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People everywhere, many Americans included, have begun to think of Muslims as more “christian” than many Christians—in the traditional sense of “christian spirits” that are loving, forgiving, pious, selfless, gentle, kind, and peaceful in their attitudes toward other human beings.
While most Americans still aspire to such qualities, we are today viewed globally as both culturally and politically rather more mean-spirited than christian-spirited. Many foreigners now see Americans as greedy and materialistic, and think of America as an arrogant young nation that tries to tell others how to live, that foolishly and hurtfully pushes its culture, economics and politics onto unwilling others.
If Osama bin Laden had wanted to increase world awareness of past and present American support for regime changes, friendly tyrannies, and repression of democratic movements around the world, he succeeded brilliantly, even though few Americans are even aware of these sad and distinctly un-“christian” exploitations in support of American corporate interests.
And if Osama bin Laden had wanted to stir up empathy for Islam, he could hardly have dreamed up anything more brilliant than our current bloody military adventuring in the Middle East. Ignoring all expertise, we’ve turned a criminal, political, social and economic problem—terrorism—into a military one, barging willy-nilly into a very un-christian war against peaceful people who never threatened us.
But Osama’s biggest bang for his comparatively small, if immensely tragic, PR. buck was sending our reading public—most of whom previously couldn’t find Iraq or even Israel on a map—scrambling for best-sellers about Islam. Because, sometime during the last five years, Americans finally noticed that Muslim cultures, although very different from ours, are, in fact, very “christian” in ways we greatly admire—along with having many unique shortcomings, like every culture.
For example, many Americans are motivated by their christian spirits to protect women’s rights to equality—to enter any profession, to be educated, to be equal citizens—but they are also sadly free to become drunks, addicts, prostitutes, rape victims, divorcees and unwed mothers. Muslims’ “christian spirits” motivate them to overprotect their wives and children, with the many drawbacks that come with that approach. Future christian-spirited dialogue and exchange between our two cultures will bring us all closer to understanding and agreement about our common, universal, “christian”—if not exclusively “Christian”—values, all those which offer respect and support to all human life everywhere.
The single sad silver lining behind bin Laden’s blood-and-publicity-soaked attack was to open western eyes and hearts to Islam. We have finally seen enough Muslims to look past the angry, despairing extremists, past the unfamiliar turbans, suspicious scarves and rough accents, to see clearly the many kind human faces and wise human hearts of gentle fathers, bright mothers, laughing daughters and fierce sons—who are, after all, not really so different from our own.
For the first time, Americans are experiencing the christian spirits of this exotic and unfamiliar culture which devoutly prays many times daily, is devoted to family, and which, just like Christians, exhorts its children at home, mosque and school to acts of goodness, kindness, generosity, and peace.
When we choose to see them through christian-spirited eyes, we’ll see a gentle people who have suffered greatly during a century of relentless violence from outsiders, simply because oil was discovered on the land of their ancestors, who yet still reach out hospitably to all who come, not as occupiers and invaders, but as peaceful, respectful visitors and citizens.
Most Muslims, like most Christians, have “christian” spirits, wanting to raise families in a compassionate culture which nurtures universal values. Yet most Americans today agree that, somewhere along the way, America has lost many of her ‘christian’ ways.
Certainly we’re coming off very poorly in our latest war. Our national leadership has acquired a well-deserved international reputation as far-from-christian-spirited religious extremists, unschooled in diplomacy and too quick on the draw.
I am not an expert on Islam; I keep up with the news and have a lifelong interest in all world religions and philosophies. But I do know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, one which accepts Jesus as a great prophet, along with all his teachings.
I have closely observed my Muslim neighbors, and know them by what we used to call their “christian witness”—that is, by the way they live their lives. As a group, Muslims are pious, kind, neighborly, civic-minded, charitable and scholarly. Islam, as practiced by its most thoughtful and faithful practitioners, embraces the high ecumenical values espoused in Jesus’ teachings, particularly those about universal brotherhood, peace, charity, service, forgiveness, and love of God.
Yet, right after the towers fell, Christian extremists, perhaps fearing their congregations would be pulled away by curiosity about Islam, forgot to exhort their flocks to christian-spirited unity with their global brothers, and instead chose to preach sermon after mean, frightening, televangelical sermon demonizing Muslims as violent, cruel, scheming, and anti-Christian.
Muslims everywhere were dismayed and frightened by such un-christian televised messages, not to mention the rude insistence of multinational corporations to hawk materialist values and profitably push distinctly un-christian habits and lifestyles to anyone anywhere anytime.
Neither God nor Jesus nor any prophet, philosopher or saint cares which faith you pray to them from, nor what names you call them by, nor what form your prayers take; but they do care that all their many pleading and peaceful messages of acceptance, compassion, and reconciliation are spread everywhere to unify and bring peace to a frightened, suffering world.
On C-Span, CNN, and other media, Americans have heard the sad voices of Muslims in war-torn countries pleading to be left in peace, along with the voices of articulate and caring Muslim leaders sharing their concerns and patiently explaining their unfamiliar approaches. Many of us have also enjoyed the brilliant, award-winning family-values films and books streaming out of Iran and other Muslim countries.
We have also been terrified by American demagogues that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon and use it against Israelis or Americans. Yet, just as worrisome to many, is the terrifying possibility that our own malleable President, egged on by powerful, trigger-happy sidekicks, will use our own vast American nuclear arsenal to initiate a very un-christian WWIII.
Muslims and Christians alike want most to live their lives in peace, in accordance with their beliefs and values. We want our children to grow up in warm, safe communities, in homes and schools that support—or at least, do not undermine—our heartfelt beliefs and values. Muslims and Christians alike think it unreasonable to be under continual attack from commercial and media corporations who use our freedoms and our public airwaves to hammer away at our cherished values.
Muslim immigrants come to America for the same reasons all immigrants have ever come: for the freedoms and benefits of good government which serves and supports the quality of all the human life which God created equal on this fragile blue planet.
We all want a justice system which respects and serves all people equally, quickly, and affordably. We all want fairly-elected, familiar local public servants who spend our hard-earned tax money on our youngest and neediest citizens, on convenient, quality health care for all, on retraining workers, on offering quality public services and infrastructure, on supporting emerging technologies and creating competitive economic opportunities within a thriving economy offering living wages. We all want well-disciplined, high-tech educational environments and opportunities that offer all children a real chance in life.
Instead, Americans seem stuck with a bloated and increasingly indebted federal government which cuts local services to pay for its steady stream of immoral foreign wars, which only line the pockets of corporate war profiteers, while bankrupting average Americans and compromising our children's futures.
Instead of offering good local government, where small local militias are well-trained in non-violent conflict resolution and stand ready to assist local communities during emergencies—floods, hurricanes, epidemics, invasions—we have instead a vast, far-flung military machine enforcing hegemonic American corporate interests wherever in the world they see an opportunity to make a fast, if un-christian, buck.
Soon—although not soon enough for the hundreds of thousands of dead, disabled, and desperate Muslims and Christians we have harmed—America will retreat from its current un-christian aggressions, will expensively buy peace in Israel and reconciliation in Iraq, and will stand aside while Muslims shake off their dictators and sort out their own political destinies, whether violently or in a more christian spirit, as would better suit all our mutual interests and befit the highest values of all our various religious and cultural traditions.
When their oilfields have been carved up among them, may our charitable American christian spirits uphold their right to spend their oil money creating opportunities for their hungry youth, while we refrain from using our own vast stores of nuclear weapons during this most-dangerous era of unaccustomed American humility, as we wait in line politely for Middle Eastern oil like any other paying customer.
Hopefully, we will all—Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, and atheist alike—support only leaders demonstrating christian lives and spirits—whether or not they are Christians—leaders who advocate politics which reflect the universally cherished golden rule of treating all others as we ourselves would want to be treated.
May Christians and all other Americans join with all people everywhere in making christian-minded personal choices, and may we all support only political representatives having peaceful christian hearts, words, actions and lives—regardless of whether they be Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, or any other.
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