Your Blog Steward

My photo
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Dinner with Ani

I was blessed to have dinner with Ani Zonneveld of Muslims for Progressive Values. It was a delightful and educating experience to say the least.  As with most things, if all you know about someone or some group of people is what you hear on the internet or a cable news program, it is safe to say you know nothing about the person or people. There is way too much depth and complexity to people that TV and the internet cannot provide enough information for you to understand someone. (Plus there's that whole being able to fib thing...)

Ms. Zonneveld showed a whole another side to what Muslims are capable of being and doing, and the stories were quite eye-opening. My first experience with Islam came through the Sufi tradition, and the art and novels of Muslim writers in the early 20th Century. (For a long time, while I was in college, I wished I could go back to 10th Century Cordoba, Spain, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in relative peace under Muslim rulers. It was my answer to the question of Mr. Peabody and Sherman...if you could go way back, where would you go and when?) So I am partial to Muslims who are artistic, spiritual, hold to democratic ideals (such as the separation of church and state, and equality for everyone, including women and gays), and able to hold a decent conversation. Ms. Zonneveld more than fit the bill.

Perhaps my greatest learning was that the Islam that gets talked about most in my circles is not the Islam most Muslims practice. It is true that there is a huge revolution taking place in Islam, and it will be interesting to see if Islam produces a "Martin Luther" (one who can break though the calcifying traditions that many Muslims believe are not the way to live Islam?) As a Christian, and as a Christian leader, I was left with the rather confusing perspective that Islam is facing some kind of "civil war" for its soul, and they worry less about me than about those Muslims who do not agree with them. If Koran-based Muslims and Tradition-based Muslims are going to battle it out, what do I--as a non-Muslim-- do?

And there was a guy at dinner who provided an answer without saying anything. You see, he eats a gluten-free diet. For allergy reasons he has been gluten-free long before it was hip and cool. But what do you do with someone who is gluten-free? Simple--change the menu. You invite them to dinner, you share food (although I never worry about him taking the last roll in the bread service), and you do what dinners are supposed to do: nourish bodies and friendships. But not everybody eats the same thing. In the same way that I eat dinner with someone who eats gluten-free, I can relate to Muslims who share (or don't share) my values. I can support their efforts at health (or religious expressions) without resorting to their diet, and trying to see what we can learn together.

(And it should be noted that usually only Muslims who are progressive and share some core values with me, go to dinner with me. If for no other reason, as you know, I am known to have alcohol every now and then.)

I often wonder if that is how Jesus dealt with those Jewish leaders he was constantly at dinner with and arguing over Jewish law? How are you in relationship with someone; yet, not completely subsumed or dominated by the relationship? Jesus seemed to respect them, maybe even love them, but he didn't agree with them. I try to get to dinner with people who are not like me as often as I can. That's what the "Prairie Table" is actually--a place to gather with people who may not be like you. You never know who's going to show up at the prairie table...sometimes it may be a progressive Muslim woman, sometimes it may be a gluten-free friend, and may be even the Christ of God. We can hope.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

No comments: