Jordan Peterson Said What!?!

Do you have an opinion on Jordan Peterson? (What?!? Canadians two weeks in a row?) I’m ambivalent, having enjoyed much of the limited exposure I’ve had to him, but (to his great consternation, I’m sure) disagreed with some of his thoughts.

However, when the guy who’s been labeled “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world” releases a video called “Message to Muslims,” my head cocks to the side like a curious German Shephard puppy.

You can watch the video here. It’s six minutes long, but for people like us, probably worth the watch.

I find a couple of things worth noting:

  1. Gutsy move on Peterson’s part to produce this video. When a celebrity says something to 1.8 billion people, some will certainly love you, but with equal certainty others will call for you to be flayed.
  2. The tone of paternalism is breath-taking! Peterson offers simplistic solutions and calls Muslims to get along the same way I challenge my daughters to not fight with each other as they unload the dishwasher!

I wonder how I (and other Christians) would feel about a Muslim speaking to all of us this way? Imagining some of my response, I’m afraid it indicates I have a heart-level sense of superiority to Muslims. Dang it.

A guy I follow on Instagram, khaledbeydoun says, “This video. . . has to be one of the most condescending, tone deaf, inherently Islamophobic rants I’ve seen in some time. While sitting from his perch, it sounds as if Peterson is a parent scolding his children.”

Even the Muslims fans of Peterson seem to be distressed by this video. “Dr Peterson, I’ve been following your work for years now, and your lessons helped me process and go through a lot of challenges I had in life. However, I’m disappointed by how shallow and presumptuous this video was.”

I’m no Jordan Peterson, but I’m reminded to consider afresh the ways I think about Muslims and the language I use to both talk about and to them.

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What’s the Deal with the Star and Crescent? ☪️

Do you like Malcolm Gladwell? I do. A lot. How could you not? Cheeky, Canadian, Mennonite and a journalist who makes you think. I’m a big fan of his podcast, Revisionist History. This season he’s proposing an interesting question: If you had a magic wand and could create an experiment without regard to cost, time, ethics, etc, what would you do?

I love these sorts of questions: If someone offered to pay for a five week, five-figure vacation for you and your people, what would you do and where?

And more pointedly for Muslim Connect: What would you like to know about Muslims? What would help as you pray and pursue relationships with them? What do you wonder about or just not get? Hit reply and let me know. I want to write Muslim Connect for you!

Here’s one I wondered about and got lost this afternoon exploring: What’s up with the star and crescent that has become so closely associated with Islam?

For starters, it’s not in the Quran. Allah is not the “moon god.” And Islam generally is not big on symbols.

It seems that a crescent moon served as a symbol for the town of Byzantium. When Constantine took over, he added a star for Mary, Jesus’s mom. When the Ottomans rolled into town, they changed a lot, but they kept the symbol, landing for the most part on the familiar red with white crescent and star. It began to be used more broadly and when Turkey became a country in 1923, they made it their flag.

Now it’s found on the flags of 20 Muslim majority countries, innumerable mosques and various other things requiring a “hey, we’re Islamic” indicator. Although it is associated with Islam, it is not Islamic. Also, in the same way Muhammad is not the Muslims’ Jesus, the star and crescent do not have the intrinsic representative power of the cross.

For more, watch this engaging three and a half minute video from the mind of a Muslim.

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What Are Your Wild Weekend Plans?

Got big plans for the weekend? I’m taking our middle school youth group boys on a hike. This is my personal parallel to what’s going down for a million Muslims who are Haj-ing to Mecca this weekend.

•  We’ll both deal with hot and sweaty people.
•  There will be rock throwing in both places.
Us: Skipping stones in the river.
Muslims: Throwing rocks at Satan.
•  We’ll both fear (Hope?!) it’s a once in a lifetime experience!

As you may know, the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam; a religious pilgrimage that really has no parallel in Christianity. All Muslims, if physical and financial health allows, are required to make the trip at least once in their lives.

Muslims want to go to honor the requirement, of course, but also because forgiveness is on offer: Muhammad reportedly said, “Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene speech or do any evil deed, will go back (free of sin) as his mother bore him.”

Who doesn’t want forgiveness? I need it, and without pointing fingers or anything, I’m guessing you do too. Will you join me in praying that Muslims, those in Mecca this weekend and those who aren’t, will find the forgiveness they seek? The death and resurrection of Jesus, if sufficient for us, is also sufficient for them.

Grab this brief and well done prayer guide for Muslims on the Hajj. If you’re feeling really scrappy, share it: Forward it with this email to believers who might be interested, get the link into your church’s bulletin, or go old school and print out a few copies. Your dad and mine delights to answer our prayers.

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The First Really Mean Thing I Ever Saw

I was a little munchkin (Well, young. Never really was little!) when I first found out grownups could be mean to each other. My grandparents were taking me with them on vacation to Canada. At a stop somewhere along the way, Grandpa was frustrated with Grandma for a reason unknown to me. To demonstrate his frustration he began to drive away just after she opened the door to hop in the cab of the truck.

It wasn’t the funny tease of pulling forward two feet when your passenger reaches for the handle, but something much more sinister. I can still feel the echo of the panic I felt watching my Grandma trot along, eyes wide as she tried to get up in the truck.

She made it, and while I don’t remember, I suspect I was the only one who talked for the next few hundred miles.

We do mean stuff sometimes, don’t we? And say things designed to cut, shame and diminish others. My “everyone is stupid but me” attitude occasionally emerges in the most regrettable ways.

I don’t know what was behind my Grandpa’s uncool move. We don’t know the pain people are feeling, do we? Heck, we can’t even figure our own a lot of the time.

While I want us to passionately advocate for Muslims, and do so with the shrewdness of snakes, Jesus also says be innocent as doves. Grace to you and me both as we walk that razor edge!

My pastor recently recommended a John Stossel video about refugees and immigration. It’s smart, sharp, but not mean. I encourage you to watch it and pass it along as you see fit. I think it strikes a note near where we want to be as we invite others to love Muslims the way Jesus does.

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Fireworks: Friend or Foe?!? 🧨

I have a love/hate relationship with fireworks. If you’ve ever been in an Indian city for Diwali you might relate. Mind numbing cacophony with ‘round the clock explosions. If I lived in India, I’d definitely visit Pakistan during Diwali!

Later though, while staying in England, an amazingly kind Afghan family invited us to shoot off fireworks with them to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Two immigrant families commemorating a guy who failed to blow up Parliament: A tad surreal, but the relationship begun that night lasted the entirety of our stay.

July 4th is just around the corner and provides a plum opportunity for us to connect with Muslims.

Is there a family in, or just outside, your sphere of relationship you might reach out to with one of these invitations:

  • Hey, we’re having some friends over for food and games for the Fourth. We’d like you to join us.
  • We’re planning to attend the fireworks show down on the Riverwalk (or where ever!). Can you come with us? I’ll bring some snacks. 
  • We’re going for a short hike on Monday. If you have the day off, we’d love for you to do that with us. Will you?

Here’s what I’m considering: There are two boys in my son’s karate class named Yusef and Islam. Going out on a limb and guessing their parents are Muslim, I’m going to try to initiate a conversation with them that will lead to a July 4th visit of some sort.

Does anyone come to mind for you? If yes, let’s do it. If no, please say a prayer for the rest of us.

If you think yes, but hurdles immediately pop into your mind, please take 30 seconds and jot them down here. Maybe together we can find ways to tap the power of God so we can be the people of Jesus.

PS: Let’s continue to pray for Afghans as they wrestle with yet another tragedy. May God have mercy. 

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🧠 What Shapes Our Brains?

I so want to think I approach life based on what the Bible says and not Facebook, but I’m not sure the data supports that conviction. The Zuckerberg siren woos me in and pretty soon I’m all feisty about memes, ideas and ridiculousness that neither help me nor help me help others.

If you take a minute to consider what shapes your general thinking, as well as specifically regarding Muslims, what do you come up with?

Here’s an incomplete list of possibilities. I’m wondering for each if I should aim for an increase or decrease.

  1. Personal experience: You may have Muslim friends who are warm, funny and caring. Alternatively, you may have been shot at by a Muslim. Both leave a mark, if not physically, certainly psychologically.
  2. News: Watched, listened to, and read. Revenue driven, largely fear-based. Decreased consumption would probably benefit my relationships with Muslims.
  3. Media: Facebook, podcasts, Twitter. For me: Less Facebook, better podcasts and don’t start trolling Twitter!
  4. Books: Yes, books are media, but I want to make special note of them. I’m trying to read more and better. Some of you are amazing readers. If you’d be willing to share a book you’ve read about Muslims or connecting with them, I’d be so grateful. Let me know the title, who you think it’s for and share one great thing about it.

Writing today’s Muslim Connect has helped me decide to quit Facebook for a season. I may float out a question or idea from time to time, but I’m killing the “spurious scroll!” During a short break this morning I read a couple pages of a Bob Goff book instead of cruising Facebook. It felt like real nourishment, solid goodness, rather than another handful of digital potato chips. So I’m done, and telling you to help seal the deal! Let me know if you’d like to join me in this. If you’ve already kicked Facebook to the curb, just smile smugly and wonder what took me so long!

 

If you’ve found value in Muslim Connect, please take advantage of the soon ending Spring funding drive to help it go and grow. Donate here, choosing “Bennett Vision Trip.” More details here. Thank you for considering this.

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This’ll Be a Kick!

Got plans for Thanksgiving this year? Let’s spend it in Qatar at the World Cup! For the first time ever the quadrennial global football/soccer championship will be held in the Arab World. It runs from Nov. 21 until the final match on December 15th. (We don’t have to stay the whole time.)

Why does this matter to us? 

  1. Positive attention on a Muslim country and Muslims in general. Yes, Qatar has its issues. Their choice as host was mired in a global-level sports scandal soap opera that makes my eyes cross! They’ve also been officially terrible to the laborers building stadiums, but that act seems to have been cleaned up a bit.
  2. Tons of reasons to chat with Muslims. Do all Muslims love football? Do all Christians love potluck dinners? No, but the ratios are probably similar. (Low hanging fruit question: “Got a favorite for the World Cup?”)
  3. Legit reason to watch sports! This isn’t just for fun. This sports thing has purpose! (Like a church Super Bowl party on steroids. The last World Cup final gathered half a billion viewers. The last Super Bowl 150 million.)

What can we do: 

  1. Choose a team to be your team. I’m not going to tell you who to pick, (The U.S. is in!) but here are the current Muslim majority countries who’ve qualified: Qatar, Senegal, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Morocco. (Who’s your fav? Comment below.) Senegal is my side. (Unless someone convinces me otherwise.)
  2. Make a commitment to pray for your team’s country. (Here’s a good place to start.)
  3. Enter the Muslim Connect Final Four Contest. Predict (Guess?!?) what four teams will reach the World Cup Finals. I’ll choose one correct entry and help you host a finals watch party with food and decorations for you and your Muslim friends.

 

If you’ve found value in Muslim Connect, I’d like to invite you to contribute to a special project that will help Muslim Connect stay fresh and get better. You can read the details here. The short version: A ministry trip to connect with Muslims in north India in February. Donate here to keep Muslim Connect popping.

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Simple Tip in a Tough Week

It’s been a hard week, hasn’t it? Ongoing war in Ukraine, new evidence of Uyghur genocide, the Uvalde shooting, the Southern Baptist sex abuse report. Dang.

Even though all over cookouts are being planned, smart kids are graduating, and last-minute wedding details are falling into place, the sad gapmight be large for you right now. It is for me.

If you need to sit in the sadness for awhile, I’m not going to scold you. Wise women and men of God have done so over the years. If you tend to want to do something about something, I get that too. I sure do. Here’s my possibly crazy idea in response to the Uvalde tragedy.

If you’d just like one sort of normal thing to do, here’s a question you can use to connect with a Muslim immigrant you hear speaking. With a kind and slightly quizzical look on your face, ask, “Where’s that accent from?” You can practice this on non-Muslim people if that helps!

Depending on the answer, here are some follow ups:

“It’s from Africa.” “Really, what country, what city?” (Some immigrants assume, not without reason, that Americans might not be geography rock stars!)

“It’s from Irbil, Kurdistan.” “Wow, is it beautiful there?”

“From Cairo.” “Fascinating. Have you lived here long?”

One caveat: Some people don’t like to be noticed for what makes them different. (Of course, some don’t like to be noticed at all!) If you’ve got a better way to initiate a conversation with someone, maybe a comment relative to the immediate context, use it. But we’ve got to find ways to bridge gaps somehow, and this one often works.

Given kind hearts and pure motives, God is honored by our efforts. And I’ve found most immigrants are as well.

If you haven’t seen this special announcement, I’d be grateful if you took a look. I’m rallying interest in a challenging, upcoming project.

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Dr. Oz Goes to Washington?

As this Muslim Connect email goes out, Dr. Mehmut Oz is leading the Pennsylvania Republican senate primary race by one tenth of a percent, with around 17,000 votes still to be counted. Should he win the primary, he’ll become the first Muslim to run for the U.S. Senate.

This is a fascinating story on several levels. For starters, Dr. Oz has an amazing medical pedigree. Although he’s been roundly excoriated for some of his views, he’s well credentialed, extensively published, and he’s operated on a lot of hearts.

If you know him, it’s probably through his appearances on the Oprah show or his own tv Emmy winning show. He’s America’s doctor!

He’s also the American born son of Turkish parents with a dual citizenship he’s pledged to surrender if elected. He grew up with a dad who followed a rather traditional Islam, while his mom favored the secular Turkish identity of Kemal Ataturk. Dr. Oz has said he’s drawn to the more mystical, Sufi form of the faith.

If he wins his primary, it will owe in part to Donald Trump’s late game endorsement. Therein lies another amazing layer: Dr. Oz is a Muslim and a Republican, pushed forward by the most anti-Muslim U.S. president in history! Strange days indeed.

What do you think? Could a moderate Muslim, a first generation Turkish senator be a good thing for Pennsylvania, for the U.S.? Is it possible in the role, Dr. Oz could help us navigate an increasingly tenuous relationship with Turkey and a feisty President Erdogan? Would he serve as inspiration and representation for other American Muslims?

I’d love hear your thoughts and opinions here.

If Dr. Oz were to follow Obama’s path, serve a term in the Senate then jump to the White House, I would both eat my hat and chuckle at the irony!

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Tim Keller Strikes Again!

When I grow up, I want to be a wise, old dude. You know, sort of like Kevin Kelly or even better, Tim Keller. Although I am wise enough already to think that may be setting the bar a little high!

Tim (@timkellernyc) recently advised on Twitter, “Never describe the view of an opponent in a way he or she will not own. Rather describe their view so they say, “I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Only then should you proceed to refute the view. If instead you caricature your opponent– you persuade no one.”

My wife just jumped into a seminary apologetics class. Her first assignment requires making a statement contrasting a key point of worldview from another religion to its counterpoint in Christianity.

She quickly realized she could easily, though for a less than stellar grade, simply cite what other Christians said about the Islamic idea she chose. But to really begin to understand, she’d need to read what Muslims say about it. One of her first landing places was “The Quran, With References to the Bible,” by Kaskas and Hungerford.

Doing this will help us get to the starting line Keller advocates. It might also discourage us from passing along statements, statistics and other back stabs that paint Muslims in the worst light possible and create an artificially big and easy target. The results of which Keller claims, “persuade no one.”

If Jesus is who he says he is, he can handle the best Islam has to bring, presented in the best light. Our speech and posture are important in this regard, though they may sometimes be misread as endorsing Islam.

Perhaps it helps if we train ourselves to want Muslims to find fullness of life in Jesus more than desiring to prove Islam wrong. The two choices are not necessarily opposites, but without hesitation, I want to want the first one more.

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