Sugar and Shame

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Do you like ethnic food? Me too. What with it being a subset of “food,” the odds were good! I’ve found though, with the exception of baklava, that desserts from other places seem so odd to me. Beans in ice cream, sweets named “barfi,” and pastries so sugary I can hardly eat more than four!

But you know they’re loved. People buy them and eat them and smile! What if they had some really good normal desserts, though? Don’t you think they’d love them more? Some pumpkin pie or a deep fried Oreo. Now you’re talking.

Hey, do you think they think our desserts are bad? Is that what they’re saying? That we don’t know what a good treat is? Hold on there, buddy.

Knowing something is real when it feels so foreign, so unlikely, can really stretch your brain. Knowing a Muslim encountering the Bible is more concerned with removing shame and restoring honor than admitting guilt and receiving forgiveness, feels like truth denied.

But what if God is ok with the way they see things, has in fact chosen to speak in words and ideas that connect deeply? Dr. Timothy Tennent writes, “The term guilt and its various derivatives occur 145 times in the Old Testament and 10 times in the New Testament, whereas the term shame and its derivatives occur nearly 300 times in the Old Testament and 45 times in the New Testament.”

As we consider this Shame/Honor paradigm, I want us to avoid two likely mistakes:
1. Thinking it’s subpar, not really the truth, beans in ice cream.
2. Assuming if a shame/honor paradigm is true and valid, then the way we see things is wrong or thought to be so.

These ideas are important, because the risk is high we’ll assume Muslims are cold to the things of God (“Resistant” has been the go to word.), when maybe they’ve been pitched an answer to a question they’re not asking. The good news of life in Jesus comes to them healing deep, but different, aches of the soul.

Learn more here. Next time we’ll kick around how shame/honor dynamics are affected when someone from a shame culture moves into (or grows up in) a guilt/innocence culture. If you’ve wrestled with this, I’d love to hear your thoughts

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This Math Is Doable!

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Thank you for reading Muslim Connect. Sometimes I can’t believe I get to write this and people actually read it! It’s both an honor and great fun.

It’s fun when people write in with helpful critique or additions. Sometimes people agree with what I wrote the previous week, like the guy who said, “You’re right! You are politically naive!”

Occasionally people will ask for advice in responding to something a friend sent them.

Such an email arrived this week. It raised some interesting and valid questions. Then just before the apparently obligatory, “with the ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on!” I read this line:

“In 20+ years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President.”

If you were to read this, you’d probably think, “How can that be true?” But you have a life and might not get around to actually doing the math. Lucky day! I did it for you. (Yeah, pretty much don’t have a life!)

NPR says that it’s mathematically possible to win the Electoral College with only 30,000,000 votes. That’s only 10% of the voting age population! Crazy, but that’s our system and this email is not about bashing the Electoral College!

Solid research estimates that 3,500,000 Muslims live in the U.S. right now. This number grows by 100,000 per year or about 3%. At that rate, in twenty years, the Muslim population will be 6.3 million; in 50 years, 15 million. That means it will take 73 years to produce 23,000,000 voting-eligible Muslims, who would all have to vote for the same person, in an wildly unlikely scenario to “elect the President!” This also assumes a stagnant non-Muslim U.S. population.

“20+ years?” Right! Twenty years, plus fifty more and bucket full of magic dust!

Let’s be innocent as doves, but not forget to also be wise as serpents. When someone is obviously trying to scare you on the one hand, they’re likely going for your wallet with the other!
The winner of the $50 Amazon gift card was faithful reader, Rachel. Check out her super cool org.

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Looking Through Shame Colored Glasses

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Many of us have no difficulty recalling an event that caused us acute embarrassment. In fact, we sometimes make a game of sharing our most embarrassing moments! Maybe you even have a go to story that’s properly self-deprecating, but still makes you look ok. Mine? The late Christian musician, Rich Mullens once fell asleep in the front row while I was giving a talk! Afterward we had pie.

But we hold closer the darker events, the chronic situations that go beyond embarrassment to shame. I don’t want you to dredge those up during this happy time of year, but let’s admit such are a part of life for many of us.

Now, the turn: Many Muslim cultures are organized around a core struggle between shame and honor. This is deeper and more pervasive than most of us, including me, can fully wrap our heads around. In contrast most Western cultures wrestle with guilt and innocence.

If you’re a Christian, you can see this in the time you’ve invested in, and your capacity to articulate, Paul’s legal arguments in Romans. We were guilty. Jesus’s blood, his death and resurrection, absolve us. Now it’s “just as if I’d” never sinned. As true as can be.

But maybe we’re less attuned to the nuances of the prodigal son parable where Jesus paints, for eastern hearts, a devastating story of honor forsaken, shame covering like a swine smelling blanket, then, almost beyond belief, honor restored. Again, as true as can be.

No culture is deficient simply because it’s not like another. But for those of us who are concerned to connect with Muslims, deepening our understanding of shame and honor will be very helpful.

In coming weeks I plan to kick around some of these ideas and their implications. In the meantime, this article serves a nice introductory primer. Here’s a good video, if that’s how you roll.

In other news: I’ve just begun to learn about the Enneagram. If you have thoughts, speculations, complaints, etc to share, I’d love to hear them. There seems to be some indication that some of the ideas trace back to Sufi Muslims! (Share, or see what others are saying, here.)

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Dart In, Dart Out, Distracted

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Be sure to check the special note at the bottom of this story.

“I just needed to get some groceries. Dart in, dart out, done. Then I saw this guy and his cute little kid asking him for an apple. He responded in a language strange to me. That and his brown skin made me think he was Arab and likely Muslim. That made me think God wanted me to talk to him. But here I was, wearing a flag t shirt and carrying. All I needed was a dip of snuff in my lip and I was the classic American.”

“I struck a quick deal with God: If the guy was still there on my way out, I’d talk to him. I grabbed my stuff, headed back to the front of the store and, dang, how long does it take to pick out produce?!?”

“Excuse me, I heard you speaking a different language, do you mind me asking where you’re from?” He seemed a little hesitant, but said, “Jordan.”

“No way! I know someone who’s been there. Do you mind me asking how you’d say ‘hello’ in Arabic? (Even though I knew the answer!)”

“He said, ‘Merhaba.’ I asked about a couple other words. He asked how long I’d been in Phoenix. We talked for just two minutes, then I used the word he told me for ‘goodbye’ and left.”

“Why did I do this? I wanted him to know that not all American guys are jerks who think all Muslims are jerks. And I wanted people in the store to see that conversations like this can take place”

“Would I do it again? I can talk to anyone. I’m good at it. But, dang, this was big time uncomfortable. My first thought is that I did it and can check it off! But yeah, I probably will do it again.”

I’m super proud to share my son’s story to mark the 100th edition of Muslim Connect. And I’m hugely grateful to you for reading. Thank you for helping us reach this milestone. To celebrate and demonstrate that gratefulness, I have a $50 Amazon gift card to award one reader who shares this story on Facebook, posts it on Instagram, forwards it to a friend or just writes me and asks to be entered! Let me know what you did and I’ll put you in the contest. The winner will be chosen at random on Dec. 26th. 


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Hello, My Name is God

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 9.51.59 AMWant to try something fun at an upcoming Christmas party or family gathering? See how many Biblical names and titles for God you can come up with! [Warning: Avoid the “Does God = Allah” debate unless you want everyone to get mad and go home early so you can get some sleep!]

Just start with Jehovah and go around the circle with the names God calls himself and others call him in the Bible. How many do you think you and your pals could get? You’ll probably come up with a couple dozen, depending how many Sunday School attendance medals were collectively won by the group!

You may know Muslims have 99 names for God. (And many Muslims know them all!) Again, sidestepping the “Does God = Allah” debate for the time being, I share this for two reasons.

  1. This is the 99th edition of Muslim Connect and I’m getting giddy about hitting 100!
  2. Many of the names of God that Muslims use describe him in ways that most Christians would readily agree with. Names like: Al Khaliq, The Creator or Al Alim, The All Knowing. At the same time, others don’t resonate with a biblical worldview, like Al Mumit, The Causer of death.

I share this because it’s helpful to know what may be in the mind of your Muslim friend when she speaks of God. Also, deepening our understanding of how Muslims see God will likely grow our amazement at the goodness of God revealed in the Bible and the maybe even cause greater desire for our Muslim friends to know the fullness of the abundant life Jesus came to bring.

What name or title of God is particularly meaningful to you?


Be sure to catch next week’s special 100th edition of Muslim Connect. If you like Muslim Connect, please share it with a friend. 

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What If We’re Over-run?

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A friend who’s lived among Muslims for decades and is way smarter than me says every Muslim hopes in their heart that Islam will take over the world. A Muslim Connect reader who’s more honest than me confesses to being mildly “triggered” by that notion.

How about you? Do you wonder about that? Worry about it?

First: If so, what are we fearing about a Muslim take over? Losing our way of life? Suffering of some sort? And what’s beneath that? If I dig down, I find that my worrying lands on a sad assumption that God’s getting beaten. Or more likely that I’m quite mistaken in my understanding of God.

Secondly, if it’s true that Muslims are trying to take over the world, what is the biblical response? I’m honestly interested in your thoughts on this. What does the Bible say we should actually think and do, whether that supports or contradicts American (Or your country’s) ideology?

Third, do suppose others wonder about being overrun? Do Muslims worry about Christians taking over the world. What do non-Christians feel when they see a Christmas card or song quoting Isaiah 9.7
“Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end. . . from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

It’s vexing sometimes. I honestly believe Jesus will reign on the earth. And that he won’t make everyone to follow Islam, as some Muslims believe.

In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of pain and challenge to go around. Jesus’s words warn and encourage, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


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The 3 Minute Absolute Basics Christians Need to Know About Muslims

My Post (54)If you live in the U.S., you may still be shaking off a Thanksgiving turkey bender. Can I invite you to jump start your brain and help me think about something?

I’m working with a super talented sketch note artist, Mike Rohde, to design an introductory graphic to depict the very basics all Christians should know about Muslims. Recognizing my perspective on this might be both limited and skewed (Really, what are the odds?!?), your input would be very helpful.

To get us going, here are the top seven things I think all Christians should know. What would you add to the list?

  1. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are wildly diverse in ethnicity, beliefs and actual practice of those beliefs. Most are not Arab and do not speak Arabic.
  2. Muslims are loved by God. We might think about Muslims in our day the way Jesus did about Samaritans in his. Jesus wants Muslims to have the abundant life he said he came to bring.
  3. In general most Muslims are very similar to Christians in terms of family, values and thoughts about God. We have much of our religious history in common.
  4. Much of the negative stuff you hear or read about Muslims is designed to play you, to get your vote or your money. Not all, but much.
  5. Islamic terrorism kills more Muslims that any others.
  6. Most Muslims believe Islam can and will take over the Earth.
  7. Muslims are down for a chat. Again, not all and not all the time, but maybe more than we might expect.

So what would you add, change or subtract from this list? If you’re willing to share your wisdom, please go to this Google Doc and expound or comment below. If you’d like a copy of the graphic when it’s ready, let me know here. Thank you.


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