Muslim witness to a Christian past...

We've had some recent dust ups here in Minnesota about the role of religion and the workplace centered on Muslims doing, or rather choosing not to do, certain things like handling pork or taking dogs in taxi cabs because of their faith, or at least what they believe is ther faith.

Most of the feedback has been fairly harsh and filled with words about how this is America and you should go back to your own country if you don't play by our rules etc., etc.. Some of it has been very vicious and racist but I think there's something more underneath it.

People complain about Muslims asking for rooms to pray because they have a cycle of prayers which must be said throughout the day. Well, so does historic Christianity of the both the East and West. We call them things like sext and lauds and compline and in the East 3rd hour and sixth hour and so forth but they're there, always have been. The difference is that somewhere along the line we just dropped the idea of actually saying them. Oh there's a shadow or two of it in the daily Mass at some Catholic Churches or the Lenten schedule of the Orthodox but largely we've just jettisoned the idea of taking time out of the day to pray.

And Christianity has food rules too. There have always been days and seasons when the Church calls upon us to refrain from eating this or that and they've been around for a long time. But for the most part we've tossed them aside as well. If we're Protestants we've just thrown them out. If we're Catholics we keep chipping away at them until they're basically meaningless. We Orthodox, who've actually and officially preserved the historic cycle of fasts get out from under by saying we believe in them but grant ourselves "economia" for the smallest of reasons to pretend that were complying even when we're not.

So when we see a Muslim taking time out to pray or refusing to handle pork a part of us is perplexed, I think, not so much because of racial or cultural things but rather because we've grown so secularized, so out of touch with the reality of our faith that we find a person who actually believes what they say they do and is willing to live that faith to the point of being inconvenienced startling, even freakish. In a world where our true god is more often than not commerce a person who refuses to bow stands out and the powers that be scream and holler and threaten.

Could it be that these Muslims, who worship a harsh god birthed in the arid desert are actually shaming us and exposing how far we have fallen, how unwilling we are to actually live our faith, how little what we claim to believe matters in the business of the day? We can dismiss it as "fanaticism" or "medievalism" but the truth is that in moving from a world where the sound of church bells could actually stop the tasks of the day to the point where faith and church and God are profoundly peripheral we have lost something and continue to pay a terrible price.

You may think it's foolish to stop a line at a cash register for a few seconds so your Muslim cashier can get someone else to scan the pork, after all we've got to keep that assembly line rolling and every second counts. But doesn't God choose the foolish things to shame the false wisdom of the proud and couldn't God be using the devotion of that person, even if we don't understand or accept its motivation, to to remind us of how cold and distant and estranged we've become from our own God? And if we as Christians don't accept Mohammed as a prophet could it still be that the woman with a head covering is still prophesying to us by calling us to remember there are things larger than us, our machines, our money, and the puny sniveling gods of commerce?

No comments: