Sunday, September 9, 2007

A confession and a plea

Like I've already said, I really wish I had started this long ago when I first began reading and learning and wondering. It would have been nice to have more interaction and discussion earlier on in the process (not that I've received any comments or emails.) However, the thing that this blog did accomplish is that it's been making me think a lot about my beliefs and where exactly I am in this search.

Unfortunately, I think I'm farther along than I originally expected. I'm finding that my gut feeling is leaning in favor of Islam, which doesn't make me particularly happy. Truthfully, I'd much rather be Christian, which is probably why I'm prolonging this as long as possible.

There are many reasons I'd prefer to remain Christian. It would make things much much easier with my family; I fully expect converting to completely screw up my family relations and I wouldn't expect them to ever recover fully. I love how I feel at Christmas and Easter and how I feel anytime I'm just quiet and relaxed in a church; I love that feeling of peace and fulfillment. I'm not saying that I can't get that with Islam also but I don't expect the Muslim holidays to ever be the same. I didn't grow up celebrating them with my family, I don't have years of happy memories associated with them, I didn't grow up hearing the stories as a child, and I doubt any Muslim holiday in America can ever feel quite right, regardless of the Muslim community surrounding me. Also, the one and only mosque I've visited just doesn't have that feeling of extravagance and spirituality that the big, fancy, old churches have. Whenever I want to go pray, I don't go to my church, which is plain and simple, I go to the Catholic chapel because of its decoration, the statues, the stained glass, the paintings and carvings and stone, the incense, everything helps me to feel like I'm truly in God's house; I don't have much experience with mosques but I get the impression that they may have ornate calligraphy and geometric decoration but not the things that typically put me in a spiritual mood. I'm also a very big music guy and I would really miss hymns with organs and choirs. I never did understand why music is such a non-existent part of Islamic worship; there are many musical references throughout the Bible and the Psalms are all songs; Judaism and Christianity both have long musical traditions in worship but it doesn't seem to be a part of Islam at all. I also do like a good pork steak and beer but I could easily give those up; the things that really matter are my relationship with God and my relationship with my family and friends.

However, although those are all definite pros for Christianity, that second-to-last part about "my relationship with God" is the reason I'm finding it hard to remain Christian. I've always had a hard time with the Trinity. I find that whenever I pray, everything's pretty much addressed to God the Father. I'd always recognized Jesus' sacrifice and my resulting forgiveness but God the Father was always the one doing the forgiving. He was the one who blessed me with all I had. In my mind, Jesus was a messenger, a prophet, and a martyr whom I'd just accepted as God's son and part of God. However, I've never really accepted any argument or explanation as to WHY he is one with God. When reading the Gospels, I've never come across anything that convinces me that Jesus was more than a prophet. I don't question his role as the messiah but I don't exactly understand where his divinity originated. Jesus seemed pretty against anyone worshiping him. Most of the New Testament proclamations of Jesus' divinity are located in Paul's epistles. Thus, I feel more like we're following Paul's beliefs and preachings than Jesus'. I feel like Jesus wouldn't have taught such confusion but would have been clear on his teachings. Even after his resurrection, Jesus never states his divinity. I know that some of the early Christian churches before Paul worshiped Jesus as God but I don't understand from whence that notion originates.

Since I'd really much rather remain Christian, I'm asking for persuasion to do so. Please give me an explanation that would allow me to remain Christian without having these doubts that constantly tear at me. None of the reasons I have for remaining Christian are truly religious reasons, they're more reasons of convenience or sentiment.

Since the world's great theological minds haven't accidentally stumbled upon this blog yet, I'm going to go ahead and solicit readers and, hopefully, discussion. I'm going to email religious leaders from a few varied backgrounds in hopes that others can help me through this.

I know there was more that I wanted to write but it's slipped my mind. I'm sure it'll come to me eventually and I'll write it later.


Azooz said...

Hi Again,

I am not an Islamic preacher, weak on theology but am good on the Quran for language.

I get a funny "Save Me From Islam" vibe from your post, and might actually do that by mistake - I talk too much too often and bore even the most patiant.

My ex-wife was a Brooklyn Italian - a wonderfull cook who loathed the idea of becoming a Muslim for everyone loved her Italian pork and ham dishes flavored with fine Italian wines - Islam got her to, poor thing, and she still misses cooking them last I heard :)

She and I had a Rock and Roll wedding and honymoon - You are right, music is harder to let go off - but these past few years I have left it probably becuase I am getting old.

Muslims are Chrisitans in the original meaning of the word, before Jesus (pbuh) was made into a devine figure and before the Trinity. The message of worshiping God alone (No Partners) is not unique or new to Islam.

One thing I have been talking about to many American priests is that the current media attack on Islam is also promoting Islam. I met my first new Muslim in the 70s and it has grown greatly since then. The media issue is based on their faith that Islam is wrong, my point is that Islam is true - so I do not mind when my point is ignored. I word it weakly for my English is not good these days but getting there because it is my first language belive it or not.

That is my rambling, I think I am avoiding my own blog by writeing here but hope some one else interfer to try to "save you" - easy for I really am no great theological mind.

God Bless


Searching For Truth said...

The "save me from Islam" vibe you're getting is exactly how I feel. I really don't want to become Muslim but I'm scared that's where I'm heading. In the end, I'm going to do whatever I feel is right and true. I'm sure I'll miss my pork and beer and church hymns but those certainly aren't enough to keep me from God just as the many temptations of immoral living, including just getting to sleep late on Sundays, don't keep me from being Christian now.

While I'm on the subject of church hymns, I now find myself analyzing every hymn we sing every week and many have nothing intrinsically Christian about them, or intrinsically non-Muslim, I should say. Obviously there are many that speak either implicitly or explicitly of the Holy Trinity but there are also many that are only songs of praise to God. I wouldn't think that their Christian authorship would have any sway on their literal meaning. Thus, I see no reason they would be rejected by Muslims.

That makes me curious if there are any Muslim communities that regularly incorporate music into worship. Christian churches have branched far and wide in their worship styles. I am fairly traditional but I have no problem with more contemporary services, especially when they bring in demographics that aren't attracted by the traditional worship style. Since I've only visited one mosque and there aren't any others in my immediate area, I am completely ignorant of how mosques differ. However, I get the impression that the Friday jumuah prayer services are always simply the khutba (sermon) followed by prayer. Perhaps some mosques have additional worship sessions just like many churches have weekly youth worship services meant to augment, not replace, the regular Sunday service.

I've heard some Muslims say the exact same thing about the media's recent impact on American Islam. I've been told that, although the September 11 attacks were horrible and condemned by Islam, they have actually caused an increase in the number of converts and even just curious inquisitors just because people are suddenly much more aware of Islam. Before all the current mess with Al Qaeda and Iraq, it was very easy for most Americans to be completely ignorant of Islam, even though a huge percentage of the world are Muslims (I don't know the number off the top of my head but I'm thinking it's one fifth.) However, now people are bombarded daily with news about Al Qaeda, Iraq, the Shiites and Sunnis, Palestine (although not nearly enough about Palestine but that's a very different issue,) Iran, and even minor news like the construction of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai. As I previously mentioned, what started me reading and exploring was getting to know a few Muslims at college; I learned some just from hanging around them and slowly started reading out of curiosity. It was very slow at first, just dabbling, and I've even resisted and completely shelved everything (literally, books, and figuratively, my thoughts) for over a year at some point but now I'm back to reading and exploring at a fair pace.

I'm hoping for some divine inspiration because I'm getting tired and discouraged.

By the way, thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. I've emailed a few people fishing for comments but received none thus far.

Azooz said...

Mention in your emails that a weird old Saudi is commentiong on your blog - you'll hopefully get a bit more responce - but I think you are safely on your way ;)

One peice of advise that you do not need - take your time and do not rush. Please read the first page of the Quran as often as you can - ignore the translators notes if it mentions Jews or Christians that was introduced by translators and not part of the original.

Cat Stevens recorded a lot of Islamic "Nasheed" after he converted, here is a new one for kids in Ramadan:
One is pure vocal for those sects that do not like music, and another with drums - but he is back to guitar. I do not actually avoide music, but prefer hearing the Arabic Quran.

I saw you comment on Islamdom, here is a very long topic that I got into with an Iranian ex-Muslims that I think might interest you - and it shows how little I know about theology but like the Arabic Quran:

Iran's Shia and Saudi's Sunna have anceint problems that are affecting the Mosques in America - but they are not as big as when I was there in the 80s - we still have differences but the media has permitted us to talk like we have not been able to before. The Muslims of North Africa and the rest of the world do not have this problem - and I would pray in any mosque. The differences between Most Muslims sects are very small becuase the Quran unites us - but some have limited the role of the Quran and I have trouble with that for it introduces divinity to humans.

>>I'm hoping for some divine
Learn some Arabic, the Arabic Quran ends all doubts. This is the only reason %90 of Arabs are Muslim. If you have read the link you will see me trying hard to explain this to an ex-Muslim and might interest a searcher.

I love America, and 9-11 was a major shock in my life - I still want to belive Muslims had no part of it but can not deny that we did - Islam just says that those that took part of it have to answer to God for it. Americans who discovered Islam did so despite 9-11 not becuase of it - I would write a lot of it but I guess you have heard much of it already.

There are two kinds of Mosques, Shia I do not know - but the Sunni Mosques are a majoroty (%80+) and come in 4 major types (sub-sects) and all of them are the same for the differences are too small to make us mind them. I do not know the sect in your local but I would recomend it anyway.

As I write this I see the president of Iran speeking at the U.N - I do not know what he'll say, and disagree with much of his actions and views, but I am sure the over-reactions in the media will spread a bit more Islam :)


Cassidhe said...

I don't know you, but I just stumbled across your blog...

I don't know as much about Islam as I would like, so I can't address that religion, but I am a Christian who has thought a good deal about Christianity, so I guess I'll offer some thoughts.

I, too, have been having a crisis of faith. I know I believe in God, I just wasn't sure Christianity was the best expression of my belief. However, I am still a Christian, and here are the three main reasons why:

1) For me, Christianity is about sacrifice, about weakness as strength, about overcoming death by submitting to it, not fighting it. And then...we find life. For some reason I can't explain, I find that paradox necessary.

2)The paradox mentioned above can be found in other religions as well, but to my knowledge (I could be wrong), no other religion believes that their God becomes part of this paradox. That God became a human, became one of us to save us all, became weak to show God's true strength, submitted to death to defeat it once an for all. I've come to the conclusion that I need to believe in a God whose wisdom and strength looks like "folly" and weakness to this world, because the strength and wisdom of this world haven't really gotten us anywhere.

3) I need to believe in a God full of Grace. A God who picks me out of the mess I've made for myself simply because I've asked God to. I believe that we must constantly work to grow closer to God, but I've discovered that I cannot believe that my work will save me. That seems to be a religion of me, not of a God. Again, my knowlege of Islam and many other religions is limited, so I appolgize if I am wrong, but as far as I know, Christianity is the only religion where your eternal communion with God or salvation or whatever you want to call it is not base on your own work but on God's grace. Because I am so imperfect, I need Grace.

Well, those are some of my thoughts, inarticulate as they may be. I wish you well on your search and hope that you will find Truth - wherever that may be. Blessings and Shalom.