Archives For Hospitality

This is a post from my wife’s close friend and colleague, Mona. In addition to being a Catholic-educated, cracker-jack lawyer, a stellar mom, and a hardcore patriot, she’s also a devout, practicing Muslim.

In our present polarized climate, where so many of us have retreated to our own ideological ghettoes where we can hear only what reaffirms our preexisting politics and worldview, I think it’s important (for Christians at least) to listen with charity to those whose experience and view might conflict with yours.

In a climate where xenophobia is thick and, one could argue, legitimated by our leaders, I particularly think it’s urgent for Christians to listen to the testimony of Muslims, for Christ’s command to love the Other necessarily implies that we will work to keep others from becoming Other.

As my wife, Ail, writes of Mona:

“She’s a beautiful person in all ways, and she and her husband, Raj, have raised strong, intelligent daughters here in the DC area. Mona and I share a lot in common–we’re both attorneys, her youngest daughter and Alexander are the same age, we share the same values, and we both enjoy that we can talk openly about our faiths with one another in an increasingly secular society. Please read all of what she says here with an open heart. If you react with anger at what she is saying instead of compassion and tears, then you aren’t listening.”

Here’s what Mona has to say:

We are getting so mixed up with everything thrown at us I think that perhaps one thing we all agree on doesn’t seem to be clear.

We would like our country to be safe and we would like to see ISIS eradicated. What we disagree on is how this is going to happen. What is alarming is the attempt to couch any disagreement with how it is done as a failure to care about the safety of Americans. That’s ridiculous.

You know why I oppose waterboarding? Not because it’s cruel or unconstitutional, but because experts say that it does not work. If one of my daughters disappeared tomorrow and you told me that you had a suspect that you wanted to waterboard I’d say I’ll do it myself if that means we’ll get answers. The reason I wouldn’t do that is that there are better ways to get the answers we need.

We don’t want to give ISIS propaganda tools not because we are catering to them, but because research has shown that this is what they want. We need to play the game in a way that we are going to win. It’s fun to say we’re going to “knock the hell out of ISIS” but it only matters if your tactics work. Republicans are not the only people who don’t want another terror attack. Don’t you think the children of liberals go to malls and zoos and movies? Not one sane person in this country is willing to risk another terrorist attack if we can prevent it. The discussion is, how do we prevent it.

I posit that American Muslims would like everything possible to be done to stop a terror attack, perhaps more than the rest of you because God help us we get it from both ends. On the one hand we are the victims of the terrorist on the other hand we get the backlash. It is absolutely disheartening that after the shooting in the Canadian mosque last night by a pro-Trump white nationalist most people lost interest in the shooting completely, particularly our new administration that is so laser focused on terrorism. It was only interesting when the perpetrator may have been a Moroccan immigrant. Both ends. We get shot while praying and we are accused of not caring about terrorism if we say please don’t assume I’m the shooter.

The only silver lining I’ve seen in the last ten days is people moving beyond their own personal interest. Call it intersectionalism or whatever, it’s something I have shared with my friends for years. God is the same no matter what language you use to pray or faith tradition you follow, black lives have always mattered, who you love is your business, and reproductive rights are personal. Whether you’ve been pushed into this way of thinking by current events or you have always felt human first and that God gave each of us free will for a reason, your support now is so welcome and I will continue supporting you. And to the white women (and men, but as always women get the worst of it) out there who don’t always have a dog in this race but march, and post, and protest, and many times lead the fight? Thank you. The implication that you should feel that it is not your right to do so irritates me no end. Many of you have been my best allies for years now, not just when it impacted you directly.

The events of this weekend have shaken me up. Again, not because I want unvetted refugees to enter the country or visas given out like candy to foreign nationals (I don’t) but because the broader implications of an administration that disregards checks and balances and acts without counsel and refuses to concede valid points of criticism is pointing us down a dangerous road. We are moving there at breakneck speed.

My conservative friends have (mostly) stayed quiet and I will tell you it hurts. After the election an article was sent to me by a friend who worked in the Reagan administration to assuage my fears. In relevant part it stated “Born or naturalized Americans, working or studying on a proper visa and abiding by American laws, whether Muslim, Mandarin, or Martian, should understand that they have nothing to fear.” I haven’t asked him (yet) if he still feels that way.

Your silence hurts me because I am at an anxiety level where I panic at the grocery store not sure how much longer I’ll be able to buy produce outside of an internment camp (or worse). I try focusing on work but I feel like I should be planning an “out” for my family for WHEN this administration chooses to attempt to suspend the rights of Muslim Americans allegedly in the name of national security. The only thing that gives me comfort is all of the friends and family who have stood up for our rights and I believe will continue to do so. If you asked me last year if that included you my conservative friends, I would say absolutely. We grew up together, went to college or graduate school together, we raised children together and sit on the bleachers and complain together. There is no way you think that what is happening right now is o.k. I tell myself. But you know what? I’d like to hear that from you. I’d like to hear you call out crazy when you see it, because unfortunately the only voices this President hears is those of his supporters.

od9n-cyv_400x400If you’re unfamiliar with him, Rob Bell is the Leonardo DiCaprio of the Christian world. A preacher, teacher, writer, and speaker of obvious and abundant gifts that elicits secret admiration and haughty public scorning from many of his peers. Rob Bell is Exhibit A, I think, that pastors are not immune from and may be especially susceptible to infections of jealousy.

“I could write that book” I’ve heard many opine, like an ignoramus at an art museum, about Rob Bell’s writing.

Having just written a book and knowing the sheer amount of work it requires, I can reply: “No, you couldn’t. Or, you would’ve.”

“Rob Bell left the Church for Oprah. He traded the Gospel for self-help” is another complaint I hear lobbed against him. It’s especially curious to me that, having made ministry in the evangelical church all but impossible, evangelicals now blame him for finding gainful work outside of the Church.

Google Rob Bell interview and you’ll find no shortage of what I think could be characterized as nothing but “gotcha” interviews- hostile, loaded questions, which assume Rob Bell is a heretic or charlatan, that expect him to justify and explain himself.

A few weeks ago my friends and colleagues at the Crackers & Grape Juice Podcast managed to snag Rob Bell for an interview. We went back and forth over as many weeks, brainstorming the sorts of questions we wanted to ask Rob. Quickly, we decided we didn’t want to do another interview like so many of the ones we found in YouTube. We didn’t want to put him on the defensive, prove our own orthodoxy by casting aspersions onto his own, or justify ourselves and our faithfulness by critiquing his supposed infidelity. That’s not to say I’ve not been critical of Bell. I think his book on Hell, Love Wins, would’ve been better received had he cited the ancient Church Fathers, like Gregory of Nyssa, from whom he ripped off many of his points. I also think his interpretation of the cross (“death is a natural part of life”) is a profound misreading of scripture that inflicts deep wounds onto any coherent ontology of peace. Nonetheless, knowing Rob Bell would be our guest on the podcast made me realize how too often the Christian community does not treat people with whom it disagrees as guests. The hospitality that seemed an obvious obligation for hosts of a podcast is no less the hospitality demanded of our every interaction and relationship.

Rob Bell- our how the Christian community has treated him- reminds us, has reminded me at least, that too often Christians are so obsessed in getting our message right we neglect to consider whether our mode in any coheres with our message.

In other words, this new practice of podcasting and interviewing strangers as guests has, to my surprise, turned out to be a kind of spiritual discipline.

Alright, enough of me.

Here’s the first installment of the Crackers & Grape Juice interview with Rob Bell. Be on the lookout for the second part of it later in the week, as well as a special bonus episode. And be on the lookout for future episodes. We’ve already got enough interviews lined up to take us into the new year.

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