Thursday, March 29, 2012

controversy yet again

First it was snakes last week. Now, I guess someone has issues with religious tolerance.

Out of over 500 views to my blog yesterday, and out of the two comments expressed (which is the case most days, and is really weird if you ask me), a person going by "Anonymous"- left me this note:

"Oh my. It looks like I won't be visiting this blog anymore."

I deleted that comment on a whim because it hurt. I know I shouldn't let things bother me like that, knowing that if you put your thoughts out to the world, someone out there is going to take offense with just about anything. It's been suggested that if I blog publicly, it might be a good idea to get more "thick skinned", if you will. I guess I'm a sensitive soul. I feel things deeply. I never want to offend, and like I've expressed before, I want this space to be welcoming to all.

For "Anonymous'" sake, and for others out there who might have gotten a bad taste in their mouth about me or my son, I feel I must set the record straight. From that comment, this person, perhaps, has negative feelings about the religion of Islam or Arab culture. Maybe it's the fact that I indicated that we are Mormon. I don't know. It's baffling. I know that bias towards my own religion is real, yes, even in this very public arena of American politics.

I want to make it unequivocally clear that because my son expressed his increased respect and understanding of Islam, that in no way does it mean that he or I condone the despicable acts of violence of the 9/11 tragedy or any other forms of terrorism or oppression in the guise of this religion. Maybe some of you will remember the feelings I shared last year on the anniversary of that terrible day.

Yes, terrible things are done in the name of religion. There are wicked, vile people who use religion to justify their abominable acts. Gary, as well as the native Arabic instructors he's been fortunate to have in his university studies will be the first to admit that there are definitely problems associated with Islam and there are interpretations of doctrine that are flat out wrong or otherwise controversial to peaceful, law abiding, and God-seeking people (Including most of the worlds Muslims).

I believe there are decent people in any religion and that there are elements of truth in all religions; men and women inspired to do good, preach good, and bring people and nations to a higher level of good. I also believe that there are extremists who'll prey on the persuasive power of faith as a means to rally people around unjust and even violent causes for political, monetary, or personal gain.

I've always wanted my children to learn tolerance; to see the good in people different from our culture and religion. For three years in my youth, I was blessed to live in the wonderful nation of Portugal. There, I attended an American International school with children from all over the world. My understanding and respect for other cultures and religions laid a foundation for my life. My friendships with Catholics, Muslims, Evangelical Christians and others enriched my life in more ways than I can count. I'll forever be grateful for that experience. I always wanted that gift for my own children. How interesting it is to see my two college age children now interested in, open to, and hearts grown to love the Arab and Chinese speaking peoples of the world.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I can honestly say that I know what it feels like to have others doubt my own Christianity. Yes, I've felt a little bit of religious prejudice in my own life. I can see it in in American society. How unfortunate. Like I've stated, I believe any intolerance is fear based.  (Like my relationship with the snakes in my yard that I fear and have even killed!) When we don't truly take the time to understand, see, or become educated, yes, it's easy to wrongly judge or form biased, uninformed opions.

I think if you say you are a Christian, you put your money where your mouth is.

Love thine enemies. Do good. Be good.

Let me tell you a little more about Gary. Just because he loves Muslims does not infer that he is anti-American or anti-Israel, nor that his Christian beliefs and devotion are questioned. He is one of the few in his university program to hold a pro-Israeli viewpoint and is one of the most politically conservative people I know. During his high school years, he volunteered for three years interning with a very conservative citizen lobbying group. He became a state delegate to the state Republican convention when he was only 18 years old. I think this shows that whatever your political leanings, be they right or left of center, you can maintain a firm commitment to your ideology and principles and still love your neighbor.

And speaking of his Christianity, he sacrificed two years working full time in order save $11,000 that will all go toward two years of unpaid voluntary missionary service in Finland.  (He leaves on April 25th.) In the prime of his life he will leave behind his car (payed for by himself), his education, his pursuit of all other interests and goals, and his love, all to be able to help spread the good news of Christ's gospel.

I couldn't be more proud of this son.

Imagine a world where others, like my son Gary, see the good in their Muslim friends, Mormon friends, or any friends for that matter, despite inherent religious or philosophical differences. I believe if more people had this tolerance and good will, there would be peace on earth. Isn't that what we all want?

Just for clarification, I respect any who respectfully, kindly, and peacefully disagree with me. I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or otherwise offensive to me. I reserve the right to turn off comments if I feel like it. (Like I will do today. If you really want to share something with me, I'm always reached by email.) I reserve the right to not only write about "softies" or fluff like homemaking or tree blossoms, but also parts of who and what I am on a deeper level.

Peace out.