Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Keep the date

Well that was fun...another discussion with a former Christian on a Muslim debating site. Sigh. I don't know what the attraction is, I really don't, and the arguments, if they are arguments, that to me look more like propaganda by and for Muslims. The distorted images of the Apostle Paul, the select dates to "prove" that somehow Islam is more liberating for women, make me wonder, and wonder some more. Add that to the mature Christians I had heard from that were kicked off the same "friendly" site, while Muslims who seemed to show up to be disruptive to a conversation that are still there, has all left me with the distinct impression that my first experience of inter-religious dialogue was more about converting nominal or naive Christians to Islam, than about dialogue of any sort.

Years ago I remember watching a movie, I can't remember the name of it, it was so long ago, but in it there's this little guy who was tiny...very small, abnormally small, yet he believes that he was meant to do something very big in life. Spoiler alert, but near the end of the movie, this little guy was able to rescue drowning kids on a school bus by getting through a window while the bus was submerged in water. Heart-warming, that after years of teasing, this little guy became a hero, and got his respect back. I don't know if I'm meant to do anything that big in life, but lately I've been thinking about one of those quirky little things about myself.

I've always loved history. Enough people have told me over the years that the reason they never liked history was because they couldn't handle dates. I've thought about that, and for me, that's one of the things I like about history, dates, because dates put things in context. When I think 1920's I think Jazz, when I think 1950's, I think Elvis Presley. Now, if we didn't pay attention to dates and the musical styles that lead up to the 1950's, we might just think that Elvis Presley came out of nowhere, right?

So it's always been one of my quirky little things that I pay attention to dates, because for me, dates put things in context. I remember years ago a history teacher being amused when she handed me a phone number and I noted out loud that it was close to the Magna Carta. That's just me, and how I remember phone numbers. But lately, I find myself repeating dates to Muslims ad nauseum, so much so that yesterday they booted me off, saying I could only get back in if I would admit that the Old Testament came before the New, haha. Something tells me that's not what it was about.

I'm no expert, I don't know all about the Koran, I don't know all about the Bible even...but you know what I think? I think if there is one thing that the church got right, it is that they have always held to and preserved the earliest documents about Jesus. That's what our faith rests on, the earliest records that do not disagree on the core doctrines of Christianity...and regardless of who came around later, be it the gnostics or Muhammad or Joseph Smith....golly gee, which is more likely to be corrupted, the earlier or the later?

My heart goes out to the Christians out there who are confused by all the crap, pardon my English, that is written about Jesus these days. I'm not going to tell anyone what to think here, but I am going to say, check the date, always check the date on the sources that you are being given, and measure that date against the dates for the New Testament in your hand, that you are reading in context. Something tells me that if more Christians did that, and we taught Christians to do that in Sunday school, I'd be having fewer conversations with former Christians in Muslim chat rooms.

In closing, I am thankful for my historical faith, a faith that is based on an historic person who made claims that can be tested against the evidence. I am thankful for the early church and the Jewish people before that for meticulously preserving and translating our scriptures. That can't have been easy, centuries before the printing press. I enjoy reflecting on the contents of the scriptures, as I also reflect on the historic context of when they were written and the dates that have been given, and I keep those dates, as I keep the scriptures, close to my heart.

Thanks for listening,

M.A. Harvey

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