Picking Flowers After the Dust Settles

After celebrating Eid on Sunday, I woke up Monday with a burning question on my mind: “What now?”

You might be wondering the same thing as you make your way back to my blog for the first time after my Ramadan experience.

Some of you might be disappointed to know that I did not decide to become a Muslim! Yaseen told me that he knew there were some Muslims praying very hard that I might “see the light” and convert. I see this strain of thinking in the comments, too. I understand and appreciate the kind of compassion which Muslims are exercising when they pray this way.

But the truth is, I am a Christian, and my conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God has never been stronger. That is simply who I am and what I believe. My Christian convictions are a matter of both head and heart, intellect and experience.

This truth about me should not be a hindrance to further interfaith dialogue, however. True dialogue and mutual appreciation can only begin when all parties claim and own their convictions in the presence of others, without compromising or watering them down.

I am also aware that there are a number of Christians who are disappointed and angered that I embarked on this Ramadan journey. My actions sparked a controversy at my church, which culminated in a congregational meeting on Sunday. Some people in the congregation filed complaints against me, believing that I had compromised my faith and disparaged my church.

They wanted to know if I really believed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. They were concerned that I was downplaying my belief in Jesus, or somehow betraying the uniqueness of Christ.

In my answers and explanations, I tried to underline my Christian beliefs. I take my ordination vows in the United Methodist Church very seriously, one of which deals specifically with my acceptance of, and commitment to, doctrines and articles of faith.

Again, I am very clear about what I believe. I am convinced that one can only engage in true dialogue when grounded in a very clear sense of identity, belief, and conviction. You have to know who you are in order to engage with the “other” without feeling fear or anxiety. I have tried very hard to model that kind of engagement.

Likewise, the experience has been humbling. In some profound ways, my convictions have been challenged – not changed, but challenged.

I cannot escape the truth that my convictions are largely shaped by where I come from and what I have experienced in my life on this earth. I was raised in a Christian home, reading the Bible from an early age. My parents modeled Christian disciplines and taught me a Christian way of living. I was born and raised in America, where the majority of people subscribe to, at least nominally, the Christian religion. All of these factors play heavily into the fact that I am now a Christian pastor. These things have shaped my convictions.

But what if I had been born in Bosnia as a Muslim, and experienced the ethnic cleansing that swept the region in the 1990s, and seen Christians killing and raping my fellow Muslims? What if I had been born in India as a Hindu, or in South Africa as an Afrikaaner committed to apartheid? What if I had been born an African-American in the deep American south in the last century? What if I had been born in the rainforests of Cameroon among the pygmies, or in the slums of Haiti?

I would have a fundamentally different conception of the world. My heart and head would have a radically different perspective on who God is, how to properly worship that God, and what I should be doing with my life.

Because of this simple fact – because there are an infinite number of perspectives and experiences of life on this planet – all convictions that people of faith treasure in their hearts must be held lightly. We must not let them go, neither must we subscribe to a pluralist view (all roads lead to the same place).

But rather than clinging to them tightly and defensively, we hold them lightly, calmly, peacefully. We accept our convictions as gifts, rather than possessions that must be held with a closed fist.

We simply need to be humble, and remain open to the idea that our ideas might change. Or better yet, we must humbly acknowledge that God is infinitely bigger than our convictions, no matter how well-honed and intellectually sound.

At times, we have to shut up and let the silence of God overwhelm us.

As the dust settles over my observance of Ramadan, I think it’s time to simply bend down and observe the flowers that remain. I don’t want the remains of the controversy to obscure the true beauty of my experience.

I choose to gaze upon the flowers of grace, compassion, hospitality, and understanding that are beginning to take root and blossom. Please come and walk in this garden with me.

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61 comments

  1. Ed

    I can understand how some members of your church were bothered by your endeavor dear pastor Wes. Certainly what you embarked on last month was nowhere close to the comfort zone of many. However what should be greatly appreciated is your very courageous spirit to seeking the truth wherever it may be and your fearlessness in trying to understand “the other.” This really take guts and only someone who is secure could go on such a journey. People from any faith and church who appreciate the truth would appreciate what you did because they know that what you were seeking was understanding.

  2. Taunja

    Beautifully said, Wes! I personally want to acknowledge how profoundly proud I am to stand beside you on this journey! Although I did not experience things the same way, your words have changed me. I also want to tell you how proud I am in the way you handled yourself at church on Sunday evening. I was very upset at the fact that you were even up there, but you handled yourself beautifully and I never doubted you wouldn’t! No matter where you path leads you, I know that my path will always be clearer because of you! I thank God for you. I thank God for the interfaith community.

    And, in the words of Samir Selmonovic, he says…

    “The ancient Scriptures provide a ground from whicn to look at our present situation in a critical way. Thousands of years of faith and wisdom tell us that instead of retreating into our own lot, our religious imagination can send us to the edges of our identity, to our boundaries, where we can, paradoxically, get closer to who we really are. Merely taking care of our own kind would ultimately not strengthen our own kind but diminsh us all.

    To be is to belong to one another. Can Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each be renewed to let God be the God of all humanity? If each can turn to its own history, texts, and traditions and dig deeper than ever before into this theme, change can come. If we get deep enough, we will hit the bottom of the wells of our religious traditions and rediscover a God who does not favor any particular “us.”

  3. The Rev. Keith Owen

    hamdulillah!

    You are right on, Wes. I encountered these same tensions last year when I returned from Nablus and my first Ramadan experience, an experience frankly that RESCUED my Christian faith. You have born excellent witness to Christ Jesus in all this.

    Eid mubarak, and let us see Ramadan again.

    Keith Owen

    • glo

      I agree. Over the years I have also joined (to a greater or lesser degree) in the Ramadan fasting and praying.
      Islam has taught me a few things about self-sacrifice and self-control; about using scripture and recitations as a means of worship; about prayer not just being about ‘asking for stuff’; about making time for God even when I ‘don’t feel like it’ …

      Although there was a time when I very carefully and honestly thought about what I believed about Jesus and why, my learning and engagement with Islam has not made me convert. And I don’t think it ever will (although God knows best).
      However, Islam has taught me to be a more committed and more engaged Christian. And for that I am grateful!

      Peace 🙂

  4. myazizy

    May the bless of Allah be with you,
    To me, your will to observe Ramadhan is already a bless. As they are thousands of pastor still close their heart to understand what Islam is all about. Thank for your kindness & fair view of Islam. And for you not to convert, it’s Allah’s will not our will to make you accept Islam. Maybe He have more plans for you. I’ve noticed there are resistance from your fellow congregation since i’ve a few of those harsh comment condeming you. No matter you just stay strong, for Allah always be with his who follows Him best.

  5. ReneeW

    If someone is SECURE in their belief – no matter what it might be! – they should have NOTHING to fear from the beliefs of others. That is a lesson I have had to learn along my own path for the last 3 years. If you’re shaky, you may have cause for concern. But when you find THE TRUTH – NOTHING can separate you from it.

    May God – because there is ONLY ONE! – continue to use you as a tool for enlightenment and always bless you for your efforts dear Wes.

  6. Huwaida Betts

    Good morning Wes and asalam aleikum 🙂
    I totally love this part when you say “You have to know who you are in order to engage with the “other” without feeling fear or anxiety.”
    Thank you for observing Ramadhan with an open heart and mind. and the respect that you have shown to Islam and Muslims with the sincere intention to build bridges,
    At the end of the day, we are all trying to find our path to Almighty God, for we are all going to return to Him anyway.
    If we all put our differences aside and actually practically PRACTICE our respective faiths as they are intended, then there would be no dust to raise, would there?
    Because the principles are the same.
    God’s way is the same.
    For me as a Muslim, i know that it is not my place nor mission to ‘convert’ anyone, because God is the one who guides people, not me.
    And in addition, in my faith tradition per the Qur’an, which is a calling to bring people back to the way of God, it only states that those who veer off from the path of God will be the losers on the Day of Reckoning. Even as a Muslim, i have no guarantee of heaven. what matters are my daily thoughts, actions and words. and it is the same for everyone else, Muslim and Non-Muslim.

    Happy to walk in the garden with you and smell the flowers 🙂

    Peace be with you and your family Brother Wes.

  7. Rizwan

    I think you did a great work and provided great comparisons between Bible and Quran. I have never read Bible but reading you blog was very refreshing. I wish people would respect other religions and cultures. A closed mind is a like a dark room. Nothing would survive in there but depression.

    My dad always told me that in order for anyone to respect your religion, give respect to their beliefs. Give respect to get respect.

    Thanks!

  8. Donnie

    What if you were a Christian in Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran or many other Islamic countries, seeing your brothers and sisters in Christ murdered on a daily basis?

    • pez1974

      Dear Donnie
      You probably have not read all of the entries for this blog and surely have not read the amazing and heartfelt comments written by people from all over the world. I can recommend that you do so as you definitely do not “get it”.
      Communities from around the globe can start pointing fingers here and there, laying blame on others. If we start comparing figures for who has/is killing who then the USA would right up there. But who knows the truth of what is going on in our world?
      God, and God alone. You can not change history but you can change yourself. This is the whole point of Ramadan.
      Hopefully, one day you will get the point and be surprised by what you find.

      • Donnie

        That is all well and good, but the Christians who face daily persecution in these places do not have that luxury.

    • un

      True, though the same people persecute shia mulsims, other sunni muslims and anyone else who does not agree with their theology. None of them have the luxury either.
      Its not a reason or justification for the persecution of Christians though just a fact.
      If you follow these stories more closely you will find one theme, it’s the poor Christians, Muslims, Hindus and people of other faith who get persecuted.
      From Mumbai massacre to all the suicide bombings, the persecutors are poor and mainly un-educated being exploited by the extremists and the persecuted are the poor who are a easy target.
      Not trying to start an argument just some observations.

      • ♥ natnat ♥

        Yep. We muslims are being persecuted too even in Indonesia where supposedly the “Largest” Muslim population in Asia, even in Malaysia, if your definition of “islam” is not the same as “mine”, off you go. Persecuted. What about Muslims in Burma prosecuted by Buddhists? Did you know about that? Of course not. So Donnie, wake up, smell the flowers and read what’s happening online instead of what the TV tells you. Better yet, get a passport.

    • ♥ natnat ♥

      It’s funny that you said Daily Persecutions, like as if you were there. Oh let me guess. Fox news. *yawn*

      • Donnie

        No, Fox News has ignored it as well. I find most of these stories from foreign press, through persecution.org which tracks worldwide persecution of Christians.

    • Ed

      Dear Donnie –

      I am a Muslim and I can tell you now that any killing and persecution of a group based on religious or ethnic identifiers is plain wrong and is not part of any religion, regardless of so-called “religious” people do it. However with all due respect I believe that “persecution” is a very subjective and gray area that is subject to emotional manipulation and imbalance, and I’ll give you a few examples.

      First of all, I went to that website you mentioned (.com version of it), and apparently they don’t consider non-Christians as “children of God” therefore they are omitted from their persecution reports. Aren’t non-Christians humans that also suffer and feel pain when persecuted, or perhaps they don’t count? So doesn’t omitting them tell you upfront that there is a huge bias already?

      Today if you ask anyone in the world about the most peaceful religion, they’ll likely point to Buddhism due to the common positive stereotypes known about it. However look at what Buhddists are doing to Muslim minorities in Burma. And chances are that you are not aware of what’s happening, because it’s not making American headlines since the US and Burma are making an attempt at “democracy” partnerships and they turn a blind eye to one another.. But the Rohingya Muslim minority group there have been killed and ethnically cleansed in masses, in thousands and this is just a glimpse http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19263926 and http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/201288114724103607.html. Do those humans count?

      There are many such examples in the world today of persecution against Muslims and other non-Christians. But actually let’s not go far, just here in the US, wouldn’t it be fair for us to say that Muslims are persecuted, if we were to use the same yard stick? Just look at the last few weeks alone and the number of hate crimes, mosque burning, and killings against Muslims. If this is not persecution, what is it? And it’s right here in our Christian American backyard!

      The point is that there is a lot of ugly killings in the world done in the name of religion but that has nothing to do with religion, but it comes as a result of ignorance and racial supremacy and arrogance. And such events are mostly politicized and emotionalized to manipulate people. All this killing is wrong.

      And what I think pastor Wes did was making a huge effort to leave his comfort zone to try to go to the other side and build bridges of understanding which if anything, will help people work better together in the future instead of against one another. He is trying to eliminate fear from the hearts of people, the same fear that drives people to do crazy stuff in the name of anything.

      peace
      ed

      • Eric Moffett

        I think Donnie actually has a fair question. There must be some conversation about what Islam looks like and acts like in majority-Muslim nations. Christianity is by no means perfect and I am not saying it is. I am well aware of the evils done in the name of our Triune God. What Christianity has done should not end the conversation about what is happening in Muslim nations around the world.

        We need to talk about the treatment of women in these countries. We need to talk about the ‘apostasy’ laws in these countries. We need to talk about the horrific lack of religious liberty. We need to talk about Islamic extremism as well as Christian extremism.

        In the United States we value religious liberty and strive hard to protect it. Islam, as practiced in Muslim nations, does NOT have the same protection of religious liberty. If you are born a Muslim in, for example, Saudi Arabia, it is against the law to leave Islam.

        I know that Islam in America is different, since it is not connected to the state. Yet, from my research, from the beginning, Islam has been a religion that is deeply connected to the state. It seems that the goal of Islam is to bring about the worldwide practice of monotheism. What I am curious about, though, is how American Muslims understand what is happening around the world in Muslim-majority countries.

        Is there a Muslim-majority country that takes religious liberty seriously? Is there a Muslim-majority country that welcomes religious diversity?

      • Huwaida Betts

        Hi Eric,

        thanks or your comment. and yes you do have a valid point.
        which i think brings up the excellent mis-information regarding Muslim majority countries.
        i have to make this brief because i am running into a meeting in a few minutes but i wanted to quickly respond to your comment.
        when people think of muslim-majority countries, they largely think of the Gulf Arab nations and little else.
        here are the muslim majority countries that i can think of off the top of my head that do welcome religious freedom and diversity (as was the practice in the time of Prophet Muhammad, peace be unto him):
        Turkey, Malaysia, Senegal, Guinea, Morocco, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Jordan, Chad, Albania, Mauritania, Comoros, Western Sahara, the Maldives…..to name just a few.

        Most of what gets put on display by the media is not reflective of the whole picture.
        Most of what is potratyed as Islam is erroneously arab culture, which ironically Islam really tried to modify and eradicate certain practices from over 1400 hundred years ago. not that arab culture is wholy negative, but there are certain practices which do need reflection (as is with any culture) and amendment.

        Why do people find the Islam practiced in the Gulf different from the Islam practiced by Muslim Americans is a question that does need to be answered.
        Islam is not the problem.
        certain cultural practices are. unfortunately, in a bid to control people and justify certain practices, people use the blanket of religion.
        this is nothing new. human history is rife with examples.
        theological interpretations of faith are also heavily linked to cultural norms and understandings.
        most of the current day freedoms enjoyed by people living in the West are entrenched in constitutions that drew upon Islamic principles when Europe was in the dark ages. Many people are unaware of that fact.
        I can personally say i am a Muslim woman out of choice BECAUSE I believe Islam is the most feminist religion. that’s my personal choice and understanding.

        American Muslims live in a different context because by far we are able to separate our personal culture from the faith. Not that issues don’t arise within out communities, but at the end of the day, our method of thinking is different. we are taught to be analytical of everything, and that mentality pertains to our faith too and so we are able to appreciate Islam and its principles for what it is.
        many other people in other parts of the world are not taught to think that way.
        not taught to question anything.

        to understand how Islam is interpreted in other parts of the world, i think it would be helpful to get to know the history of pre-Islamic arabia and post-Islamic arabia…and how Islam spread and why.
        i think that would bring a lot of things into context and answer many of your questions

        Something we always remind each other as Muslims is, the Creator Almighty God is perfect…the Creation on the other hand is definitely not.

        Peace and blessings.

      • un

        Eric
        Islam should look like it did when it was completed 1500 years ago. I think the question you wanted to ask is “what should Muslims look like in some of these muslims countries”.
        What Islam looked like;
        – No one is better than the other except in righteous deeds.
        – Equality for Women (Girls used to be buried alive before Islam arrived atleast in the peninsula)
        – Feed the hungry and poor, take care of the Orphan and dont steal from him/her
        – Fight injustice by force if you have the power, by speaking against it if you cant by force, condemn it in your hear if you cant do the first 2.
        – Stand for truth and justice even if it means going against your own family
        – Freedom of practicing religions other than Islam.
        – No compulsion in religion.

        I can go on but probably server will crash 🙂
        What we see now cant even be called a distorted version of Islam as it’s not Islam period.
        If you have time please read on “muhammad bin Qasim” as when he conquered india he protected all Hindu Temple.
        Or Salahudin when he conquered Jerusalem, safe passage to the Christian army as they agreed on terms and protection for civilian population.
        Excluding recent violence in Egypt between Muslims and Coptic Christians, they were protecting each other during the revolution by forming a defensive circle while population belonging to the other faith prayed. (this can also be looked up).

      • Eric Moffett

        Huwaida Betts,

        Thank you for your kind reply.

        Some of the countries that you listed may proclaim to have some religious liberty but things are not that way. For example, in Malaysia it is still illegal for a Malay born Muslim to convert to any other faith. In Jordan, it is illegal for a Muslim to leave Islam. In Morocco, as recently as 2010, Christian workers were expelled. In Algeria, apostasy from Islam means the loss of your inheritance. Turkey was placed on the United State Commission on International Religious Liberty watchlist in 2012 because of their refusal to recognize non-Islamic religious communities. While some of the countries that you listed may have religious freedom, it seems that the vast majority of majority Muslim countries do not have religious liberty.

        I am having troubling finding evidence of the picture that you are painting of early Islam. From my research, I am finding a different picture of the origins of Islam – specifically when it comes to religious freedom.

      • un

        Hello Ed
        And again i draw the distinction between what Islam teaches and whats happening in muslim countries. ( i wont look at what happened in Bosnia as an example of what Christianity is all about)
        The rules above are in the Koran itself, if people choose not to follow them then the fault lies on people.
        Below is some history from wikipedia. I choose it not for it’s 100% accuracy rather i found very contrasting articles on Salahudding and Mohammad Bin Qasim (from savage to angels). And thus chose something that is less biased.
        Not sure if you have seen the movie “Kingdom Of heaven” which is about the conquest of Jerusalem.
        Please keep in mind that during those times there were certain traditions (might not be compliant with Islam but unfortunately were still practiced).
        Salahuddin
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_%281187%29

        Mohammad Bin Qasim
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_bin_Qasim
        Administration by Muhammad bin Qasim
        After the conquest, Muhammad bin Qasim’s task was to set up an administrative structure for a stable Muslim state that incorporated a newly conquered alien land, inhabited by non-Muslims.[13] He adopted a conciliatory policy, asking for acceptance of Muslim rule by the natives in return for non-interference in their religious practice,[13] so long as the natives paid their taxes and tribute.[4] He established Islamic Sharia law over the people of the region; however, Hindus were allowed to rule their villages and settle their disputes according to their own laws,[4] and traditional hierarchical institutions, including the Village Headmen (Rais) and Chieftains (dihqans) were maintained.[13] A Muslim officer called an amil was stationed with a troop of cavalry to manage each town on a hereditary basis [

        Religion
        No mass conversions were attempted and the destruction of temples such as the Sun Temple of Multan was forbidden.[19] Lane-Poole writes that, ” as a rule Muslim government was at once tolerant and economic”.[20]
        A small minority who converted to Islam were granted exemption from Jizya in lieu fo paying the Muslim mandated Zakat.[13] Hindus and Buddhists were given the status of Dhimmi (protected people).[4]

      • nadiaelde

        Hi Eric,

        I understand your point because as a Muslim, it is something I have asked myself as well. I think the problem here is that you’re comparing countries that apply different versions of Islamic “law” with countries that are secular in terms of the legal system. So the United States has more religious freedom than Saudi Arabia not because the United States is a Christian country and Saudi is Muslim but because the U.S. is secular and Saudi is not. Also, the U.S. is a democracy, and none of the countries mentioned in the previous comments, with the exceptions of Turkey and Malaysia, are. The countries you mentioned do not only hinder relgious liberty, but also freedom of speech, freedom of organization, etc. So I don’t see your comparison as fair in terms of blaming the problems of religious liberty on Islam itself. Rather, the problems lie in: 1 – narrow interpretations of Islamic concepts that then become entrenched in the legal system and 2 – a lack of general freedom in most of the countries you mentioned.

        I appreciate the effort you’re making in learning about Islamic history, but I would ask you to be careful with the sources you chose as the interpretations of different events in the history of Islam can vary widely, and some sources tend to chose the worst interpretations on purpose.

      • Eric Moffett

        nadiaelde,

        Perhaps a good question to ask is this.

        If American Muslims were to ever become a majority, would they make Islam the state religion? From my understanding of Islamic history, Islam has always been a religion that is deeply connected to the state. I have read some Islamic scholars that say Islam cannot be fully understood apart from the state.

      • Ed

        Eric

        There are many Muslim majority countries whose state religion is not Islam even though some of their civil laws are based on Islamic law. This is no different than in the state of Israel with their civil laws based on the Halakha Jewish law which is synonymous to Islam’s Shariah Law.

        Moreover, even though the principles of Islamic law are rooted in the Qur’an and Traditions of the prophet peace be upon him, the application of the law may differ from place to place, and from time to time. It must be flexible however unfortunately you can’t use the stagnation in the Muslim world today as a basis to project the future. Things are changing today and will change to the better.

        This is a rather hypothetical debate you’re bringing forth, and which some politically-motivated organizations have been trying to stir in the US to foment an anti-Muslim and anti-Shariah sentiment in the American public. The result of which you’ve got more than a dozen states passing anti-Muslim laws . And if David Yerushelmi gets his way, he would make it illegal to practice the Muslim prayer (he tried but failed so far). Welcome to the new America!

        peace
        Ed

      • nadiaelde

        Hi Eric,

        You are correct that some scholars do see Islam as being directly linked to a state and political system. However, there are other scholars who do not see it this way at all, and their views are not any less valid. Because Islam is not a centralized religion, each person is left to their own personal interpretation of how Islam should be lived in the modern world. As Ed mentioned in the comment above, there is an emphasis in Western discourse about Islam on those scholars who believe it should be implemented by the state in order to increase people’s fears and distrust of Muslims for political purposes.

        As for your question about whether American Muslims would like to implement Islamic law, this has already been answered in a number of polls on the topic. I think that in the current political climate it makes more sense to ask whether or not some Christians would like to see Biblical laws being implemented by the state. In my view, this would not be better than the implementation of Islamic law for those of us who are not Christian or do not subscribe to orthodox Christian views.

  9. Neveen

    I’ve been silently following your journey, in awe of your endeavor, but have not felt the pull to comment until now. As, a Muslim, I am flabbergasted at your remarkable gesture at interfaith bridging. But now, I am saddened that because of the hate out there, the VERY reasons you underwent this journey, this phenomenal effort has been made into something negative….by your those who know you best, no least! And while Muslims, as Christians, are always proud when someone accepts their faith…Muslims should know it is more of an honor to have Christians like yourself speaking in our behalf and bridging between our two communities. Because whether all Christians and Jews believe so or not, our God is the same, and living peacefully together is really all of us ultimately want.

    When I told my 13-year old daughter about your effort, despite being a typical teenager not interested in much…she looked up and said, “WOW, I would love to meet him!”
    I echo her sentiments. Thank you!

  10. NHB

    Eid Mubarak!

    Your openness and willingness to “walk a mile” in the shoes of a Muslim is an act that people of all faiths should be grateful you did. The fact that you opened you mind, body and soul to true understanding is something that has given me hope.

    I looked forward to your blogs eagerly; your insights gave me an even deeper understanding of my religion, and were a fantastic reminder that fasting is just the tip of the iceberg during Ramadan: it’s the actions, deeds, and insight that key.

    To be honest, I never once expected you to convert; in fact, I dare say, I’m glad you didn’t. I think you can do more for interfaith dialogue and religious understanding and tolerance of all faiths from where you stand with actions such as your observance of Ramadan.

    I hope the challenges you face at your own church subside quickly with your congregation understanding, or at least accepting, your honorable intentions. I would be proud to have you as my pastor, if I were Methodist. 🙂

    Ghandi once said, “I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”.

    From where I stand, I know that at least in your case, he was wrong. Thank you, for your hope, inspiration, and faith.

  11. Taunja

    I would ask, out of respect, that we do not include “all” christians to think the way that a few think regarding the negative responses to Wes’ actions. If we do that, then it is exactly the same as when we include “all” muslims as terrorists. Both are wrong! I know, for a fact, that many of Wes’ flock are in strong support of him and all that he stands for, in name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

  12. Armoghan Shah

    Congratulations Wes!! for completing the 30 Days of Ramadan and now it is time to rejoice and strengthen your faith. God will give you the strength and your detractors would finally concede and agree that this exercise of fasting has not changed your core beliefs as a christian but gave you a better understanding of Muslim Faith.

  13. Ansar

    Again Wes it was great for you to want to experience the Ramadan with Muslims. I hope it provided you a good comparison with regards to fasting in these two major religions.
    Sometimes people get emotional when they see an individual wanting to experience another religions rituals, they automatically jump to conclusions, forgetting that guidance only comes from the Creator (Allah).
    However I would certainly ask you the same thing I have asked others on the beliefnet blogs. The question was about which bible did they follow and is it the true word of Jesus Christ. I see new bibles being created, and if one goes back to the time of King Constantine, there was much debate then and what came out of that and what happened to the true message of Jesus?
    That is one major difference between Islam and Christianity. The Quran today is the same as the Quran that was revealed 1433 years ago. In fact, if you got an opportunity to browse through an Arabic Quran, the dots and lines if they showed, even they cannot be moved as it changes the meaning and each Quran has to be certified.
    I will share a story about a calligrapher in the old days. He was a businessman and decided to create beautifully styled copies of the Torah, Bible and the Quran and try selling it to the local respective institutions. The Rabbi was shown the Torah, he loved it and bought it, then he took it to a Preist who was similarly impressed and bought copies. Then he went to the Imam of a Mosque and showed him the finely printed copy of the Quran, the Imam took and started reading random passages and told the calligrapher that he cannot buy it as there were many errors in it !
    This is my point that there are millions of individuals including Imams who have this Quran memorised and there can be no deviation. In fact, Allah has said the He is personally responsible in keeping this scripture from being changed in any manner – the Huffaz, one who memorize are on testimony to this.
    Again Wes, good having you with us for Ramadan, you are a good Christian brother.
    Regards

  14. Robyn D.

    Wes – I also want to let you know how proud Jeff and I are of you and what you have been doing. I hope it was clear to you on Sunday night just how many people support you and don’t agree with the few that started the controversy at our church. What you have been doing is a wonderful thing. I have learned so much about the Muslim faith by reading your blogs and thoroughly enjoyed hearing your thoughts as you experienced Ramadan. I also wanted you to know that even though some may have been offended about the Methodist lent season being wimpy I personally took that as a challenge. I myself have been “wimpy” to just give up soda or chocolate and then Easter Sunday have indulged……you have taught me that I should be willing to do more for my God. I hope to make a bigger commitment this next Lent season! We love you and are so proud you are our Pastor.

  15. Emel

    Peace be upon you Pastor,
    i love your story, your experience, the insights you gained, and the community you created through your amazing action(s).
    I was wondering if you would consider doing a Ted Talk and sharing some of this experience and lessons learnt with a wider audience?
    we need more leading lights like you to address the thinking public!
    what do you think, everyone?

  16. Ola

    Wes, I personally don’t think what you went through with your church members is necessarily a big deal. It is indeed very usual for people and leaders who want to break boundaries and who wants to build bridges. Never look back as long as you know what you’re doing is right. I am very convinced that Jesus would have visited the mosque were he to be here. I am sure he will dine with Muslims and Hindus and traditionalists. Don’t worry there are those who will never understand, an they don’t have to. I won’t be surprised that many of those who opposed you at church have no maturity of mind, religion and life. Perhaps, if they get more exposed and see where you’re coming from they can understand better.

    But. Please never stop the song of peace.
    Peace be upon you. I would be happy for you to be my pastor for your open mind, understanding and exposure.

    Bless you as always.

  17. Syedah

    Oh yes, I have watched that video (link posted above) few times… and yeah, it MUST be watched because it is about Bible & Qur’an. Amazing information!!!

  18. jami

    I pray those people who were threatened by this experience learn that exploring a different faith in no way requires you to compromise or violate your own. You’ve proven that. Thanks traveling alongside us, your Muslim friends, for a while. May our paths meet again and again.

  19. Ismail

    Wes

    Watch this BBC video about another Methodist in the 1800’s England. It also portrays some of the intolerance then as is noted here currently by some of the comments. It also features information on Marmaduke Pickthall the first British person to translate the Quran. To become a Muslim in the 19th Century England was to become a traitor:

  20. Dayle

    Wes, We want to encourage you in your journey. God has refreshened your faith, as he did ours while we fasted and shared Ramadan with our Muslim friends. But, what happens now will be part of God’s continued faithfulness and molding in your life. We don’t expect all those who share our faith to understand and seek the richness of interfaith friendships. Your widely shared experience will have far greater benefit for many than what you will likely experience now as challenging outcomes.

    Your journey provided us with another example of genuine Muslim/Christian relationships in action that we were able to share about here in Libya. We were not on this journey alone. I hope more Christians and Muslims alike will seek to be in relationship with each other rather than focus on our differences.

    Thank you! It has been a great experience reading all the comments from those following the blog.

  21. Shu

    I found your blog 2 days ago and I read all of your post about Ramadan.
    I admire you for your courage and I’m truly happy that there is actually people like you. I think we all need to be a little like you, I mean trying to understand the other and live in peace. I live in France, French with Turkish origin, and I wonder : as a muslim, would I have the courage to take a step? Sometimes it’s even hard to SPEAK to the other. I’m always uncomfortable.. maybe because I’m afraid to not be able to express myself properly. So yeah… we need to communicate.
    So thank you sir, for what you show to me! And even if I live at the other end of the world, you makes me hope for a better world.

    -> The BBC documentary is very good! I just watched it 🙂

  22. rafat

    Qoute:
    ” What if I had been born in India as a Hindu, or in South Africa as an Afrikaaner committed to apartheid? What if I had been born an African-American in the deep American south in the last century? What if I had been born in the rainforests of Cameroon among the pygmies, or in the slums of Haiti?”!!!!!!

    yeah, Faith is often about geography 🙂 and its some how not more than a brain deception.
    Nice try Mr Wes, may be i shall call you Mr atheist 😉

    Note: for each 100000 christian converting to athesim, you can barely have one muslim converting.

  23. Momof3

    Thank you Reverend Wes for taking on this journey, for sharing your insights, and for wanting better understanding for both religious communities about one another! What you said about being strong in your own beliefs and convictions before embarking on inter-faith dialogue is also mentioned in the Hadith (Prophet’s narrations). Looking at your journey I know now exactly what that narration meant.
    God bless you!

    Salam & Peace!

  24. mitch

    “Say, ‘He is God the One, God the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him.'”
    -Surah Al-Ikhlas, Al-Quran.

  25. dogman70

    Thanks for your blogs. I have enjoyed them. I hope the members of your Church are not still giving you a hard time for it. I hope they can see past their prejudices & just accept it for what it is- a faith experiment .

  26. Meg Swaid

    Alas, you are free to believe as you see fit but we are here to tell you that Allah cannot have children, bodily functions or other human attributes…it is contrary to the whole notion of Allah’s independence of need. I would refer you to the first sermon in Nahj al Balagha to explain the idea that naming attributes for Allah is the same as dividing Allah into parts. But that’s not what I came here to say.

    I prefer that you remain a Methodist because through people like you, Islam becomes even stronger because you prepare the way for Christians like yourself to be more accepting of muslims. There is an interesting tradition in which a treaty was agreed to in which those who defected from the muslims were not allowed to return EVER even if they wanted to and hoped to recant their sin. By the same treaty, those who came to Mohamed, SA from the other side were sent back to the enemy’s camps. Through this Islam was spread far and wide. The treaty lasted for 10 years and to some degree it is why we have such a widespread membership now.

    Peace and blessings upon you as a believer in God…no more and no less.

  27. Eric Moffett

    Perhaps, with the current state of things in Libya, Egypt and Yemen – we need to really be asking the tough questions about Islam. The ones attacking our embassies are Muslims. I am not saying they are the same Muslims that are in America or other western countries. I understand that they are ‘radical.’ Yet, we have to ask our Muslim friends in America to explain to us what the future of Islam holds in the United States.

    I understand that, within Islam, there is a strict prohibition against any image of the prophet. It has been reported that the violence in the M.E. was because of a video/movie that was made depicting the prophet in certain ways. While I do NOT agree with any such movie or think that making such a movie would be a good thing – I CANNOT believe that just the idea of the movie would mean the death of innocent lives and the destruction of our embassies. It is heartbreaking.

    • Ed

      Perhaps for a change Eric, we in America need go get out of our shackled mentality of painting people in black and white and start learning more about the world.

      Don’t you have stupid Christians in the US doing stupid things in the name of Christianity? Does that make you question Christianity? Those were stupid Muslims that did the stupid acts on Tuesday, period. Whomever did the violence represents NO Islam.

      You perhaps did not see the demonstrations that went out in Libya itself and in Syria protesting those murderers and you perhaps didn’t even know that there were many Muslim Libyans trying to defend the American Embassy from those thugs.

      Whomever committed this crime were simply angry thugs with no reasoning. But it’s time for us to go out and understand the world instead of sitting in our ivory towers of self righteousness and pointing fingers at people by merely scratching the surface.

      I leave you with this letter from Rep John McCain about the events:
      http://ktar.com/?sid=1574819&nid=22

    • wesmagruder

      Eric, you can’t be serious when you demand that American Muslims answer for the actions of people elsewhere, even of the same religion. This is preposterous. Otherwise, as a Christian pastor, I would have to stand up and speak out against Westboro Baptist Church every time they picketed a funeral, or in defense of American Christianity every time a white male shot up a mosque or temple. I would have to denounce Pat Robertson every time he made a stupid comment. I don’t do that because 1) I would spend all my time in the pulpit issuing apologies, and 2) I don’t feel that I can — or should — speak on behalf of all Christendom. What you ask is impossible and unnecessary.

      • Eric Moffett

        Wes,
        I am not asking American Muslims to answer for Muslims in other places. I am asking American Muslims to explain the differences between Islam here and Islam there. From what I have learned, Islam is a religion deeply connected to the state. I am curious how American Muslims understand that historic connection Islam has had with the state. (something the church also is working on) I am curious about the lack of religious freedom in majority-Muslim countries. I understand that the vast, vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. I also understand, though, that nearly every majority-Muslim nation has prohibitions against religious liberty or apostasy. As Islam grows in America I think it is a fair question to ask.

        You said that what I am asking is unnecessary. I have to disagree with you. You seem to be concerned about interfaith dialogue. Part of that dialogue is talking about some of these issues. It is absurd to gloss over the fringes of any faith – including Christianity. As we dialogue with Muslims, I think we should talk about these types again.

        I also am a Pastor. You are correct in saying that we cannot constantly apologize for the fringe. Again, that is not what I am asking. I do think, though, there are times that we deal with the fringe in order to find the center. You have devoted, from what I can tell, a lot of energy and time into defending Islam. In a sense, you seem to have been an ‘apologist’ for Islam. You may not want to do that for Christianity but you have been doing it for Islam – which is your prerogative. You also gave a post a few months back that read like an ‘apology’ for America. There are times that we do apologize or speak up when the fringe rears its head.

        While I do not believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God – I do see the need for dialogue. I also feel the need for dialogue. I do not think that glossing over differences or proclaiming that all religions lead down the same road is dialogue. Dialogue is messy, sometimes confusing, often painful but always honest.

      • Ed

        Dear Pastor Moffett

        Islam as a religion covers the following facets: a personal relationship with God, a relationship with family, with society, with the nation, and with the global community. As a result, it has spirituality as well as civil laws. It’s very similar to Judaism.

        From your writings, it appears that you are mostly concerned about relationships with people of other faiths, and about penal laws. Now this is a topic that requires a deep understanding of the Islamic religion and its laws and context which may not be appropriate to deal with over a comments board. If this is indeed what you are seeking to understand, I recommend you get in touch with a well learned Muslim scholar. And if that is not possible, you may want to read books or articles by John Esposito, Hamza Yusuf, or Zaid Shakir as they have a good way of bringing context to things.

        Regarding God Almighty, the definition of God for Muslims is as follows: He is the creator of the universe, the One, the Unique, the Infinite, the One who created and gave life to all things in existence, the One who has power over all things, the Good, the Pure, the All-Wise, the All-Merciful, the All-Graceful, the All-Loving, the All-Compassionate. He has no beginning and no end, and there is nothing like Him. He has begotten no sons or daughters, nor was He begotten.

        This is similar to the definition of God in Judaism. If you say that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, it is the same as saying that Christians and Jews do not worship the same God.

        What we Muslims believe in is that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the One and Only God. However the difference is that Christians give the Trinity attribute to Him where as Muslims and Jews do not.

        Regards
        Ed

  28. Eric Moffett

    Ed,

    I am not attempting to paint all Muslims the same. I said that in my comment earlier. I am trying to understand the world around me. I am trying to understand the future of this country and the world. You should not be surprised that there is fear among Americans. It is not all out of ignorance. When an American flag is ripped down from our embassy and then replaced with a flag proclaiming one of the truths of Islam – that makes Americans nervous about Islam. I imagine if Americans stormed the walls of the embassies of majority-Muslim countries and ripped down their flags and replaced them with symbols of the cross – that would make Muslims nervous.

    Yes, there are many nutty Christians out there. Christians have made and will make many mistakes in the future. Yet, at this point in history, when radicalized Muslims are burning down embassies we have to be willing to talk about this. Why is there such violence? How can things change for the better?

    American religious liberty must be protected. As a Christian, I believe that Muslims must be able to worship freely as I am able to worship freely. That is at the heart of religious liberty. What is concerning many Americans though, is what we see in majority-Muslim countries.

    • Ed

      Eric,
      I completely understand the fear and the anger, and it is totally justified. I tell you, I am Arab and Muslim, and believe me I am much more outraged than you are at those murderers who burned the embassy and killed the ambassador as well as 3 other Americans and 8 Libyans. It is extremely painful for me and other Muslims to see them doing harm to innocent people and to property senselessly while severely harming the image of Islam. We literally are sick of this stupidity that has plagued us and I can definitely imagine that folks from other faiths are as sick and afraid. Those are ignorant people with no purpose in life but to riot and cause harm when they are upset. But believe me those are the minority, the extreme minority.

      What pains me equally is that folks rush immediately to want to take Islam to trial every time a Muslim does something stupid. If you follow this way of thinking, Christianity must go on a major trial for the 1 million Iraqis that died from George W Bush’s “crusade” in 2003, and for the decades to come for them to suffer from cancer and birth defects as a consequence of the American military using “depleted” Uranium during the war. And we all know now that the war was based on a lie.

      I am Muslim, and I know for a fact that the Islamic civilization is probably at its lowest low in our times today. You see Muslims carrying the name of Islam and its appearance, but that’s about it, it stops at appearance. There is no substance, and they are mostly void of Islamic morals. This is not because of Islam, but because of them, because of their shallowness, and lack of education about their own religion.

      What really touched me yesterday was seeing demonstrations in Libya and Syria protesting against those murderers, and with people carrying signs saying “Oh Prophet of God, I defend you with my good Muslim character, and not with murder”…

      Ed

    • nadiaelde

      Dear Pastor Eric,
      As I said before in an earlier comment, your focus seems to be on the lack of religious freedom in Islamic countries, however this is just one of the many freedoms that are denied to the people of those countries. Religious freedom, like that of speech and political organization, is hindered largely for political purposes. Mubarak’s government in Egypt discriminated against Christians in order to create a rifts in society that better allowed them to maintain control. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are largely used by politicians to settle scores. However, if you read the Qur’an, you will find that there is nothing in it that encourages violence or discrimination against people of other religions simply for practicing their faith. In fact, one verse specifically states that there can be no force in religion. It may also interest you to know that the Prophet Mohammad was married to a Christian woman.
      What you are unfortunately seeing is not, as you seem to think, Muslims who are extreme but are still following a path or ideology that Islam supports. In fact, you are seeing what happens in societies that have been denied the ability to openly and freely debate and discuss that they have sadly lost the ability to even accept the existence of other ideas, let alone engage with them in a positive way.
      On another note, you say that Muslims would be alarmed if Americans attacked their countries’ embassies. America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan and its support of Israel’s violent occupation of the Palestinian territories are widely considered by most Muslims to be much worse. I do not say this to condone or justify the behavior, which I am appalled at, but rather to broaden your perspective on this particular issue.

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