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Are you Afraid of Muslims?

Pillars: How Muslims Led Me Closer to Jesus is launching tomorrow, April 6! I don’t have a copy yet so if you get yours, will you post a photo and tag me so I can see it out in the world? I should get my shipment this week, insha Allah.

And, will you leave a review on Amazon please? That really helps with visibility. Thanks and you’re amazing!

I wrote the book with several things in mind, one of which is that I hope to de-mystify Islam. I’m not teaching about Islam, per se, as I’m not a Muslim. But I write about things I’ve learned and how I’ve experienced it as an outsider. I hope this will inspire others to not be afraid but to see potential for growing in faith, building peace, and creating a beautiful community.

Buy Pillars here!


 

Are you afraid of your toddler? Are you afraid of your dog?

Are you afraid of Muslims? Terrorists? I say “Muslims” and “terrorists” because media outlets, some politicians, and some religious leaders want us to believe the two words are synonymous.

Franklin Graham and other American Evangelicals seem to believe we should be afraid of Muslims and that we are at war with Muslims both in the US and abroad. We all know about the so-called Muslim ban former President Trump instituted. Graham also said, several years ago, that immigration needs to be closed to Muslims, that we are under attack. He isn’t alone in this kind of ignorant fear-mongering. Over 160,000 people liked his Facebook post.

In Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Du Mez noted that evangelical Christians are the most likely Christian group to see Islam as a threat. Jordan Denari Duffner has a book coming out in May called Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination. One of the reasons she wrote the book is that this is all too real and serious.

In the United States in 2013, three people were killed by terrorists (who were Muslim), all three at the Boston Marathon. That same year, five people were shot by gun-wielding toddlers, and about 34 died of dog bites.

Why didn’t Graham insist we prohibit toddlers inside our borders? Why hasn’t anyone called for a moratorium on dog ownership?

I think I know, partly, why. Americans are comfortable with toddlers and dogs, many of us know a toddler or a dog. But how many American Christians know Muslims? I mean really know them not just point to them on the street.

I have visited churches in Minnesota and people say, “Aren’t you afraid to live there? Aren’t all those Muslims trying to kill you all the time?”

No. No, I am not afraid and no, they are not trying to kill me. My daughter’s teachers? The man who pumps my gas? The running coach? It would be laughable if these American Christians weren’t so earnest.

They say, “I’m afraid to go to Target because Muslims have taken over, working at all the cash registers.” How is it that a person of a different religion working at a cash register can strike fear into hearts? How have we become so divided that we will turn a stranger into an enemy?

I think right there is the problem. We have become so divided that Muslims are strangers rather than friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We isolate and segregate and so we don’t know each other on a human level. We fear the unknown. We fear the unfamiliar and we fear difference. We’re threatened by it and so we hunker down, build barriers, throw stones.

But Christian faith calls us to not be afraid and to live a life of love, which casts out fear. We are to welcome the stranger, care for the outcast, bless the foreigner or alien.

Carl Medearis wrote to Graham: If “Muslims” are your enemies, it’s clear what Jesus calls us to do with enemies.  And if these “Muslims” are your neighbors (and many of them are), it’s clear what Jesus asks us to do with neighbors.  Either way I think you’re stuck. You gotta love em.

And Marilyn Gardner wrote: To build relationships with people of other faiths is not compromising our faith. Rather, it’s living out a faith that is not threatened but firm.

I think as Christians get to know Muslims on an individual basis they will discover Muslims also grieve when people are shot, they also are horrified when marathoners are bombed, they reject violence.

Inflammatory words and religious-based immigration bans only increase fear and divisions. This is not the way of Jesus or the Kingdom.

Discussion Topics:

  • How can we help each other move from fear to faith?
  • How do we speak up about the fear-mongering about Islam? How do we prepare ourselves to speak truth and love in the face of fear?
  • How can you grow in building a cross-religious friendship?

For more:

Carl Medearis: An Open Letter to Franklin Graham

Marilyn Gardner: Dear Mr. Graham, Let Me Introduce You to Some Friends

 

For more about building relationships across religious boundaries, check out Pillars.

By |April 5th, 2021|Categories: Pillars, Writing|Tags: , |0 Comments

Book Launch Party!

Sign up here!

I am consistently stunned by the kindness and generosity of writers who are strangers.

I have goosebumps thinking of Barbara Brown Taylor reading my words.

I cried when I read Abdi’s foreword.

In a world of so much grief, anger, and division this is an event to celebrate hope and connection.

There is goodness. Sometimes we must fight to see it, but is there.

There is beauty. Some of my favorite images of Djibouti are the desert with a single flower. Or a bougainvillea bush tangled in barbed wire. Or the sunrise over a garbage dump. Beauty will insist on itself.

We would love to see you at this book launch party!

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One year of Stronger than Death: Love and Service During a Deadly and Contagious Pandemic

Covid has made me think about tuberculosis many times (I also wrote about the way it connected with my cancer treatment here). Contagious, deadly, different people’s bodies have different responses, the feeling of being made a pariah or a leper, fear, societal changes, new vocabulary, life-long repercussions even when cured, global, no great treatment (yet), no vaccine (yet), racial dynamics, economics…

The overlaps could go on and on. And there are also the medical workers saving lives, risking their own lives, choosing to care for the vulnerable, and doing this in the middle of, in some places, broader violence and danger.

Like Annalena Tonelli did with tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa.

If you want to read about how a woman and a community faced their own “pandemic”, read this book. Read about how she consistently chose love and service over fear and rejection. Read about how she kept on choosing joy and life, even during war and terrible loss.

One reader asked if I hold Annalena as an idol. I don’t think I go to that extreme but I do admire, respect, and feel challenged by her. I know her weaknesses and the ways she frustrated some of the people around her. I know she wasn’t perfect and I don’t even come close to emulating her my own life. But I do find an example in her, an inspiration, ideas for how to live a little bit better, how to love a little bit more.

Every day this week, the 1-year birthday for Stronger than Death and the 17-year anniversary of Annalena’s murder, I will share experiences that I’ve had over the past year in talking about the book.

I’ll tell you about some mistakes and Lord knows I hate mistakes. About the value of reviews and how that little yellow “this book has issues” button that used to be on the Amazon page made me so mad. I’ll tell you about some of my favorite experiences while on book tour, share some reviews, share some reader concerns/issues, and give an update of the impact of the book. Be sure to check back in each day this week for these little tidbits.

And if you haven’t read the book yet, check it out! Also leave a review! Look at how excited I am, I’m using exclamation points!

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Announcing The Expat Cookbook!

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(Anyone who pre-orders the Kindle book and sends me a copy of your receipt will receive a free e-copy of Djiboutilicious. If you order the paperback and send your receipt, I will send you a free e-copy of your choice: either Djiboutilicious or The Expat Cookbook.)

Right now feels like a really weird time to talk about launching a cookbook that is geared toward those of us with international lifestyles. Who is traveling? Well, me, for one. We got home to Djibouti last week (after a 30-hour flight wearing masks and plastic face shields curtesy of Qatar Airlines and a 3-hour wait at the Djibouti airport for spit tests – negative).

The Expat Cookbook could come off as tone deaf. I understand that. I made it a long time ago, before Covid changed our lives. I could have sent it out into the world back in April but the world had broken and I just couldn’t do it. So I shelved it.

I decided to release it in October because maybe you know someone who will travel abroad or move abroad in the new year. Maybe you will be heading back to your host country and want some fresh ideas. Maybe you, like me, just have a lot of hope. I’m releasing this book in hope.

Hope that the planet finds healing. Hope that these recipes are delicious. Hope that this book will help you feel good about what you feed your family. Hope that what is in here will take a little pressure off decision-making and all the work of expat living. Those are small hopes compared to the first one. But we must keep going, making things, living our lives.

Recipes include things like overnight oats like 15 ways and about a million, okay more like a dozen, ways to spruce up pancakes or waffles. So many smoothies. So many ways to make popcorn more interesting. So many ideas for what you can bring on an airplane and how to pack it. Ideas for what to bring camping or hiking, what to eat at the office if you don’t have a fridge, what kind of food can you put in a box and mail to someone you love on the other side of the planet because we all know that food=love.

Anyone who pre-orders the Kindle book and sends me a copy of your receipt will receive a free e-copy of Djiboutilicious. If you order the paperback and send your receipt, I will send you a free e-copy of your choice: either Djiboutilicious or The Expat Cookbook.

Also, I’ve put the book on Payhip as well, this is a digital version only. The difference between Payhip and Amazon ordering is that I receive a much larger percentage of the price (rather than so much of it going to Amazon). If you order from Payhip, the same deal applies as above. Just let me know and I’ll send you Djiboutilicious.

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Making Art or Documenting Facts?

This topic has always felt interesting to me, especially when comparing movies and TV shows to books. There seems to be a much higher standard or sticking to facts with books. A movie or even a show like The Tiger King can say, “based on actual events” and then veer wildly off course. But a book? Not so much.


William Zinsser says, in Writing About Your Life, “To write a memoir you must manufacture a text. You must construct a narrative so readers will want to keep reading. You must, in short, practice a craft. You can never forget the story-teller’s ancient rules of maintaining tension and momentum…give yourself a plot.”

Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, in You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, is adamant that writers of nonfiction cannot make things up. He  questions time compression and composite characters. He says, “Making stuff up, no matter how minor or unimportant, or not being diligent in certifying the accuracy of the available information, endangers the bond between writer and reader.”

Ann Patchett says that Lucy Grealy said, in Truth and Beauty, “’I didn’t remember it,’ Lucy said pointedly. ‘I wrote it. I’m a writer.’ This shocked her audience more than her dismissal of illness, but she made her point: she was making art, not documenting an event.”

Philip Lopate says, in To Show and To Tell, “In giving it shape, a NF writer may be obliged to leave out some facts, combine incidents or even rearrange chronologies. Fine. I do not think we need aply the strictest journalistic standards of factual accuracty to all literary NF.”

Joan Didion says, in On Keeping a Notebook, “I always had trouble distinguishing between what happened and what merely might have happened, but I remain unconvinced that the distinction, for my purposes, matters.”

fact or fiction, blurring

Roy Peter Clark in The Line Between Fact and Fiction in Creation Nonfiction says, “The nonfiction writer is communicating with the reader about real people in real places. So if those people talk, you say what those people said. You don’t say what the writer decides they said. You don’t make up dialogue. You don’t make a composite character.” And he finishes the piece with this: “So don’t add and don’t deceive. If you try something unconventional, let the public in on it. Gain on the truth. Be creative. Do your duty. Have some fun. Be humble. Spend your life thinking and talking about how to do all these well.” (italics mine because, well, amen to that about pretty much everything I do)

And then there is the ever-controversial John D’Agata who says changing a fact is justifiable if you do it in the name of art, Lifespan of a Fact. If three trees sounds better than eight trees, write three. Even if there were eight.

When it comes to writing nonfiction, should writers be held to the same factual standards as news reporters? Is it ever okay to compress time? To create composite characters? To change names and details? How much does art come into play when writing nonfiction?

If that is too many questions to answer, how about just one: Can a nonfiction writer change anything when writing an essay? and if even that is too much to think about, go read the books here. They are all excellent.

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