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What’s Got Us on Edge?

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A friend texted me an emoji yesterday I didn’t recognize. Turns out it was the “apology” emoji and not the “Geesh, you’re a dope. I’m never talking to you again” emoji as I had imagined. Apparently I’m not real emoji-intuitive.

I lack intuition in other areas as well, particularly compared to my capacity to assume! It’s way out of balance.

I want to help people move from apathy, anxiousness and anger regarding Muslims toward love and engagement. This desire makes the big assumption that some people really feel these things. If this is true and we further assume most of us are more or less rational, there must be stuff behind those emotions: data, experience, belief, etc.

Would you help me understand this? Take maybe sixty seconds to weigh in with your thoughts about what’s behind apathy, anxiousness and anger toward Muslims. Think about yourself, but also what you sense is going on for others and in the broader culture.

  1. Apathy: We can’t care about everything, right? There are big issues facing us that I give virtually no mind time to. Beyond that factor, why might we be apathetic toward Muslims?
  2. Anxiousness: What causes our apprehension toward Muslims? If we drill down below the surface, what are we really afraid of? Or maybe “concerned about” more closely reflects what more people feel.
  3. Anger: Why are people angry at Muslims? I often say, “If you’ve literally been shot at by a Muslim and that made you angry, that’s legit.” But there are lesser or non-personal things that might also make us mad. What are we angry about?

Please click here and respond to one or more of these questions. I’ll be grateful to learn from your experience.


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Sola Qurana?

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American evangelical Christians are big on Sola Scriptura, the idea that the Bible contains all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life. At least a growing number of us are. At least in theory. We hold to the Bible and don’t let anything sneak up next to it; not Oprah, not “how Grandma used to do it,” and not even Max Lucado books (usually).

We listen to preachers, we read commentaries and if it didn’t look so Catholic, we’d probably make C.S. Lewis a saint. But the Bible stands alone.

So if you find yourself chatting with a Muslim (And I cannot say how strongly I hope you do!), you might assume they think similarly about the Quran. I tend to think that. Sola Qurana!

But it’s really not the case. Muslims see the Quran as supreme, but also give significant consideration to the Hadiths and Sunnah and probably additional things I don’t even know about. (I only act like I understand this stuff!)

The Hadiths are collections of the sayings of Muhammad. The Sunnah, as I understand it, is the agreed upon path, the tradition passed down from person to person, from generation to generation. These both provide considerable input on how a Muslim believes and lives.

I’m not writing this to throw shade on Muslims because they get direction from multiple sources or to imply that Christians are oh-so-cool because we just believe the Bible. I’m writing to remind myself, and you if it’s helpful, that Muslims view the Quran highly, but not solely. If you’re in a theological conversation, that can be a huge and frustrating reality.

Read more about the Hadith and Sunnah here.


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Let’s Buy the Ice Cream

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You know what you don’t expect to see at Baskin Robbins in Indianapolis*? A Muslim woman buying treats decked out in a full length niqab with only her eyes showing. But that’s just what my friend Hannah saw. Of course the Holy Spirit saw the woman too and promptly whispered to Hannah, “Pay for her ice cream!” Ahhh! Granted, buying ice cream is a little easier than some things the Holy Spirit may have said, but still.

Hannah’d been learning about Muslims and is by nature a little daring, so she did it! (Full disclosure: She used her boyfriend’s debit card!) The awkward purchase soon morphed into a lively conversation and culminated with Hannah being invited to dinner the next day!

Names and numbers were exchanged, locations and times agreed upon and Facebook stalking commenced. Hannah was alarmed to see her burka buddy’s page hosting a number of videos not too complimentary to Christians. But she knew the food would be great and God had her back, so she went.

The food was delicious, the conversation warm and heart felt. Rachel’s simple hopes were met: Her new friend got to know a Christian who liked her, she felt welcomed in the U.S., and Rachel learned a ton about her friend’s culture and beliefs.

Just that would have been pretty cool, but then Fatima capped the evening with this, “My husband owns a number of resorts throughout our country. We would love to have you be our guest at one with a penthouse suite, free food and your own driver! Can you come for a vacation or maybe for your honeymoon?”

Wow! Sometimes the simplest act, the smallest step across the divide that separates us leads to things we would not have imagined.

Let’s buy the ice cream!

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7 Hopes for Muslims and Us in 2018

Adobe Spark (81)

The sun broke pink and orange and beautiful over the plains and onto our mountain here in southern Colorado this morning. It was stunning. As I look out past our homestead to the expanse of the world and inward to my heart, there is much that is beautiful and much that is not. Can I share seven things I pray we’ll see in 2018, among Muslims and in our own hearts?

  1. I hope that 2018 brings the beginning of a massive reconstruction effort in Syria. Along with tons of money, may God send bright, hard-working people, motivated by his love to come along side, build businesses and bathrooms, teach, train and love.
  2. I hope that 5% of my broader tribe, American Christians, will make at least one Muslim friend. If that really happened, every last Muslim in the U.S. could have three Christian friends!
  3. I hope the situation changes dramatically for both the Rohingya, who have fled for their lives to Bangladesh in the 100’s of thousands and for similar numbers of Africans marooned in Libya with little hope of going home or forward to Europe.
  4. I hope the U.S. will understand and implement God’s best in terms of welcoming refugees.
  5. I hope we who love Jesus will dream God’s dreams and hope God’s hope for ourselves and Muslims around the world. May our hearts delight in the things that delight God’s heart.
  6. Jesus said the thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but that he came to bring abundant life. I hope this abundant life will be known in new, wonderful ways for Muslims from the end of our block to the ends of the earth.
  7. I hope you get to share at least one amazing meal with a Muslim in his restaurant in your town or her home far away. Jesus will join you.

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Responding to Islamophobia #1

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For most of us, our encounters with Islamophobia will be in the form of words by non-Muslims to other non-Muslims. “Those camel jockeys. . .” “Those rag heads. . .” And worse.

But what if you actually see someone giving grief to a Muslim? You’re there. You could do something. But what? What does a normal person do?

In popular U.S. culture, you deliver a single, head-snapping, concrete-fisted blow that nearly knocks out the oppressor, leaving him only enough consciousness to shamefully slink away. Two problems with this: 1. Unless you’ve practiced it a lot, you’re punch will connect with his upper arm and leave at most a light red mark, not even a bruise! And 2. Jesus, even though he knew how to make whips, only used them in church.

Maeril, a freelance art director and illustrator, living in Paris, has drawn a brilliant and practical comic to show how normal, caring people might respond to a situation of islamophobic harassment.

She stresses two main points:

1. Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked!

2) Please make sure to always respect the wishes of the person you’re helping: whether they want you to leave quickly afterwards, or not! If you’re in a hurry escort them to a place where someone else can take over – call one of their friends, or one of yours or the police.

I haven’t personally tried this, but it seems like a wise, non-passive response. It has a bit of the feel of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. May God give us loving wisdom and courage should we be called upon to engage in a situation like this.

If you think this might be helpful, please forward it to friends. Subscribe to this weekly 300 word email just to the right.

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Mary, Baby Jesus and a Major Misconception

Adobe Spark (76)

Her name was Noor. She was curious, compassionate and smart. She was pursuing on a Phd in math in France, far from her Damascus home. She and my wife, Ann, had talked about family, faith, the growing fear in Syria and hope for the future. Having asked her a number of questions, Ann backed off a bit and said, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Noor paused, maybe wondering if it was ok to possibly shame her new friend with what she was really wondering, then decided it was worth the risk, “Do you guys really think Jesus is the son of God?”

This was no theological smackdown. No apologetic challenge. Rather, a brow-furrowed, cautious inquiry. “Can someone as kind as you, think something as gross and terrible as what I’ve been taught you think?”

Ann replied brilliantly, “Yes, we do. But not the way you think we do.” Noor’s raised eyebrows invited her to continue. “We believe it was a miracle. The Holy Spirit came over Mary. There was nothing sexual.”

You could almost see the weight lift from Noor. “That’s what we believe. That it was a miracle!”

Like many Muslims, she’d been taught that Christians think God and Mary hooked up and had little baby Jesus. Can you imagine how that colors what they see at Christmas? What they might think of people who claim to love and follow Jesus?

Muslims and Christians have deep and important differences in how we think about God, but on this we concur: Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin. We also agree that this little Christmas baby grew up to alter the course of history. And that he’ll return someday to consummate the purposes of God.


For further evidence of Ann’s brilliance, check out her new blog on life, hospitality and rehabbing houses.

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turkish dad and daughter

I preached a sermon last week about gratitude. Arguably the best part of it was a video clip of Ann Voskamp talking about gratitude. The darkest moment was actually saying the words, “Attitude of gratitude!” While I’m usually pretty immune to being affected by my own sermons, this one has got me thinking. I’m actually trying to apply Ann’s challenge to write down three things you’re thankful for each day. It’s a smart practice on many levels. 

Can I share with you three things I’m thankful for in regard to Muslims? 

  1. I’m thankful that the Saudi crown prince announced his intention to return the kingdom to a more moderate approach to Islam. I’m politically naive and perennially hopeful, but I take this as good news. 
  2. I’m grateful for the Muslims who taught me to enjoy new foods and beverages: Jordanians who introduced me to coffee and knafeh; Indians who shared nan and biryani; and the kind and crusty old Turkish guy who introduced me to Adana kebabs and beer. 
  3. I’m grateful for my friend Ismael who’s taught me about kindness, generosity and risky compassion. In many ways he looks a lot more like Jesus than I do. 

Feeling some gratitude related to Muslims in your life? Share it here

And now a challenge: Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, is just around the corner. There might not be an easier time to take a risk and invite a Muslim family to dinner. And “What am I thankful for” is a built in conversation starter! Maybe this seems easy to you. Great. If not, if you have questions or concerns, please post them here and I’ll address them. 

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