Monthly Archives: January 2019

Sober Words From the Good Don ?

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Every once in a while words echo back from history and smack me in the face. This week it was from beloved mentor-passed-on, C.S. Lewis, by way of K-Love radio. (Don’t judge me!)

In chapter seven of Mere Christianity, Lewis posits this (Be warned, the question conceals a dagger!):

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.”

Flesh wound for you? Staple-worthy laceration? Stephen King levels of spurting blood?

I’m cut because I’m guilty. I don’t have a lot of enemies, but I relish my opponents looking bad. I want them pushed away, dehumanized. I don’t like it when I do this.

Neither do I like it when it’s done to Muslims. In the heady, early days of ISIS, do you remember reading, “Finally, they’re showing their hand. Finally we see them for what they are.” Did you hear it in your own head?

I have no right, and certainly no wish, to judge you, nor anyone for that matter. Neither am I scolding. But I want to examine and excise this thinking in my own life and invite you, to whatever degree the Holy Spirit points it out for you, to join me.

If Lewis is right, I want to get off the road to devil-hood and walk the way of Jesus.

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Escape The Deep Winter Darkness ?


Deep winter is upon us, at least those of us living northerly. The days are short, the nights long and if you don’t like the Super Bowl, there are no good holidays until Easter! In these sun-starved hours, maybe your thoughts drift to beaches, planning family vacations, and future fun (Should God show favor and you survive the winter.)

Let me paint a picture for you: Amazing food, beautiful, warm water, rich history, world class shopping, all wrapped up in a conservative society whose values would (mostly) make your Granny happy.

You’ve guessed this vacation destination by now, haven’t you? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

KSA might not top your “gotta visit soon” list, but the Saudi government is hard at work to change that: developing luxury resorts, lifting the ban on cinema and now a soon-to-debut online visa!

What’s going on? Fire sale on oil? Yep. Better get a back up plan. Panicked PR move? Maybe. The Saudi government assassinated a salty journalist in Istanbul and is fighting a gruesome and unpopular war in Yemen. You can imagine back-room efforts to polish the image.

But the tourism push is also part of a broader effort by crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman to bring this most conservative of nations into the 20th Century. (Don’t rush them!) What does it mean for the heartland of Islam to move toward the modern world? Such soothsaying is way above my pay grade, but I’m hopeful.

On the off chance you’re not super-inclined to visit KSA, remember, Saudis are keen travelers themselves. There may be some in your town who’d enjoy sitting down to coffee with you. If that’s not likely, please join me in praying for Saudis, for the country, for their future. Something’s afoot and if I know God, he’s probably behind it.

Feeling feisty? If you’d like to be on a list to get an alert for a possible trip to KSA (seriously, nothing in the works right now!), shoot me an email.

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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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