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“Thanksgiving remains the US national feast-day, but most Americans today probably do not recall that the turkeys consumed by the Plymouth Brethren at the first celebration of that feast four hundred years ago were provided by local Indians who would have been exterminated or sold into slavery within a matter of years. Most are also probably unaware that over ten million

"Treaty of Penn with Indians," by Benjamin West

Indian people inhabited America when the Puritans first landed — scarcely a tenth of that figure exist today (1.4 million); or that these natives possessed over 75 per cent of US land up to two hundred years ago and less than two per cent today; or that they spoke more languages than were spoken in Europe then or now; or that they signed over 371 legal treaties with the US government between 1778 and 1871, most of which were ignored or traduced. But the question of the Indian stranger within the nation has not gone away… The return of the repressed serves here as a reminder that there are masked nations within the nation — and that every nation has its hidden tales to tell.” (Kearney, On Stories, 105)

When we remember Thanksgiving we typically remember that feastly day when the Native Americans brought food to the starving pilgrims, thus symbolizing their intentions to help the pilgrims survive in the new, harsh environment.  However, we forget how the pilgrims and their associates violently and oppressively repayed their benefactors in the coming years.  It is good to remember the feast, but we should be careful to remember the rest of the story as well, lest we repeat their same mistakes.

So what was their mistake?

“In 1620 a boatload of Pilgrims arrived in Cape Cod. Half of them were separatist Puritans (‘Saints’). The other half were non-religious adventurers called ‘troublemakers’ or ‘Strangers’. Saints and Strangers alike had left England because they felt, for different reasons, alienated from their native

"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall

 land.” (Kearney, 103)  To survive in this new harsh environment these pilgrims needed a new communal identity. They needed to break down their divisions among them of Saints/Strangers or Us/Them.  They needed to become a united Us, with a new understanding of who Them was… The “primitive savages” quickly became this new Them. (Kearney, 103)

This, I say, was the root of the problem.  This classic us/them dichotomy in which the pilgrims (a diverse group who had not interacted in the previous world) sought to unify their view of themselves by finding a new “them”.  So, by viewing the Native Americans as them-who-are-not-us rather than as us-fellow-humans-who-share-meals-together, it became very natural for conflict and dispute to arise.

So remember what followed the feast in history and be warned lest strife, violence, hatred, and non-forgiveness continue.  Instead, take joy in living out each day what the Thanksgiving feast should have represented — the breaking down of barriers and the sharing together of meals.  Consider those who you think of as “them”, as “those who are not like me”, and invite them to daily meals so that we can remember that we are all just Us.  One collaborative Us seeking a clear path through the forest together.  We are a giant family.  We share each others’ problems, we rejoice at each others’ joys and cry at each others’ heartaches, we share the disfunctions that exist in the world and try to find solutions together, and we also realize that each of us has done our share of wrongs through which we contribute to the disfunctions of our global family.  So we forgive each other, work together, and try to find a better way once again.  And all this we do as one, in unison, listening to each others’ voices and discerning together how to navigate (as a unified whole) the diversity which we inherently are.

"Discovery of the Mississippi", by William H. Powell

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Some ideas to ponder:

“Compassion is a dynamic manifestation of the reality of yourself, which is one-ness, whole-ness, and that’s what you are.”

– Swami Dayananda Saraswati

 

Too often we carry with us little more than our own assumptions.  We have assumptions about the belief systems of others, and we never get past those assumptions.  But when will we listen?  When will we have the courage and humility to listen to others, and in the process learn much about them as well as about ourselves.  That is what the following short article by Peter Rollins is about.

http://peterrollins.net/blog/?p=697

Living in small towns, as I have nearly all my life, engenders creativity.  In small town life, on a slow, rainy day, there are only so many ways one can entertain him or herself … that is, unless the infinite possibilities of the imagination are applied to the situation.

One famous use of creativity:  Stormdrain Rafting.

Supplies:  a flood, a creek or storm drain, an airmatress, strong swimming abilities, a lifeguard/partner-in-crime, and resilience to the elements.

Geared UpRaftingApproaching the Rapids

Today we celebrate three of our favorite holidays:

1)  Halfy Burks Day.  On this day we celebrate the half birthday of Dr. David Basil Burks, president of Harding University, our Alma Mater.

2)  Caitlyn’s Birthday.  Today is Lauren’s younger sister Caitlyn’s birthday… we’re glad she was born.

3)  Guy Fawkes Day.  If you don’t know about Guy Fawkes Day than here’s a brief summary:  http://www.thisisbrandx.com/2009/11/remember-remember-the-5th-of-november-happy-guy-fawkes-day.html.  Wikipedia can also (of course)  inform you about Guy Fawkes.  So why do we like Guy Fawkes Day?  No good reason; mainly because it’s just a good day to remember the anarchists.

Fawkes_Political_Poster

Anarchist poster from the mid-20th century

 

 
 
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

HUGSR CampsiteSeveral weekends ago I took a class entitled History of the Christian-Muslim Encounter.  Since we came in to take the class from out of town we opted to sleep in tents on campus (see picture) rather than splurge for hotel rooms… also, we just wanted to camp on campus (we actually could have stayed with friends on campus had we wanted).  Camping was a blast, but the class was even better.

This class will extend across three semesters with this first semester focused on one guiding question: What can we learn from the history of the Christian-Muslim encounter?

The answer: we can learn a ton.

There are multiple sides to every story and it seems that we must always speak to some extent in generalizations.  That noted, below I will emphasize some things that I (as a Christian) learned during this class and think that Christians need to learn and consider regarding their relation to the Islamic world.  I hope you will find it challenging and that it will break some stereotypes.  So here you go:

1)  The Muslim community does not see churches/Christians engaging issues of social justice.  Instead, Christianity seems to be totally individualistic (as opposed to being community-oriented, as Islam is).  Salvation is an individualistic thing for Christians rather than a community thing.  So Christian missionaries will come in and convert individuals, thus ripping people out of their communities and destroying those communities as a result.  So Christians seem to have no concern for communal harmony and no recognition for what kind of decisions are communal decisions and not just individual ones.  This individualism apparent in Christianity is a result of the westernization of Christianity.  Many American Christians assume that their individualism is “Christian” when it is actually just “western” and may even be unChristian to some extent.

2)  Muslims have a lot to teach Christians about God.  For example, Christians have personalized God more than scripture itself ever did.  Did you know that no prayer in the synagogues was in first person?  It doesn’t say “my father,” but “our father who is in heaven.”  As mentioned in point 1 Call to Pray, taken by Lauren Trullabove Muslims recognize God as a lot more communal, and Christians need to listen and learn.  Another thing from which Christians can learn: a devout Muslim will bow in prayer for extended periods at a set 3 to 5 times per day and be reminded that there is no god greater than God 90 times a day.  I am put to shame.

3)  Muslims tend to be more communal and therefore value loyalty to community very highly.  A Christian who has rejected his or her own family or religious community and heritage may actually be seen as dishonorable or unrighteous.  The righteous are loyal and submit to their community.

4)  Christians are looking at Muslims as if they are the enemy, but isn’t there something much worse than people who also believe in one God; especially when America is an extremely materialistic culture where people worship so many things that aren’t even close to God (like money, power, fame, etc.). 

Interesting note: consider that most of Christian apologetics has been focused on athieism when really very few people in the world are athieists.  The Bible never even argues that there is a God, it just assumes it.  Instead, the Bible argues that there is one God.  The Bible’s apologetic defends monotheism, a point on which Christians and Muslims agree.  Muslims, however, have (for various reasons) done a much better job at defending this monotheistic conviction than Christians have.

5)  Who appears more holy, the Muslim imam or the Christian missionary?  The imam is relatively poor, has no tv or movies, does not eat in expensive restaurants, his wife wears very modest clothing, and he is very people-oriented.  The Christian missionary drives an expensive car, watches tv, eats at fancy restaurants, his wife dresses like the skimpy people on tv, and he seems to be more task-oriented than people-oriented.  In short, the imam apperas more holy be most Eastern

6)  The US position, as well as the position of the majority of Evangelical Christians, on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the leading cause of the Muslim world’s negative view of the US and Christianity.

Israel is the largest recipient of US. aid in the entire world. It receives more aid than that given to all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, put together. During Fiscal Year 2009, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $7.0 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians.  American Christians overall seem to support this move by the US government and many Christian groups even donate money to Israel separate and apart from what their government is sending (it’s not hard to find these Christian websites all over the internet). Meanwhile the killing in the conflict is vastly disproportionate. For example: 1,072 Israelis and at least 6,348 Palestinians have been killed since September 29, 2000. 123 Israeli children have been killed by NegevPalestinians and 1,435 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000. There’s a lot more to say here, but I won’t for now. If you want to learn more you should learn about the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242; you should also try to get your news from various news sources that represent various news biases (NO news sources is “unbiased”)… so balance out your CNN or Fox News with some BBC and Al Jazeera.

That’s it for now.  Let me just say that we all (and perhaps especially Christians) have a lot to learn from the Muslim-Christian Encounter.  It is time for fears, stereotypes, and discord to end.  God binds the broken, mends relationships.  So take this blog entry as a call for Christians to follow their God’s example and work toward mending the Christian-Muslim relationship.  When will Christians be the peacemakers we are called to be? When will reconciliation come?

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