First of all, let me apologize for the link to Jay's website in my second rebuttal. I understand there have been some traumas as a result of exposure to his inner workings, as it were, and while years of therapy CAN help, nothing can take away that initial hurt.
This has been an interesting debate for me. I have been able to learn much more about Islam than I already knew, in part, thanks to the dedication-to-education of my opponent. The FEEL of this debate has been different as well. Other debates have buried me under stats and arguments and I felt like 2,000 words were never gonna be enough to answer everything. This debate has felt more peaceful, calmer and less frantic, at least on my end.
Perhaps this is because the whole debate boils down to a few simple facts which were buried by our own ignorance of what Islam really and truly is.
I was startled to read, for instance, that so many don't think God's will changes. I find that interesting. I cannot believe that God made specific rules at Creation, or when He gave the law to Moses, or whatever, that would apply in their entirety to us today.
I don't follow God's law concerning the eating of pork as laid out in Leviticus. You know why? Times change. We have refrigerators now. A hunk of pork is not likely to kill you anymore. Am I breaking God's law by eating sausage? I don't think so. I don't think it's God's will any more that I forsake pig meat. Why is this hard to understand?
I also made it clear that this is not some random, immediate process. I don't hover by the red phone waiting for God to phone in an update on His will. The world evolves when the world is ready to evolve. When the time came for polar bears to turn white, they did. When the time came for Muslims to lay down their swords, they (with the exception of the fundamentalist few) did. When the student is ready, the Eastern saying goes, the teacher will appear.
There is another level of this that I drew also: our understanding of God's will. We see, as Paul said, through a glass, darkly. This doesn't mean that faith is blind and stupid belief in fairy tales, just that only the fundamentalists insist on black and white from God.
While I don't believe God made specific rules that apply for all time, I DO believe God made more general rules.
The big one for me is "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is a general rule that always holds true, in any incarnation of Christianity (not counting Fundamentalists, of course). However, our understanding of this as God's will has changed drastically. Loving your neighbor used to mean pillaging his land and enslaving him into the Love of God. Then a little later, it meant Crusading.
To some today, it means standing on a street corner preaching. To others, it means respecting their right not to hear your beliefs. Very different views of the same will of God, yes? God is not a relativist, nor does God practice situational ethics. Our interpretation of God's law, however, is still only seen through that glass darkly. And so it evolves.
God's will is not fallible, but our interpretations of it are. In fact, we are to live, as Paul said, "working out our salvation in fear and trembling." It is those fundamentalists who are confident they are right, confident to the point of death that they finally have God's will nailed down, who are dangerous.
Me? I just try to do the best I can. Rarely do I claim any religious view is wrong and mine is right, although I do share my understandings in hope of growing (evolving) in my understanding of God's will and helping others do the same.
In this case, the understanding of a loving God has evolved into an Islam that was violent and is now compassionate and peaceful. I don't understand why this is hard to get. Then again, there is our own ignorance to blame, about Islam AND God's will. Maybe we just learned about them from the wrong folks.
Four years ago, this debate wouldn't have taken place. The only non-Islamic Americans who knew anything about Islam were those who had to take some type of comparative religion classes in college. Here they learned about the Five Pillars, they learned which way Muslims pray and where Mecca is, and then they promptly forgot again after turning in the final examination.
The only reason, frankly, these same folks knew much about Christianity was because of its geographical concentration in the areas they lived.
See, this whole discussion for me boils down to a simple three-word sentence, and here it is: Fundamentalists make noise.
The American version of this is the Religious Right. Because of all the noise this squeaky wheel makes, the perception of the Religious Right has grown from the truth (they are a few thousand dedicated, radical followers of Jerry Falwell and/or Pat Robertson) into the mythos (They are out there. They are a huge unseen, amorphous mob with tremendous political power that wants to convert the world to Christianity and take over the government.)
While the fundamentalist few are honestly and truly scary folks, they only represent a mere sliver of mainstream Christianity, if they represent Christianity at all. The problem is that the mainstream is a pretty friendly, laid back bunch, so all you hear is the hemming and hawing of the few.
The corollary to Islam is similarly true, just as there is a fundamentalist, more orthodox sect in Judaism. In Islam, there are nearly a billion and a half humans we never hear from, because they are quiet and peaceful and praying seven times a day, not to mention that they live way the heck over in Asia or Africa or wherever.
So we had safely placed them completely outside our national consciousness.
Until September 11, 2001.
On that day, we heard from the fundamentalist few who claimed to be from the mainstream of Islam. We didn't know mainstream Islam the way we knew mainstream Christianity. We only knew Islamic folk had killed thousands of our countrymen. They were out there. They were invisible and could strike any time.
So, we freaked out. Over-compensation is a classic human reaction in times of crisis, and so, I guess to be safe, we dumped all of Islam in a big box marked "Looney Bin." It's a common self-defense reaction and I don't blame us one bit.
The dust has mostly settled now, and the only way to sort out what's in the bin is education. It turns out the bin will take a long time to finally sort, because finding less than 3,000 fundies in a box of 1.5 billion peace-loving folks who also happen to be of Arabic descent is a toughie.
The other thing stalling the proper sorting of this bin is our own prejudice. Americans have loved a good prejudice since our country's inception, and we have more than a few bigots running around who practice "don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up" foreign policy.
It is clear to anyone who regards Islam objectively that there are not a billion and a half humans strapped in dynamite over in Africa, just waiting for a way to get over here and detonate.
It is clear, I trust, from all the information we've looked at this week, that those dangerous fundamentalists are not truly practitioners of Islam. They are, instead, a few practitioners of what Islam was a long, long time ago.
Prejudice dies hard, especially after the horrors of 9/11. It's easy to hate and fear that which is different. It's a heck of a lot easier than investing the time, love and risk that goes with truly understanding fellow humans whose ways are vastly different from our own. The truth is that it is time to give up those prejudices if we hope for peace.
We are still, in many ways, a Christian nation. Before we all freak out over that, let me refine it. We still think the way the Christians who founded this nation think. When we think of God, we think of the Christian God.
Before 2001, when we thought fundamentalism, we thought Falwell and Robertson. Now our prejudices have been challenged and we respond with our own idioms. After all, how did folks at ground zero respond to the horrors they were touching with their own hands? Did they erect Stars of David made of twisted metal? Did they construct an Islamic Star and Crescent from the wreckage?
Of course not, they built crosses. Those crosses gave comfort to Americans, even those who weren't necessarily Christian. It was a symbol we knew. It was something we understood, even if we didn't embrace it. The cross was a touchstone to our own culture, which had just been violently invaded by outsiders. It was something we could use that would let us somehow fight back against the Wicked Muslims who did this to us.
On some level, as much as I hate to admit it, the Cross of Jesus, that day, became a symbol of our prejudices.
Dan Champion, Iron Blogger Republican