Jul 13, 2010

The Faith Club - Chapter 6

I really don't like this chapter.  I'd go so far as to say I have an aversion to it.  I am amazed at how Ranya chooses to complain about being seen as a "victim" and as an "outsider"...yet puts herself in that position by turning her back on her mosque because they're full of "first-generation immigrants." (page 81)

Am I the only one who finds that offensive? Really...I can't have been the only one to see that.

I fail to feel for Ranya who's family never worshiped at mosques in the middle east as she grew up because it wasn't like home.  Gimme a break.  This woman needs to grow a flippen back bone.  Come ON woman -- are you serious???

Then, she claims that there's only one mosque in Manhattan.  Really??  Just one??  I'm able to do a quick google search and find 3 and those are just the ones listed.  I think that this is another example of Ranya being the ever present victim....and she proves it when she talks about the "only" mosque that she could find in New York where the "majority of [worshipers]...appear to be new immigrants...I feared that because their concerns, opinions, and prejudice might reflect their lives and experiences as new immigrants, my American family would stick out like sore thumbs." (pg 82)

I'm beginning to get the impression that Ranya is a snooty little b!tch who's poop doesn't smell.

She then goes on to complain that many people turn to Islam while they are in prison.  Why is this an issue?  Don't priests go there and talk to the inmates about their crimes in an attempt to get them to "come to Christ?"  Why can't Ranya be happy with a Muslim from a lower class, a different country or a bad background?  Who is she to judge?

See, while Ranya talks about all of these things in a negative light, I see them as positives.  What I love about Islam is the uniformity of it.  I can worship at a mosque in Canada, Brazil, Sudan, Jordan, China, Bangladesh....you name it -- I can go there and we are speaking the same words and preforming the same actions.  There is a sense of belonging that is gained...even if you are a foreigner or, in Ranya's case, more "American" than the others.  I find that beautiful.

Later, Ranya goes to church with Suzanne...interesting...but whatever, but then she says about Suzanne, "She had recognized my angst and longing to be a part of a spiritual community, and the frustration I have felt at times when as a family we have missed out on the communal celebration of certain colorful Muslim traditions and holidays"  I can't feel sorry for her...she has missed out because she chooses to stay away.  Of course you will feel left out.  And you know what??  If you don't like it, start something new!  There's nothing wrong with that...and invite people, be open - it will happen!  I can't feel sorry for someone who sits and whines about stuff that they have the power to change!  Suck it up, buttercup!

Okay, that's all I can handle...I'm getting moody just thinking about this. 


Keahn said...

OMG! You used the phrase, "Suck it up, Buttercup!" No wonder I like you -- I think we may be kin. :-) I'll post about the Chapter later. These 10-hour "summer" work days are ripping my hide. Must - get - sleep. :/

Erin said...

Nope, you weren't the only one. I always thought that having a common belief system would be something that would bring people together, no matter where they were from.
For me, it was Suzanne that stuck out in this chapter. At the end of the Chapter, on pg 96, she says "In fact, I wondered whether Priscilla, who was lacking in faith, and Ranya, who lacked a religious community, would soon long for the spiritual comfort and enlightened doctrine of th4e Episcopal Church, too." I found this to be so arrogant, once again the "my way is the right way" train of thought. I guess, for her, it just means she is strong and sure in her beliefs, but I found it very off-putting.

Yvonne said...

I don't have time to write much about your post, other than to say that I've been enjoying reading your comments about the book (but haven't had time to read the book...)
But I had to giggle a little at the "random" ad that google attached when I was reading your blog tonight... it was for Compassion Canada with the tagline... The Difference is Jesus (http://thedifferenceisjesus.com).
Alright... off to bed. But keep writing Heather... I check daily for new posts!

Hethr said...

Oh Yvonne -- the "target" ads are hilarious. I've had Scientology, The Church of Jesus Christ, Jewish, and a "new world order" since I've started this. Very intersecting!

NanLT said...

I find it interesting that even as we read, our views on the women and what we are reading are very much influenced by our own beliefs.

I don't see Rayna has whining maybe because I've been where she is in trying to find a spiritual family. She also very much is following in her father's footsteps - displaced from his home place of worship, rather than try to find a new spiritual home, he gave up and decided it couldn't be done.

Suzanne - well, I kinda of get the idea that she sees religion as being a big overcoat. If you don't like the way the mac fits, then try on the grenfell or the M&S brand. If you don't like being Catholic, then try on the Episcopalian. If you don't like being Muslim, then try on the Christian. When she sees the other two women questioning their own beliefs (a crisis of faith that nearly all people go through at some point or another) her response is not to help them to get through it but to suggest they change their beliefs. And since her coat fits so nicely (Christianity) in her ... hmm.. not arrogance.... perhaps naivety?... she figures it will fit just as nicely for Ranya and Priscilla.

I think offering her own church as a spiritual home is a gesture made in innocence. She has found comfort and a spiritual family there and wants it to be a spiritual family for her new friends as well.

She herself realises though in the midst of it all that Ranya can't just switch religions like she changes her jacket. "St James couldn't be her religious foster home. Every gathering she attended there would begin with a prayer that concluded with the words'Through Jesus Christ our Lord.'"

I think going to Suzanne's church service did help Ranya to affirm her own beliefs though.

I do identify with Ranya though very much in this chapter. That yearning to find a spiritual home where I can be with those who believed exactly as I did. That discomfort when sitting in religious services where I do not hold the same beliefs.

Even across the Christian religions I have felt this. I was raised in the Methodist Church. We didn't have regular communion services. (And when we did, the wine was grape juice as Methodists don't drink alcohol.)We didn't kneel on risers during the service. Baptism isn't done through total immersion.

It became even more profound though when I realised that I didn't find solace and comfort in the Christian beliefs (and like Suzanne, I did try others on for size)and discovered the Pagan religions. I was asked one time why I didn't partake of the communion even if I wasn't Christian - because to do so would make a mockery of it for you.

Unlike Ranya, and Priscilla though, I quickly came to realise that I would never find that one perfect spiritual home in those outside myself. I go to rituals and such with others not because they provide a spiritual home but because they provide fellowship.

From the words of the Charge of the Goddess: "And for you who are seekers, know that your yearning and seeking will avail you not unless you know this mystery. If that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without."

Keahn said...

"If that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without." NanLT, I've often said something similar to this. In trying to "catch up" with my postings, I'll just touch on some of my notes (yeah, I'm an active reader: pencil underlinings, highlighters, notes in the margins...). At the very beginning of Chapter Six I noted that Ranya: is a lot like those who leave teh Catholic church for another Christian-based denomination, or change Catholic churches, because they don't like the "new" priest -- they can't accept, and don't understand, that they're the problem, not the church.

Ranya writes: "
I cringe at the process by which it seems you can commit a crime, enter prison, and become a member of the Nation of Islam" (83). Well, the same can be said for those prisoners who find God and become Christians behind bars.

When Ranya writes how she, "...felt the beginning of a sore throat" (85), the night before she was to attend Suzanne's church services, I wrote down in the margins: Psychosomatic symptom of FEAR.

Suzanne writes: "I was pretty sure that it would be easier for us to connect over chocolate rabbits and colored eggs than over the story of Jesus' resurrection" (87). This tells me that -- clearly she was uncomfortable with her faith prior to this event, because it is difficult to find perspective and feel comfortable in such a situation if you are not rooted strongly in your own faith or beliefs.

When Ranya writes about the man who introduced himself to her after the service and then presumed it was because he thought she was "a church insider" (87), I thought: "Why didn't it enter her mind that he was just reaching out to her as a person -- not necessarily a "fellow Christian"?

I had to chuckle when I read about Priscilla's father telling "The Paper Bag Story," -- anyone who has watched TV or movies, especially last year's UP IN THE AIR with George Clooney, has heard a rendition of this story. In the movie, George Clooney's character gave The Backpack Story at this motivational speaking engagments. Again, it feels like Pricilla's father handed her a lot of common stories that she took seriously because he attached them to being Jewish and part of their faith-walk. As I've stated before in an earlier chapter, and NanLT has also mentioned here, a lot of the issues these three women seem to be dealing with when it comes to a lapse of faith has a lot to do with their parents' attitudes about their religions.

In a earlier post, I also mentioned that I thought Suzanne's transition from the Catholic church to another denomination may have had a lot to do with the priest pedophile situation that came to light. My point was proven correct, when you she so much as nearly admits as much on page 95.

Overall, I guess you could say that NanLT and I have similar views regarding this chapter.

There was a time when I wanted to walk away from the Catholic church, too. I was 14 and I found it very hypocritical. Instead, I spent two years studying the religions of the world. In the end I chose to come back to the Catholic church. Not because it is the best religion, but because I realized how very similar all the faiths are AND that there are hypocrits in EVERY faith / religion / denomination.

If you end up really identifying with another faith, it usually has more to do with the changes that have occurred in you than what the other faith or church has supplied you with.

Keahn said...

OMG, I just noticed my typos -- can you tell it's time for the grandkids' parents to come get them?

Hethr said...

"If that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without."

You know - the opposite can also hold true...and I never even noticed that I was creating much of my own "problems" until I had to do a poster "all about me" for school. When I wrote the report to go along with it, it was filled with "I don't want people to think I'm unable to speak English," and "I worry that others judge me."

But when you worry about things like this - guess what -- It happens! If you think about it enough, sure as heck, you'll start finding examples of it!

Anyhow -- I read that report and decided to stop seeing myself as a victim, and am leading a much happier life now! (totally off the topic of the book, but interesting none the less)

NanLT said...

When it comes to worrying about others judging you, I found that it helped to put it into a bit of perspective.

There are over 2 billion people on the earth. Of those 2 billion, even in this internet age chances are high that only a few thousand will have heard of you, of those few thousand fewer than 100 will know you in any depth. Of those 100, a handful will be called friend.

So, out of the 2 + billion people on the earth, all but a select people will know you well enough to even think about judging you. The rest will all be going about their own lives completely oblivious even to your existence.

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