Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wake-up Call for Ms. Four Spiritual Laws

New UPI column is up!

After reading your comments last week, I wanted to let everyone know that these columns are only 700 words long. I'm going for provocative over nuanced. But I love to discuss nuances so feel free to ask questions or suggest the missing touches that I can't get to in such a short space.


P.S. For twenty-four hours, I am a featured columnist on the main page of the UPI website: UPI. An honor! (And gone. :) Fun while it lasted... post comments here. I keep getting emails. :))


Chuck said...

Try as I might, the thing I can't get away from in this post is the notion that success involved converting the nation to Christianity. I know I've been at points where the community at large would articulate things like that, but it just seems so foreign and a bit frightening to me right now.

I'm not at a point where I can say "all religions are true". But I've recently been drawn back thru several sources to William James' classic "The Variety of Religious Experience", and find I agree especially with this quote:

"In other words, not its origin, but the way in which it works on the whole, is [Dr. Maudsley's] final test of a belief. This is our own empiricist criterion; and this criterion the stoutest insisters on supernatural origin have also been forced to use in the end. Among the visions and messages some have always been too patently silly, among the trances and convulsive seizures some have been too fruitless for conduct and character, to pass themselves off as significant, still less as divine. In the history of Christian mysticism the problem how to discriminate between such messages and experiences as were really divine miracles, and such others as the demon in his malice was able to counterfeit, thus making the religious person twofold more the child of hell he was before, has always been a difficult one to solve, needing all the sagacity and experience of the best directors of conscience. In the end it had to come to our empiricist criterion: By their fruits ye shall know them, not by their roots. Jonathan Edwards's Treatise on Religious Affections is an elaborate working out of this thesis. The roots of a man's virtue are inaccessible to us. No appearances whatever are infallible proofs of grace. Our practice is the only sure evidence, even to ourselves, that we are genuinely Christians."

Thanks again for sharing your story and showing where it has taken you.


Dave said...

So Julie, you came to this insight working among Muslims in Morocco, a culture which, by the time you arrived, had made Islam a "native" expression, and in which you were part of a very small minority.

How does this perspective translate into American culture, where you're not so out-numbered and the cultural gaps are not as dramatic? Do you think you would have opened up to the integrity and authenticity of the Other's perspective if you hadn't been confronted with such a stark contrast? Rather than the challenge of your haja land-lady, what about an opinionated atheist college professor, or a suburbanite who converted toward a Westernized Buddhism rather than a Westernized Christianity? I'm not trying to put you personally on the spot, but rather just appreciating the drama of this story where you had to travel so far out of your native environment to learn something about yourself and about life, and asking you to speculate on how it might have gone if you'd only done missionary work here in the USA or some other more-Westernized setting.

Most of us will never travel to Morocco or try to integrate ourselves as deeply into a foreign culture, or take on the missionary task, as you have, but I'd like to think that we can learn from your example and achieve similar discoveries in our own connections to our neighbors here in Suburbia U.S.A. or wherever else we might happen to live.

julieunplugged said...

Dave you raise an interesting perspective and point. I do think that one of the benefits of leavinghome is that you are immersed in another worldview, not merely exposed to it in a manageable dose. One of the challenges of living in our enclaves (as it were) is that we can think we know the other through reading, through minimal encounters, through watching the other depicted on the silver screen. But all of these allow us to manage the impact of what is foreign in a way so as to minimize the cognitive and cultural dissonance.

For me, living abroad (and I've done it more than once - France, Morocco and former Zaire) all changed me more than education or religion.

As a middle class white American, I find that because of my cross cultural encounters, I am more able to recognize my tendency to "not hear" the way I need to hear when I'm confronted with a view that doesn't line up with how I understand reality.

And honestly, the 700 word piece was telescoped. I discovered a layer of recognizing the "other" as valid while in Morocco, but didn't fully deconstruct how far I was willing to take that insight until years later as I challenged the theology that attempted to hold me to the position of religious and cultural superiority (or at least, the preferred versions of those).

I do try now to spend time with a group (either by proxy - the Internet is great for lurking in a foreign world getting unvarnished perspectives without even having to insert yourself into that world, or throug personal encounter) without judgment to understand how life looks from that perspective.

That is how I came to appreciate atheists, actually. :) Good point.

I do hope more of us will find that the Internet and our growing cultural diversity will enable us to see the other with more interest and less judgment.

julieunplugged said...

Hi Chuck!

I like that quote by James. I do think that in the end, all we have are the fruits to judge by. What I am challenging a bit now is who decides what fruit? :) There are even differing perspectives about what is "good" fruit and what is "bad." The recent scandal about the Mohammed cartoon is a great case in point where we have two virtues competing: freedom of speech and press versus honor and respect for religious leaders. Which is higher on the "good fruit" scale?

These are the troubles of a decentered post modern reality, I'm afraid.