09 January 2009

Candidacy Day 5

First, I must publicly acknowledge my wonderful husband, who's been blogging for us the last few days--thanks, honey! It's been a long week, and I'm pretty much spent.

Still trying to process our field trip today. We went to a Buddhist church in the morning and a Muslim mosque in the afternoon. At the church, we met with the reverend, who's been doing this about 6 years as his second career--he used to be a sculptor in California. From the outside, it looks like any church building, but the smell of incense was overpowering from the moment we walked in (honestly, I thought they might have a gas leak). :) Their ornate gold-leafed shrines towered above us, but we sat in pews lined with Buddhist hymnals and there was a piano in the corner. The main shrine, he explained, was not the object of worship--it was merely a symbol of the truth, the reality which they try to live in as they eliminate greed, anger and ignorance from their lives through awareness. God, he said, was irrelevant to the problems man faces--after all, he is in heaven, and we must solve our problems ourselves. It was orderly, intentional, and beautiful, and I found myself understanding the attraction, in part: there is pride in knowing that you are more enlightened than your neighbor. I am guilty of it as well, in my own spiritual journey.

The mosque was very different than I had pictured it--it was a plain building, not ornate or even unusual in any way, and it too looked like a typical, boxy, off-white church building or community center. Inside was plain and multi-purpose as well--large rugs covered the floor, with lines of masking tape cutting diagonally from wall to wall. The purpose, explained the outreach director, was order--everyone must be lined up toward Mecca (since the Prophet, peace be upon him, had changed it from Medina), and it must be a straight line. No exceptions, she smiled. She bounced her son on her hip and inquired after the children we'd brought with us, while she shared her testimony--she had met her husband on the internet, as is becoming more common among Muslim girls--though most are not from Idaho Falls. She explained that many men would come in late to the required prayer service, not out of disrespect, but it was the only time they could get off work. As the call to prayer began, she excused herself to the women's room, assuring me that it was fine for us to stay with the men. I wish I hadn't. It's one of two times in my life that I felt my womanhood unwelcome. It wasn't their fault--but the room was full of men, and I could nearly feel in my skin how out of place I was. Watching them kneel and pray, stand, gesture, kneel and pray, I wondered how it feels to be them. To earn your salvation--it's so foriegn to me. It wasn't always; I have tried to earn it during certain periods in my life. But there was a quote that stuck with me: "If any do deeds of righteousness whether male or female, and have faith, they will enter Paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them" (Qur'an 4:124). We are all People of the Book, a professor pressed us afterward; why did we try to convert them? It is the same God, he said.

And that is true, in some sense. There is a lot of shared history between us. And whether it's Buddhists or Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Mormons or anyone, God adores the people I met today. But His love has been revealed to them through Jesus Christ, and no other relationship ushers us into eternal life--and that is a good thing, because there is no better King over the kingdom we're joining, and no better teacher for the path we're on, and no greater God who has done more for his people. I hope I'll see them again someday, because they are seeking God, and we know that those who seek God with all of their hearts will find him.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! BTW, FWIW, in Cairo the mosques are usually quite ornately decorated. :-)