Month: May 2017

Statement from a High School Student

Some time ago I led a workshop at a Lutheran church. A few weeks later, the pastor sent me the reflection of a high school student who attended the event. Her writing strengthened my heart for this work. I hope it will do the same for you.


After attending the “Neighbors In Faith” forum before worship, presented by Pastor Terry Kyllo, it became irrationally real to me how separated we have become. As I listened to his moving message, I couldn’t help but think of something I try to live my life by.

The thought of God loving everyone always presses me on a day-to-day basis. I go to school with people I care deeply for, regardless of their beliefs. Because I’ve al-ways only seen them as a person first, not what they’re labeled as. I have always chosen to love first, and I feel like that feeling of comfort, that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, no matter what we do, has shaped my mind this way.

It pains me so deeply to think that other people make snap judgements about one another just because of what religion they relate to or who they love. I find it disturbing, to put it frankly. Because we are told to love our sisters and brothers. Just as God has loved us, we shall love our neighbors. And us as a society, has always been better together, than apart. Some of us fail to see this. I don’t necessarily agree with how so-and-so believes, but that doesn’t make her any less of a person. I still cherish our friendship and continue to hang out with her any chance I get. We don’t need to be the same to love each other. After all, I’d rather see the world with colored glasses, that shows me the beauty of the world, rather than a dull, black and white one. The world without diversity isn’t beautiful, but a world with it is one to want to live in.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4-8

Two Good Books

I read two books I would suggest people read:

  • The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims by Nathan Lean
  • The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict by William Cavanaugh

The first book by Nathan Lean describes in narrative form the rise of the Islamophobia Industry, the interrelationships between different groups and the organizations and individuals that provide support to this industry. Fear sells. Lean writes:

There is great urgency to resist and counter those whose aim it is to chop humanity up in to different minority blocks, pitting them against each other, and gambling with other people’s freedom for the sake of politics or profit.  – Nathan Lean, The Islamophobia Industry, pg. 184

The second book by Cavanaugh, was suggested to me by Dr. Mark Markully from Seattle University. Cavanaugh makes the case that the word “religion” in reference to historical faith traditions didn’t exist until 17th century. He traces the founding narrative of the nation state in this period as blaming newly named “religions” as being uniquely the cause for the wars of the period and the nation state as the cure. He is not making the case that historic faith traditions do not contribute to wars sometimes. He is making the case that the founding narrative of the nation state is itself a worldview, a meaning structure that human beings are living in. This worldview authorizes violence by some (nation states) because those in historic traditions are irrational and the “cause of all wars.” He goes on to point out that the thesis that all “religions” are irrational and the cause of all wars contributes to the violence against Muslims, both in the US and by the US overseas.

Here are two quotes from the book, one from Cavanaugh and the other from John Locke:

The so-called wars of religion appear as wars fought by state-building elites for the purpose of consolidating their power over the church and other rivals. – William Cavanaugh, Myth of Religious Violence, pg. 162
I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between one and another. If this be not done, there can be no end put to the controversies that will always be arising between those who have, or at least pretend to have, on the one side a concernment for the interests of men’s (sic) souls, and, on the other side, a care for the commonwealth. – John Locke, Concerning Toleration, pg.17

After reading this second book, I am now working never to use the word “religion” again.

His book made me change the way I express the core thesis of the Abrahamic faith traditions:

Love God more than our tribe or tradition (I used to say “religion.)
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

While I think the non-establishment of “religion” and other aspects of our country are good, I do not think that the way we cordon off historic faith traditions into small corners of our psyche and to the margins of society are good. I wonder if this approach serves only to make our larger culture free from critique in much the same way people accuse “religious” institutions from claiming to be inerrant. Same stuff, different day.

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