Saturday, September 11, 2010

Should we forget?

I understand that this blog will most likely be finished in early hours of the 12th, but I started on the 11th, so I'm sticking by that.

I don't think I need to remind anyone what day it is today. I'm sure most of us remember what we were doing today, back then. Thinking about that day still gets me all shook up. Not nearly as shook up as it has now though.

As some may know, I am a comparative religions major. I would be remiss in my duties as a student if I didn't have some sort of an appreciation for the religions. You could understand then that I would be deeply disturbed by what's been going on lately. If you haven't heard about any of what's been going on, I'll fill you in real quick.

- Some Pastor in Florida said he would burn some copies of the Qur'an on 9/11. He got his 5 seconds of fame. He backed down.

-Plans to build a Muslim interfaith community a couple blocks away are met with outrage. People are calling it a "ground zero mosque" and think it should be no where near ground zero. People went as far as to protest for and against it today. Like they couldn't find a better time to do it...|aim|dl1|sec1_lnk3|170002

One of the big slogans about September 11th is "never forget." Based on what I've been seeing and feeling, I dare say: should we "forget?" I'm not saying we pretend it never happened. I'm not saying we forget about the sacrifices. I'm not saying we shouldn't appreciate those sacrifices. Quite the opposite, actually. I'm saying we shouldn't besmirch the sacrifices that were made on that day.

9/11 was a momentous tragedy in the history of our great country. There's no denying that. It served to unite the country in our time of need as well. I believe that time has come and gone. 9/11 has transformed from a symbol of unity and fidelity to a symbol of division. The Anti-Muslim sentiments that have spawned as a result truly disturbs me. What disturbs me even more is that Christians are openly fanning this disaster into flames!

Take for example the Florida Pastor. This guy decided he would publicize the fact that he was planning to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11. Small time Pastor from a small church decides to spark all of this unnecessary controversy. Of course he gets all kinds of flak from it, which he should. That doesn't mean he ought to have sparked such controversy to begin with. He goes on to claim he never intended to burn copies of the Qur'an, but instead wanted to bring to light the radical elements of Islam. He even flew out to New York to meet with the Imam of the project to build an interfaith center in New York, probably to help convince him that it was wrong to build such a thing. There's a ton of kickers here.

First and foremost, what ever happened to "Love your neighbor as yourself?" Have we as Christians forgotten? Christ wasn't just talking about fellow Christians here, guys. Are we not all human beings, created by God, in his image? Does he not love us all as his creation? What ever happened to us being the light of the world? Now, I understand this guy has as much right as any one to say whatever he feels like. That doesn't make him right though. As a Christian, I don't think we should be sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, letting the rest of us get a bad reputation for what this guy does. Actions speak louder than words, after all, and I think it's about time we started combating ignorance instead of going along with it.

Another thing I'd like to dismiss; that same Florida Pastor went on to compare his current struggles with that of Abraham. Going as far as saying God stopped him from burning the Qur'an just as he stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son. There is a tragic irony about this. Let me serve to educate those who care about it. Abraham isn't known as the Patriarch for nothing. Abraham is seen as the Patriarch of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. All three! He is revered by all three! He is the father of Isaac, who would have a son named Jacob, who would have his name changed by God to Israel, who would continue to spawn the Israelite nation, who would give birth to Judaism, which would evolve into the Judaism that we know today. Without Judaism, there would be no Christianity. We can't really get around that fact. We read the same Old Testament which they call the Tanakh. It is the exact same thing. We seem to forget, or just ignore the fact that Abraham had Ishmael first, who would come to be the father of Islam.

Abraham has come to be a unifying factor in interfaith talks. As he should! Did you know that the Qur'an speaks highly of Abraham? The Qur'an even has it's own version of Abraham's potential sacrifice, this one involving Ishmael of course. The same point is made. Did you know that both the Bible and the Qur'an record that Isaac AND Ishmael buried their father together? That speaks volumes. The prophets of the Old Testament, as well as other outstanding Biblical heroes, are viewed as prophets within the Qur'an. They also view Jesus as a prophet. Christians would, of course, disagree, but that's not the point here. Even Allah (basically meaning God) is the same God of the Jews and the Christians. The same God of the Bible who created everything. This is not something new and unheard of. This is not some well guarded secret! In short: Islam isn't evil. Islam is not of the devil. Islam should not be hated. Islam should be understood.

As Christians and Americans, should we really be upset that Muslims want to build an interfaith center blocks away from ground zero? I think it should be quite the opposite. I think Islam was injured on 9/11 as much as, if not more than the American pride. Not to mention it isn't as if they are building on the site of ground zero itself. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think we're allowed to keep them from building an Interfaith center blocks away, let alone a Mosque. Instead of getting in the way of its construction, I think we, as Americans and as Christians, should get behind it. It's an Interfaith center. What better way to dispel ignorance. Not to mention this would be long strides toward peace in the middle east. I really doubt that radical Muslims are going to use this interfaith center as a forward base of operations to the downfall of the Americas, or whatever far-fetched claims people care to make about it.

We all want to see stability in that part of the world. We all want to see our soldiers home. The fight starts here. The fight starts where it all began. If we want to see change, it ought to begin with us. We should stop treating ground zero, and 9/11 by extension, as some kind of an open wound. Let it heal. We need to let it heal. Nobody wants to see conflict over here either. As Christians and Americans we need to forgive and forget. Should Christ be the only one to provide Grace, Forgiveness, and Love to all? Should we allow such a tragic event in U.S. history become synonymous with hatred and intolerance, or, like the survivors and surviving family members of the tragedy, heal and recover? Should we let 9/11, in its current form, drag us down, or should we as a nation grow from it? 9/11 should continue to change the way we all think, but for better, not for worse.

So much of these issues are about pride. We got sucker-punched by a group of people. Get over it, America. Islam did not do this to us. They were radicals. We have our fair share. 9/11 does not justify such hatred against Islam.

I think it's about time we "forgot" about 9/11 and remembered the principles which this nation was founded on, and as Christians, we should remember the sacrifice our Savior made for humanity. Remember that all human beings were created in God's image and should be respected as such wonderfully made creations.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shanah Tovah!

Today marks the first day (starting at sun down of today) of the Jewish high holiday, Rosh Hashanah(heb.:head of the year) I'm pretty interested in Jewish tradition (I guess that explains why I'm minoring in Jewish studies) so I figured I would blog about it. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the birth of the world. It's supposed to be a happy time, but begins a 10 day period of self-examination ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of atonement. It is a time for renewal, where one looks back on the past year and figures what they can do better on. I've always relished the prospect of self-examination, so I figured this would be right up my alley.

Lord knows this last year was pretty crazy. There are plenty of things I screwed up on that I wish I hadn't. There are even some things I wish I could go back and change. I can't say that I say that often about anything because I believe there is a lesson to be learned from everything, regardless of how tough and terrible it was. Rosh Hashanah isn't about that though. It's about starting over and approaching the new year as a blank slate. It's time to celebrate! This upcoming year has all new surprises in store for all of us!

It's hard to step back sometimes and realize living is a gift in and of itself. Just being able to see the coming of a new year should be cause for celebration. To reflect on your life this past year, regardless of how crummy it could've been is a blessing. Personally, its just understanding and realizing how I've encountered my Creator and what I can do better in the year to come.

I love setting goals for myself. This past year, I said I would go on more adventures. I can safely say I got a good number of adventures under my belt, especially this summer! I think this year it will be less about adventure and more about slowing down and appreciating what God has given me. Also, understanding how I have been blessed with great friends and family, regardless if the former may be in shorter supply than usual.

It's going to be fun injecting a little more Jewishness into my life with this period of self-examination. I'm not really going to go and practice any dietary laws though...In any case, Shanah Tovah! A good year to everybody!