The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

So Far So Good

Well, I may have hit on something. By starting Lent a week early, I may be building up karma credits. So far, I’m doing what I said I would do. And, this way, I figure I have 7 days I can slip up. . . .uh, maybe not.

The best Lenten discipline I ever did, one I actually then continued for another three years, was to wear a cross, visibly, every day in all situations. Those who know me theologically know that my theology is somewhere left of Jesus and I should never be confused with a conservative Christian. But when you wear a cross for all the world to see, you open yourself to all sorts of conversations. During that Lent, and the years following, I did a lot of evangelism (which does not come naturally to me), a lot of explanation (huh? what kind of Christian am I, anyway?) and a lot of listening. It enriched my life and informed my faith in ways I can’t even begin to enumerate.

I have many crosses and some are quite dramatic. Like the ones made out of horseshoe nails, or with inlays of black stone, or just simple Celtic crosses. And I wore them all. Everybody wanted to comment and engage me in conversation and some people were terrified that I was going to do some serious Bible thumping. Now, I actually know my Bible pretty well (although not as well as Jenny does) but I don’t believe in Scripture as a weapon of evangelism. I’m much more an inviting Christian than one who chases you down the street, threatening you with hell. Since I don’t much believe in hell in any traditional way, it would be sort of pointless anyway.  Sure, I can use Scripture to defend my point, and you never, ever want to play Bible Trivia with me if Jenny and I are on the same team, but I’m much more interested in the ways the world’s scriptures elucidate the great messages of love and community. So, folks who saw my cross and decided I shared their religious views often found themselves debating points of Islam, Judaism, Native American tradition, or even Wicca. I’m an equal opportunity believer.

Yes. I identify as Christian. I am also an American which makes me no less a citizen of the larger world and the even larger universe.  Although I speak passable French (well enough to play Scrabble in) and can muddle through in Spanish if I have to, I am writing in English. Not because I believe English is inherently better than French or Spanish, but because I think in English most of the time. It is my milk tongue. And so is Christianity. I am fluent in Christianity in a way I am not in other religions although I can speak in the symbol systems of several faiths with varying degrees of ease. So I identify as a Christian, not because I believe it is the only way but because it is the way that makes the most sense to me.  That doesn’t mean I believe in all its tenets. I did, after all, defect from the Trinitarians and am now happily Unitarian. There is much in the dogma that offends me and that I believe is irrelevant. But Jesus, the man and rabbi, is not irrelevant and I have decided to follow his lead.

So far, so good.

Things you should know…..About Islam

Not that I’m an expert but my current research is on Islam. Why? Because I’m writing another book, why not? So, for this book, I need to know all I can about Western Monotheism. Being an idiot savant in Judeo-Christian tradition, I’m all too aware of my weaknesses in Islam.

First: If you want to read a fabulous book set in Islamic Pakistan, read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is one of the (so-far) two books on my books-everyone-should-read-to- be-a-compassionate-and-informed-human-being list.

Now some facts:

Islam means submission to God. Basically this is the same message given by Moses and Jesus. I dated a Muslim years ago and was told that God sent Moses and folks didn’t listen. Then God sent Jesus and not only did people not listen, they put him on a pedestal and worshipped him. I have opinions about this but that’s for later. Finally, God sent Muhammed and said get it right this time.

Islam is not about terrorism or jihad. Nor does jihad mean what you think it does. Assuming you are not my Muslim friend Mike. He DOES know what jihad really means. Yes, a real live Caucasian American Muslim convert. I even eat with him! Live with it. Chances are Islam is growing faster in your neighborhood than your religion is. It’s one of the fastest growing religions in America and with good cause. It’s a good religion.

Madras means school. Unfortunately, while we’ve been bombing the hell out of innocent people, folks like the Taliban are building madrassas to indoctrinate kids into a perverted version of Islam. Think of school run by the likes of Jerry Falwell, or Rush Limbaugh, or George W. Bush. A TRUE madras is a place where everyone is taught all the best that there is to know…sort of like a good university except it takes little kids too. Madras is not a bad thing anymore than PS 12 is a bad thing. But extremist madrassas are very bad things just like Christian extremist schools. Oh yeah, the Qur’an REQUIRES the education of girls.

Allah means God. So does Dieu (that’s French, the only foreign language I’m actually conversant in). Guess what Christians and Jews in Arabic-speaking countries call God. Allah. Same God.

Like women in Judaism before Jesus and Paul, women in pre-Islamic centuries were devalued and mistreated. Jesus, Paul (yeah, I know, another subject some other time), and Muhammed all taught equality for women. If you don’t believe me, do your homework in Scripture and history. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be in the status quo don’t give up easily. So, a perversion of Islam has been perpetuated and AMERICANS, being basically illiterate and lazy, believe whatever Fox News tells us to believe.

Read the Qur’an. Now, it’s not the easiest reading, but it is amazing. (And you can download it free for your iPhone or iPod Touch).

I will be posting other facts about Islam as I go along, and will recommend some books for you to check out. Check your prejudices at the door, please, and open those minds.

BTW, the book is a mystery and that’s all I’m going to say. Well, it has lesbians in it, too. If you want an advance read, you have to be in my writer’s group. Not even the Adored Jenny gets to read it until it’s done.

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