Monthly Archives: January 2019

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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