Thursday, August 12, 2010

Religions and Cultures Around the World

I had several Islamic friends in College both in Hot Springs and Fayetteville. In Hot Springs I went out with a young lady who did eventually marry one of my friends, Mahmood Soltanokatabi. They were married in the home of a professor off Greenwood St. just east of Central Ave. Mahmood and I were going to room together at UALR, share an apartment b/c UALR did not have a dormitory. My father stepped in and directed me to Fayetteville because there, in a dorm, someone else does the cooking for you and all you have to do is study and have fun, he said. So with that marriage and change of mind I left for UofA.  

At U of A I immediately joined the International Students club. For some reason I have always enjoyed the company of people from other countries because they, in many cases, have simpler lives and simpler entertainment demands compared to many Americans. Its probably why I married the girl I did, part of it anyway. All of us from many parts of the world, India, Pakistan, Iran, France, Cyprus and America had fun going on picnics making samples of our native foods to share.  I could never forget the Indian Festival of Lights.  I still keep their recipes in my collection.

Arkansas is so 'no wheres-ville' man; right smack in the middle of the continent, tiny college town, tiny college by comparison so it always amazed me how in the world people from these places found us! Probably low cost of living and tuition but at the time there was a world-wide demand for engineers and physicists trained in America. Market forces. Yet also Fayetteville, at the time, was the only university that had a working nuclear breeder reactor. Many Asian and Middle-Eastern countries needed to have an understanding of nuclear reactor physics for all the typical reasons of power generation, research and bomb making. Remember we still had a very active Cold War going on with Russia. Some of the top nuclear scientists now working for the President of Iran probably got their start in Fayetteville and America and elsewhere.

Changing conversation a bit here. I was raised in the Christian Church Disciples of Christ that was on Grand and now on Central Ave./Greenwood. When I was 12 the pastor asked if anyone would like to commit their life to Christ 'this morning' and I stepped away from my family like a big boy, walked to the Pastor, and told him what I wanted to do. Starting from age 12 I was taught the love and concern of God's people and about the forgiveness of sins through Jesus as intercessor between God and myself. I wasn't the perfect child and grew up stretching the boundaries as usual but all the while I got steeped in the history of the church from Genesis to Revelation. Nothing was ever mentioned to me of any other religion until I became older and began reading about them myself. From Siddhartha in High School, to reading the stuff that I was handed in airports and beyond it never rocked my world and changed anything because I knew I was hooked with the original and the best. The reason is because Christianity is a relationship NOT a religion as so many insist.  Jesus said "True religion is this that we lay down our life for another."  He did not say "True religion is this that we fire when ready at anybody who doesn't convert because my Father is defensless against the infidel."  But no matter the religion we are all screwups.  Jehovah's Witnesses are screwups, Catholics are screwups as well as Muslims and Hindus.

Mankind is not good at any religion he tries its part of his nature. He's built to fail from hitting his thumb with a hammer and cursing God to taking a curve too fast on the snow and running into a ditch with his car to plotting to blow up buildings. We're failures! We are such failures that there was only one perfect man that ever lived and we nailed him to a cross and murdered him. But he came down off that cross and rose again at the end of the Jewish Pesach (or Passover ) to forgive us for being who we are. He was the first of the dead to rise and will one day in the fullness of time retract his outstretched arms and judge the world in which all nations will be his footrest and then the end will come.

I know one of the ways that other systems of belief have been attractive to me is in the feeling of being exotic and different from my culture. You and I are both raised up in a system of government and of living in which the dominant influence is Judeo-Christian. It'd be the same if I was a Muslim man living in Egypt. Christianity might look mighty exotic and powerful and daring to me. (it would be risky too unlike here) Along the same lines picture the stereotypical American girl converted to Hinduism. She's sitting apparently placidly and comfortably in the Lotus position with her fingers held a certain way, perfumed and in wealthy surroundings. To me the test of authenticity has always been pain, persecution, and small numbers of followers. "The road is broad that leads to destruction, narrow is The Way and few will find it." That pretty much sums up Jews and Christians: pain and punishment for what you believe. Jews are universally despised and few know why.  The question becomes do I follow what the millions believe in through the centuries or what the other billions believe in?

As I was about to say I am not ashamed to share what I believe and you shouldn't either. Nor should we be afraid. As the B'rit Hadashah or New Testament says "Don't be afraid of men who can only kill the body but fear Him who can throw both body and soul into Hell." When you hear about awful things being done by your Muslim brothers against us all and their fellow believers the best advice is from the Apostle Paul who said to Christians "Expel the immoral brother from among you." That advice was meant to be an act of restoration from a man's repeated acts apart from God's will for his life not as punisment.  He, with prayer and hope, might become contrite of heart and ask for forgiveness to rejoin the body of blievers.  So take these facts as a petition to the closest Imam and suggest that restoration to a more peaceful way of life needs to be made for a fellow believer.  The marketing department of Islam is lacking because average Americans are not energetic enough to NOT paint the entire movement the same when someone hollers "Allahu Akbar !" and shoots people.  

Lamb stuffed Grape Leaves for Ramadan
The conclusion of all this is America is changing and no longer dominated by a few origins of thought.  Many people who came from other countries like my people lived as quiet productive citizens within our system.  Islam is one of two movements that strives by force to punish and change America from what she was.  Light cannot partake of darkness and darkness of light.  Ones motives have to follow the law of non-contradiction in which no two things of equal but opposite intent can both be true.  For example if I buy a t-shirt from the Hollister store in the Mall it is not equal to taking the t-shirt because I am poor, unemployed and cannot afford it.  One way is right the other wrong.  I can't care about someone else's religous celebration because I cannot identify with the religion.  It is as far away to me as Los Angeles is from New York.  But art and music and math and the sciences is something we can all appreciate together.  After all where would we be without the Arabic peoples contributions to astronomy, math and economics?  The above link if you click on the title will take you to a higher appreciation to vast differences and contributions to mankind arising from the listed beliefs.

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