones I've read about so far. I'm about halfway through the book.

Just a bit ago I read some interesting facts about the declining birthrate and how the Roman Empire was giving incentives to men who would father at least three children.  The Roman Empire so very much needed its citizens to have higher fertility rates that many emperors imposed "political and financial sanctions upon childless couples, upon unmarried women over the age of twenty, and upon unmarried men over the age of twenty-five."  Perhaps if their male to female ratio were not 131 to 100 due to infanticide (killing mostly unwanted female infants), this would not have been such a problem.

The declining birthrate thing reminded me of this post Why Tanning, Barbie and God Forbid Belgian Chocolate May Disappear In the Future? by a Jordanian-Syrian man living in the United States. If you don't want to read the post, it's so titled because of the declining rate of white people in the world.  There is a reason places like Germany are inviting other nationalities into the country to study basically free of charge. 

By the way, that blog is one that I started reading this week and have found most interesting.  I especially love when Malik shares cultural tidbits from both the US and Arab world. I enjoyed reading his Arab perspective on the 4th of July, for instance.

Another blog about a serious topic is this new one by a Jordanian who is speaking out about childhood sexual abuse.  Visit Mohammed's blog here and lend him your support if you wish.

In other news, I was reading through Luke 2-4 recently and kept getting stopped by patterns I was noticing.  And then today I started rereading some things in those chapters and ended up visiting Deuteronomy and Exodus and three places in Isaiah because my Bible had links back to those places.  I was reminded again that I love Isaiah 40 and need to read it more often.

Note to self: write a post about Luke 4:14-30 and why Jesus didn't just leave well enough alone.  They liked him and were amazed by him so why challenge them to the extent they want to throw you off a cliff?

Random thought that came to mind as I was driving the other day:  I think I'd heard a story about single parenting and how many children are growing up in poverty due to mainly a lack of fathers. Then my mind went to polygynous families and how even if you have only one other wife, you've perhaps made your wives single mothers half the time.  I guess unless you live with both wives and all the children in one household. But for those men who have two separate households and maybe spend one week with Jane and her kids following by a week with Cara and her kids...that reminds me of the children I've always felt sorry for because their divorced parents had joint custody meaning they had to live one week at mom's followed by one week at dad's.  I assume the children get used to it, but it seemed rather dreadful to me.  Only with polygyny, it's the man of the householdS who must move from place to place.

Which lead me to wonder if that's OK really.  After all what is the father's role besides providing for his family?  If he is providing for Jane and her kids sufficiently why not also have a life with Cara and her kids if he can provide materialistically for them just the same?

QUESTION FOR YOU:  What roles did your father/grandfather have in your household? What about your husbands and adult brothers? The men in your life? Are they only useful for fathering children and then providing for them? Or do they have other roles that would be missed if they were gone 50% of the time to non-work-related things? Granted I know even in monogamous relationships, fathers can essentially make their wives into single mothers because they work too many hours or they pursue too many hobbies outside the household. Too much golf or fishing or maybe even just sitting in front of the television while the wife does all the child-rearing stuff.

The only other thing on my mind is remnants and I'll not talk about that now since this post is long and rambling enough.

Hope all are well!  And, can it be that Zach is ten weeks old today?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Last Notes and Lessons Learned from Stories of Jews in Muslim Lands

Last notes from In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands by Martin Gilbert.

I finished the book! Ah, what an interesting read.  Definitely a side of the story I'd never heard especially the part pertaining to how the Jews were treated in Muslim lands leading up to and after Israel was created. What a mess!  Several times I got the impression that Arabs were simply frustrated at the British presence (like in Egypt) and angered by the creation of Israel so they took out their hostility on the local Jews. It is no different than Americans' mistreatment of Japanese living in the United States during World War II and blaming American Muslims for the sins of Al Qaeda or a rogue Muslim extremist. Or even our bombing of Iraq for what 19 mostly Saudi nationals did on 9/11. It's sad that the human race is such that we take out our wrath on innocent people when we feel injustice has taken place and we are lusting for revenge or dignity or whatever term we use to justify "making someone pay!"

Yesterday's post left off with Iraq and since then I've read about Egypt and the 1954 Lavon Affair in which the Israeli intelligence agency along with at least one Israeli Government Minister tried to implicate the Muslim Brotherhood in acts of terror!  "The plan was to have Israeli agents explode bombs against Egyptian, American and British targets while at the same time making the attacks look like a Muslim Brotherhood operation."  (pg. 253)  I suppose you can guess that this plan's failure only increased the difficulty for Egyptian Jews.

Oh, and also in my last post I talked about the Arab mistreatment of Jews only bolstered Israel, right?  If his stats are correct, the author states around 75% of the immigrants to Israel were from Muslim countries and not Europe where (I am assuming) the root of the problem started!  Weird how that works.  Interesting tidbit: even though the white, 'westernized' Jews make up only around a quarter of the Jewish population in Israel, most all of the big-time leaders have been from this group. The author said the Ashkenazis often looked at Jews from Arab countries - the Sephardi - as "primitive" and "fit mainly for manual labour and domestic service."  (pg. 311)  Racism exists from Jews towards Jews. Imagine.

Also I wondered yesterday why Arab countries would allow so many Jews to leave for Israel. Well continuing the book, I found not all of them did. Syria, for example, basically trapped their Jewish population for decades.  Finally in the 1990s after much international pressure, President Hafez al-Assad agreed that "all 3,886 Jews in Syria were free to leave -- for anywhere but Israel."  (pg. 308)  Some Arab countries were similar in not allowing travel to Israel while others like Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco seemed fine with it.

The last chapter discussed the roughly 50,000 Jews still living in Muslim lands today. Many of those are in Iran, by the way. (Jews in Persia predate Christianity and Islam.) The ones that made me smile most were stories of the one Afghan Jew who stays because he wants to represent the Jewish culture that was there for a thousand years and the three Jews, the Pinchas family, in Kamishli, Syria.  Also I think it's cute that two Jews are registered to vote in Sidon, Lebanon.


Here are two final stories I wanted to share.  One good, one bad. They represent to me much of the last half of the book which dealt with quite a bit more of modern Jewish/Muslim history than I recall from Zachary Karabell's book last year.  (Karabell seemed to detail more of the older history while this book dealt more with modern times.)

After some problems in Egypt between the Muslims who took out their anger for the creation of the State of Israel on local Jews ...

"In spite of the return to order, an Egyptian Arab wrote a revealing letter to the Bourse Ć©gyptienne newspaper on July 22: 'It would seem that most people in Egypt are unaware of the fact that among Egyptian Moslems there are some who have white skin,' he wrote.  'Every time I board a tram I see people pointing at me and saying "Jew, Jew."  I have been beaten more than once because of this.  For that reason I humbly beg that my picture (enclosed) be published with an explanation that I am not Jewish and that my name is Adham Mustafa Galeb.'"  (pg. 225)

YET ...

"Amidst all the political turmoil, incitement and violence, relations between Muslims and Jew were still possible.  In the Aboukir internment camp, Egyptian-born Abraham Matalon met the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, who had also been imprisoned.  'At first,' Matalon remembered later, 'I didn't know he was a member. We embraced, and we started meeting every day.  He said he wanted to learn Hebrew, and I wanted to learn Koran, so this is how we spent our time. I wanted to have a dialogue with the Muslims, and they loved me for it!  I did the call to prayer in the camp and the soldiers admired it, they even answered me.  And they knew I was a Zionist, but they did not manifest any attitudes against me. They said we are friends in life. When you come to talk to your enemy, you see that he is a different person, you can see his human side."  (pg.221)

Perhaps we can learn lessons from the stories I shared from this book.  Thoughts?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jews in Muslim Lands and the Creation of Israel: "They did not wish to be dhimmis any more. Finally they had a choice."

Some more notes from In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands by Martin Gilbert.  Now we're getting into the section on World War II, the creation of the State of Israel and the aftermath of that.

So we've seen Muslims and Jews actually got along quite well at times.  In those instances as long as the Jews kept their respectful stance as dhimmis, most often problems did not exist. After a time, however, this all changed and problems happened in places where Jews had thrived for years such as Iraq.  One former Iraqi administrator, Abraham Elkabir, "later reflected - while living in Israel - on what went wrong" between Muslims and Jews.  "He traced Muslim hostility to three factors:

1.  "the Palestine issue"
2.  "the Mufti of Jerusalem's campaign in Iraq identifying Jews and Zionists"
3.   "the 'anti-Semitic tendencies' of the British officials and other Westerners in Iraq"  (pg. 193)

Chapters 12 and 13 also mention Nazi Germany influencing Arab hatred towards the Jews.  This despite the fact Hitler's social ladder put Arabs only one step above Jews.  Wisely Hitler had this illustration deleted from the Arabic printing of his book Mein Kampf since he wanted Arab help.


Observation: Part of the problem with Zionism is that it was in conflict with rising Arabism. So was this all a soured competition between nationalities?

COMPARE this thought ...

"The Muslim world, inspired by Arab nationalism but inflamed by Jewish nationalism, still considered Palestine as an Arab country and part of the Muslim patrimony, in which Jews could live only as a subject people." (pg. 201)

with this one:

"The imminent prospect of a National Home had given the Jews a sense of pride and a hope for a secure future. Jews would no longer have to put up with being second-class citizens, but that was how the Muslims among whom they lived considered them:  the eternal, born dhimmis, subject to one form or another of the Covenant of Omar." (pg. 205)

So was the problem that Islamic faith said Jews were God-ordained to a certain role that Jews no longer were willing to play?


I found this fact very interesting and wondered how I should weigh it in considering the whole Palestine/Israel issue.

"Between 1922 and 1939 more Arabs had entered Palestine than Jews. These were Muslim immigrants including many illegals, from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Syria - as well as from Transjordan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. These immigrants were drawn to Palestine by its opportunities for work and its growing prosperity - opportunities and prosperity often created by the Jews there. In 1948 many of these Arab immigrants were to be included in the statistics of 'Palestinian' Arab refugees."  (pg. 175)

So much for all the Palestinians living on ancestral lands for centuries, huh?  I'm sure many had, but not these 20,000+ who came only in the twentieth century from other Arab lands.


The Partition problem also caused conflict in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood "called for the reintroduction of the dhimmi laws, which had been repealed by Egypt's Mohammad Ali dynasty a century earlier, allowing both Egyptian society and Egyptian Jewry to flourish."  (pg. 213)

Several times Arab suspicion of the Jewish communities giving money to Zionist organizations was noted. It seemed most Arab countries at this time simply wanted to make sure their Jewish populations didn't support the creation of a Jewish state and they wanted the Jews to renounce Zionism, declare their loyalty to their countries (whether Iraq or Morocco or Libya) and definitely not financially support any Jewish agencies which might work to relocate Jews to Palestine.  This reminds me of today in the United States where many Muslim "charities" are under suspicion for supporting what the United States deems as terrorist organizations.  If you want to support the Palestinians by giving to any charity with ties to Hamas or Hezbollah, forget it. 

And people here often want Muslims to show their loyalty to the United States. It seems some are suspicious of Muslim ties to that mysterious worldwide ummah.


The last chapter I finished was about Iraq from 1948 to1952.  One Jewish man put the reason why his family left, "because of 'hostility at a popular level to the new State of Israel' - not due to any official Iraqi discrimination or expulsion.'"  (pg. 243) It's as if the Arab people hated Israel so much that they took out their frustrations on the local Jewish populations which caused most of them to flee.  The author noted by the end of 1951, over 113,500 Jews had left Iraq legally while 6,000 remained.  When Jews left Iraq they had to surrender all but a small amount of money so a few Jews decided to stay.

What I find ironic to consider is
that European Jews discriminated against and hurt so much by the Holocaust and preceding years (and years) understandably wanted to flee Europe for the newly created Israel where they felt safe.  Most Arabs throughout the region hated this new creation so they took out their wrath on the Jewish people in their countries. Which, in turn, made those Jews want to leave.  So many Arab countries let them leave -- for Israel!  Which to me makes little sense. If you are wanting to destroy this newly-created entity, why bolster it with more people?  Especially Jewish people who seem to have an innate ability to thrive wherever God puts them?

I think I see more clearly why many Palestinians feel abandoned by other Arabs and why they are cynical of Arab nations truly wanting to aid them. If anything, Palestine and Palestinians have been used as a rallying point for some Muslims who are trying to unite a fragmented ummah. But has real effort taken place to do anything? Or is it mostly talk?  Arabs have often blamed their dictatorial leaders so we'll have to see if this Arab Spring - and new leaders coming to power - makes any difference for the Palestinian refugees.

All that said, it does not change the fact that I detest how Israel treats the Palestinians. I find it very shameful that people who have suffered so much over the centuries could, in turn, show they can be just as evil now that they are in superior positions. One would hope the human population would learn lessons from history, but that seems too difficult.

Thoughts? Corrections?  Please share!

(see the two previous posts for more information on this book)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lesson from a Brave Muslimah & Stories of Jews in Muslim Lands

Besides the subject of Muhammad's example of how to treat Jews, here's a sampling of some of the topics discussed in this book's first 200 pages. There are some encouraging stories at the end of this post!

In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands  by Martin Gilbert


The Fatimids for the most part treated the Jews well enough. Until Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah came on the scene destroying all synagogues and churches and giving Jews and Christians the "choice of conversion to Islam or departure from the countries under his rule."  A year before his death, however, he changed his mind and synagogues could be built and Jews could practice their religion again.  The lesson from al-Hakim: "although the dhimmi laws made room for both persecution and protection, their effect was decided by the temperament, religious zeal and personal caprice of Muslim rulers." (pg. 38)

The author notes Caliph al-Hakim likely had mental issues so ...


Chapter 4 -- Jews thrived in Spain under Muslim rule for a time and even held high positions. I think it was here that a Jewish man commanded a Muslim army until someone got jealous.  Yet later a Muslim tribe from North Africa the Almohads or "Unitarians" (for the unity of God) came into the region and they were much less tolerable. Either convert to Islam or leave.  (Throughout the book so far, I am amazed at how often Jewish people are forced to move from one place to another. Reminds me of reading the biblical tale of the Jews wandering in the desert.)

It was during the Almohads rule that the great Jewish scholar Maimonides lived.  In fact he outwardly converted to Islam.  "He advised his fellow Jews: 'Utter the formula' - of conversion -'and live.'"  A footnote says, "Maimonides was echoing Deuteronomy 31:19: 'I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.'"  (pg. 56)

Moses influencing the Jews in a convert-or-die situation!


Page 64 records how Jews flourished in Baghdad and assisted in its construction,

yet page 66 records how in Fez, Muslim leaders realized the Jews' conversions to Islam were insincere and devised special clothing and "degrading costume" for all Jewish men who supposedly had converted to Islam.


The book records "brief glimmers of light whenever Muslim nobles intervened on behalf of the Jews" (against common folks who testified against the Jews) yet also sad times when Jewish children were given to Muslim families enabling "authorities to take advantage of a particular Islamic theological position - fitra - that maintained that all males were born Muslims, and that they became Jews or Christians only because of the education received from their non-Muslim parents." (pg. 67)

The author notes Ibn  Aqnin who said many Muslims believed they would gain "considerable reward from Allah" for taking children from Jews and Christians.

God-sanctioned kidnapping is sad.


The Mamluks were not kind to Jews in Egypt, yet the Jews in the Persian city of Shiraz did pretty well.  (pg. 71)

At times the Jews lent aid to Muslims in fighting Christians.  (pg. 72) And when the Jews were expelled from Christian Europe, they were welcomed and protected in Muslim lands (pg. 76).

The Ottoman Empire was good for Jews suffering not only in Christian lands, but also in other Muslim lands such as Yemen. Jews from those places found refuge for the most part among the Ottomans.  (pg. 82)



What I like about the book is that the author will be sharing how awful Jews were treated by a Muslim mob...well, I don't like those stories, but I will be thinking how wrong it all is and then...ah, hope!  Then he will start a new paragraph sharing how individual Muslims stood against the mob mentality to protect the Jews!  And I remember looking off into the distance last night hoping that if ever an angry, murderous mob were in my town that I would not be tempted to join it and do harm to others. And that I wouldn't be afraid of them and go hide and pretend they are not doing these awful things. But that I would be bold in doing right and standing up to the bullies! 

Here is one example from a Tunisian leader, Muslim ruler Muhammed al-Munsif ("known to the French as Moncef Bey"):

"When the Germans occupied Tunisia at the end of 1942, Moncef Bey summoned his senior officials to his palace and told them: 'The Jews are having a hard time but they are under our patronage and we are responsible for their lives.  If I find out that an Arab informer caused even one hair of a Jew to fall, this Arab will pay with his life.'"  (pg. 181)

In Baghdad Jews found favor and help from the Mayor, Arshad al-Umari who rid the city of Yunis al-Sabawi who wanted to target Jewish houses and shops. (pg. 189)

Later in Adhamiya north of Baghdad when anti-Jewish fervor spread, Mordechai Ben-Porat told this story from when he was just 18 years old.  "'Armed with vicious tools such as axes, knives and all manner of sticks and clubs,'" he could "hear very clearly 'their strident voices and calls on Allah to sanction their murder of Jews.'"  His family "barricaded themselves into their home and climbed up to their roof to see what was happening....'I watched as our "good" Moslem neighbours, living on the opposite side of the street, those to whom mother would offer occasional savoury dishes from her kitchen participated in the general madness: they guided the raving attackers to our front door.'" 

I noted after reading one such tale how horrible it is that people who for years got along, lived together and were friendly, good neighbors would turn their backs on that in the name of religion and politics and nationalism!  It's so sad to see a root of bitterness allowed to grow into a cancer of destruction, isn't it?

But here is the good part of this particular story.  Ben-Porat continues:  "But at the very moment when the mob reached [his] house, the wife of another Muslim neighbour, Colonel Taher Mohammed Aref, stopped them from proceeding. Holding one of her husband's guns and a hand grenade, she 'stood facing the menacing crowd. ... Her determination and show of arms convinced them of her serious intent and they retreated.'  Ben-Porat never forgot this woman's actions: 'It was an act of bravery and left an indelible impression on my mind.'"  (pg. 191)

I want to be brave like this unnamed woman who stood up against the mob to do the right thing!   Even when that mob was her people of her faith and the ones being defended were not.


Thoughts?  Corrections? Please have your say in the comments!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gilbert on Muhammad and the Jews

So the other day I started reading In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands, a gift I received for my birthday.  I recall this being one of those recommended by Amazon.com after it saw other books I had viewed.  I think at the time I was interested in Jewish life and the treatment of Jews while living among Muslims because Zachary Karabell's book, Peace Be Upon You, (one of my favorites from 2010), made me better understand coexistence is possible...and there was historical proof for it having happened.  People who say Muslims and Jews have never gotten along since the days of Isaac and Ishmael and Muslims have always persecuted the Jews and what we see of Muslim Arab hatred for Israel is only proof of that aren't entirely truthful.

So I put this book on my Wishlist thinking perhaps one day I'd order it. At least it was on the list as a reminder. Fast forward to birthday 2011 and I received it from a thoughtful friend!  Having just finished a book pretty much detailing why Islam is so awful (a book I'd had for a couple years and decided to finally read in my quest to read books I have here instead of checking out more library books), I was weary of another Muslim-bashing book and when I found out the author, Martin Gilbert, was Jewish, I thought, "Oh no! This isn't like Karabell's book at all!"  But then I started reading and overall have found it fair.  (I've read about 150 pages with about 200 to go.)

In all honesty, I've heard the Muslim side of some of these stories.  I've read enough Muslim-leaning blog posts and snippets from books and articles and talked to Samer enough to have heard the justification given for Muhammad's treatment of Jews.  And I'd often thought it seemed fair enough. He was asked to be the leader or mediator guy in Medina and when the Jews broke their commitment, covenant, signed agreement (whatever!), they were punished.  Martin Gilbert didn't present those stories in the same manner. In fact it was after reading the short chapter on Muhammad and the Jews that I had my "Oh no!" reaction.  He described more of a cleansing of Arabia or a moving out of the Jews for the sake of the Arab Muslims which made me think of modern-day Palestine in reverse. He did say Muhammad initially seemed OK with the Jews, but his later response changed when the Jews refused to accept him as a prophet.  *shrug* I don't know the true story of what happened.  But at least now I've heard two sides of the story, right?

He didn't totally condemn Muhammad, by the way. In fact he concluded the chapter with "Throughout the centuries to follow, Muslims had to decide in their relations with the Jews whether to see them as cursed people, or as a people protected by Islam.  Mohammed's example gave them ample reason to take either view.  Although he had protected Jews living under dhimmi status and granted them religious freedom, he had also subjugated them and punished them severely."  (pg. 26)  Based on what I know of the story from Muslim, Jewish and secular sources that seems pretty accurate. Maybe this author didn't tell the whole story of how bad the Jews were and why they deserved the "severe" punishment and how it was par for the course at that time in history and even seemed OK with other Jewish tribes. I think he didn't represent that point of view quite fairly. Or maybe that is the Muslim side of things coming out from my memory.

I just know it seems whenever I read most any book - aside from the Bible - Jews (pre-Zionism) never do much of anything wrong.  It sincerely comes across as if they are mostly innocent victims who were just bullied by many throughout history for often made up reasons. Like they killed a Christian child to use his blood for their Passover. Or made too much money in their businesses and people were jealous of their wealth. Stuff like that.   Has that been your reading experience as well?

I may share more notes from this book later, but this post is long enough.  Share your thoughts if you'd like.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Moses, the Egyptians, Tahrir Square and Reenslaving Ourselves

Remember Tahrir Square earlier this year?  Oddly, perhaps, I thought of the Egyptian revolution several times as I read a book about Moses' influence on the United States.

"'Freedom is the right to be free, and then the obligation to accept responsibility. If you don't understand that, then ugly stuff happens. And when you do understand that, you're prepared to meet the obligations straight-on.'"   
(pg. 132)

I read this statement in America's Prophet: How the Story of Moses Shaped America.  Author Bruce Feiler was speaking with an African-American pastor about slavery and an Old Testament truth the slaves as well as other Americans had to learn.  Society is not great if you have total freedom. Anarchy is not that good.  In fact one political theorist suggests "the solution...is to voluntarily commit oneself to a new form of bondage.  To reenslave oneself."  (pg. 96)

Moses represents both.  There is the freeing of the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians (whose Hebrew name apparently means "the confining place" or "pressed in"), yet they are soon put under a code of law. The children of Israel trade bondage to Egypt (often representing "the world" in Christian talk) for divine law.

Americans took inspiration from this.  Before the Pilgrims got off the boat, they wrote the Mayflower Compact as a form of law governing them when they landed.  Though not everyone agreed to it and didn't sign on, it shows that many of them understood that total freedom was not ideal. Who is going to keep your freedom to swing your fist in check with my desire to keep my face bruise-free?  :)

According to the author, Exodus provides three things:
1.  "A language of chosenness for a beleaguered population"
2.  "A rhetoric of mission that emboldens the aggrieved people to strive for their own liberation"
3.  "A rhetoric of control that allows the newly emancipated community to rein in any tendencies toward excess" (pg. 129)

I was trying to think of these things in light of the Arab Spring since it has been so much in the news throughout 2011.  Even Egypt was included and while they were successful in ousting Mubarak, they are going through the growing pains of forming a new government and constitution. They are in that critical area of having won some freedom, but now having to curb it for the sake of not abusing minorities and just for common decency.  No one wants criminally-minded individuals to think they now have the freedom to loot and make life more chaotic.  The same is true for other countries such as Syria. Although they are still fighting that battle if, God willing, they are successful and one day free of the Assad regime, they will have to basically build a government from scratch. They will have to restrain any undesirable tendencies of those experiencing certain freedoms for the first time.

In the post where I showed off the many American Moseses, a friend mentioned that America could have chosen one of its own historical personalities instead of Moses since God provides for everyone. She stated that we didn't have to borrow from another culture.  Yet I think for some - starting with the folks on the Mayflower - they were inspired by what they read back then. Just as we may get inspiration today from scientists, artists, musicians, poets and maybe even TV personalities and sports figures, they apparently took their inspiration from the Bible.  Especially the Old Testament.

One lesson I took from this is that while the early settlers and former slaves realized they needed to "reenslave" themselves and drew inspiration from Moses, they didn't adopt Mosaic law completely.  Some aspects were relevant. No need to murder and steal and commit adultery and lie and covet.  It's always good to honor God and parents.  But as far as I know they didn't find it necessary to become Jews and adopt the no-pork-or-shrimp rule or circumcise every male child or avoid mixing fabrics and such things. They saw the Mosaic Law as good and a principle from which they could learn.  People need some guidelines in order to enjoy their freedoms.  At the same time, they realized the Mosaic Law was for the children of Israel. They were OK with adopting the spirit of Mosaic Law without binding all Americans to every little law God deemed necessary for the Jewish people.

I think this is important because society today is not the same as it was then. Sure we are humans and have human traits that have passed through time. But things do change. We have to deal with regulating vehicles on busy streets which was not an issue when most people walked.  And they had to deal with diseases such as leprosy in tougher ways than we do now that we can treat them with modern medicine.

It's a good lesson for me to realize principles are there, but they are not always applied to every generation the same way. Some things you can disregard and still honor God in how you deal with others.  Jesus gave me the impression it's really the way we treat God and others that matters the most. When you honor God and love others, you naturally will not murder, steal from, commit adultery against or lie to them.

What lessons can we learn from Moses today? What lessons might the Egyptians of 2011 - mostly Muslims and Christians who should have some fondness for Moses - learn from him to help their own country? 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Michael's take on hijab

Note: I can count on one hand the number of women wearing hijab that I've seen in my county during the entire time I've lived here which is all except the first few years of my life. Keep that in mind when you read this...and why seeing a (most likely) Muslim lady was noteworthy to me.  Oh, and Michael is my nine-year-old nephew.

Michael a few Halloweens ago covering his cuteness

Yesterday we were leaving my grandparents' apartment when I saw a lady with hijab walking with a young girl.  They, like Michael and I, were loading the car in order to leave.  Discreetly (read: without pointing) I said cheerfully, "Oh, there's a Muslim lady over there." Michael glanced across the parking lot. 

"Why isn't the little girl wearing one of those things?" he asked.

I explained that children didn't have to wear them.

"But her parents might make her when she's older?" he pondered.

"Maybe. But it's supposed to be the individual's choice."

Michael again, "I don't see why they want to cover their beauty."

I chuckled inwardly. Did he just actually say "cover their beauty"?  Where did he hear that?

I do remember when we returned from Syria over two years ago that I showed him photos from our time there. I explained about the women covering their hair and that they felt God required this of them in order to be modest.  Maybe I used that phrase back then, but that's been quite a while ago!

"Oh, you think women's hair is beautiful, huh?"

"Oh yeah...there's not much better than good hair." 

And what would I know about that?

Then we went on to discuss Muslims a little bit since he's never met any.  He said, "Don't most Muslims want to kill us?"  *groan*

I'm thinking he really needs to take a trip to Syria!

(Or at least back when I was there. Now it's in a bit of turmoil...for freedom's sake.)