As an introvert, the advent of social media has been huge for me, Facebook and blogging in particular. It’s where I’ve found my voice and strength, before which I was clueless that I possessed either. It’s also where I’ve found the best and most fulfilling social/spiritual connections.
Over the last 5 years, while my local church relationships have withered and died to almost nothing, my e-relationships have blossomed into a lush and vibrant garden where I thoroughly enjoy spending most of my time and energy tending to the souls of myself and others.
I recently had the opportunity to step out of the safety of my e-world to have coffee and a face-to-face chat with the one and only person on staff from Big Church willing to talk to me. Every other pastor and board member has long since chosen denial and silence after displaying severe and aggressive aversion to anything resembling humble and honest dialog. But not Kristi.
She and I had never been friends in our years spent working in Big Church, which I regret quite a bit now having had the opportunity to finally see and hear and connect with one another just as I’m turning the last page on our life in Church World. We spent a few very healing hours together simply being who we are and allowing each other the freedom to be honest about our experiences, struggles, dreams and aspirations. It was within that context that I managed to verbalize why I felt I had no choice but to fully disassociate from evangelical Christian doctrine and tradition.
I was experiencing the love of God and the freedom and encouragement to love my neighbor and myself everywhere BUT within this tribe, even as it aggressively insisted IT had the exclusive handle on God and all others were heretics and sinners – the “lost.”
It has been Mother Church itself that has insisted on persecuting and shunning those who actually attempt to live out what Jesus declared to be the greatest commandment that sums up the entirety of the law and the prophets, yet I see that law of love on full display in relationship with my LGBT (among whom are some of the best Christians I know), atheist, agnostic, Jewish, and Muslim friends. I have an intense desire to add even more diverse relationships to that list, but I’ve come to the realization that this is something Church World will never ever allow me to do. So I’m officially and permanently severing those oppressive ties that bind in order to be free to go where the love is, wherever it is found.
FOUND IT, YA’LL!!
I spend a great deal of effort trying to keep my head above the putrid toxicity of political/religious rants and absurdly ignorant and arrogant memes that is often my Facebook newsfeed. With practice (and a great deal of epic failure), I’ve gotten a lot better at saying what I feel needs to be said with clarity and kindness. As a result, I’m instantly drawn like flies on poo to people I recognize are doing the exact same.
Qasim Rashid, an Ahmadi Muslim, is one such insta-beacon of light piercing the darkness of vitriolic dogma and hatred. I started following him on Facebook a couple months ago and was delighted and encouraged when my newsfeed started filling up with these gems –
- Love for all, hatred for none.
- Freedom of conscience for all people regardless of faith.
- All people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background, are children of God and all humanity should be cherished, nurtured, and elevated.
- Recognizing the dire need for (and tragic scarcity of) humble servant leadership.
- Crucial investment in support and education of children and protection of the oppressed.
- Taking time to reflect on and learn from our past, especially our failures.
- The importance of honest, respectful dialog and the sharing of our stories.
So when Qasim put out the call for bloggers interested in reviewing his new book Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, and Education, I jumped at the opportunity.
This book was entirely my jam because it consists of personal stories; about a third of them Qasim’s and the remainder from dozens of his friends and colleagues representing a veritable smorgasbord of religious and cultural backgrounds. I’ve always maintained that a personal story will eat doctrine and dogma for breakfast 100% of the time.
My absolute favorite example of this is from the Gospel of John where the religious leaders (the gatekeepers and witch hunters) interrogated the blind man Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating and marveling with a man blind since birth now blessed with sight, they ridiculously obsessed over Jesus’ heresy and “wrongness” of religion, picking apart every aspect of the miraculously healed man’s story until he blurted out, “Listen guys, I don’t know what to tell ya about this Jesus guy except once I was blind but now I see.”
I’d have to say I found the chapter of Qasim’s book written by an atheist advocating for the humanization of nonbelievers and the religious alike to be where all the narratives came together for me. I don’t care if someone credits Jesus (as I do), the Quran and the prophet Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, humanism, any combination of or absolutely NO isms for their enlightenment. If the end result of any “ism” is the belief that the best we can do in this life is to do for others what we want for ourselves – THAT person shares my religion. THAT person is not only my brother/sister/mother/father, but THAT person is my partner and friend and someone I want to shoulder up with to move mountains (or at least a few piles of dirt) in whatever time I have left on this earth until I return back to it.
In an effort to move a tiny parcel of dirt, I’m asking each of my literally dozens of faithful readers to head on over to Amazon and buy a copy of Qasim’s book here – Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative of Race, Religion and Education (and then read it, of course). Also please do me the favor of sharing this blog post on Facebook (sharing any of my blogs is like validation crack) and then do yourself a favor and follow Qasim on Facebook and Twitter @MuslimIQ.
Peeps of all persuasions, above all, whatever you do (or don’t do) double check your motivation and make sure it is love – never fear. That is the essence of our connection with each other and to whatever God there is.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – I John 4