I've been thinking for a week now that I've wanted to write about the experience of going to church with my parents over Father's Day weekend, but I haven't been able to form the murky thoughts into coherent sentences...until now. I have, at this point, 25 minutes to get this done, get dressed, and leave for work. Amazing what procrastination can do, hey?
My father is currently serving a small church in the mountains of northern Georgia as what is called in the UMC a "retirement appointment." The demographics of the church are pretty homogenous...for example, when they called for the oldest and youngest fathers to stand, the youngest one was 50. It's a wonderful place for my parents to serve, I think, because everyone is just like them, and the congregation loves them. Couldn't ask for more than that.
I attended Sunday School with Mom and Dad, and Dad taught the class. The subject was the story in the Bible where God tells the faithful that they no longer should have divisions among the people. No more Jew vs. Gentile. All are welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven. Etc. Etc. Etc. The discussion stayed within those boundaries until one of the men in the class asked about the Muslims that hate us so much. I held my breath.
I worried in vain. My father admitted that he didn't know that much about the Muslim faith, but that what he did know was that those people that are committing acts of terror under the banner of Islam are not mainstream. In fact, they aren't even truly Muslim. He and I talked about that after church, and I told him about my experience getting to interpret for a leader in the Muslim faith in South Carolina to talk about his religion. As I understand it, devout Muslims don't really even have an opinion about non-Muslims because it is not their place to judge. That is reserved for Allah, and wouldn't even enter their minds to contemplate.
Now take what I've said there with a disclaimer because I was interpreting at the time and I typically remember about 50-75% of what I interpret. However, I do remember clearly the gentleman reiterating that it was not his place to question Allah, that Allah gave instruction to the Prophet and that is all he needs to know. While my western thinking mind can't quite wrap itself around that kind of blind submission, there is something intriguing about it. Perhaps such obedience to the words of our High Holy Leader in Christianity, Jesus, would do a lot toward the eradication of the divisions within the church. Perhaps if some of our leaders really listened to the meaning behind the words in our Gospels, we wouldn't see issues come up in the church like whether or not to permit homosexuals to join the church, let alone be clergy...we would be more apt to reach out to the marginalized in our communities and our world...we would be better at loving each other's differences rather than trying to convert others to our way of thinking...we would understand our obligation to help those who need it, be they gays or Muslims... or even Republicans. :)
Thanks, Daddy, for getting me thinking, and for introducing me to your wonderfully accepting and loving congregation...and for remaining the model of tolerance and love that raised me to be the liberal-minded person I am today.