Jul 31, 2010

The Faith Club, Chapters 12 & 13

Sorry people, I'd been counting down the days until vacation, and spent much of my time preparing rather than reading *gasp* -- now that things are mostly done (we're not going anywhere, just staying home and not working for a week) -- I think I can get back to reading.  I really hope to, because we're only half way through this horrible book, I still hate it, and I still hate the characters.

Chapter 12 talked about Mortality.  And once again, Ranya's lack of knowledge about her faith astounds me.  On page 181, she says, "Is there a soul?  I want to hang onto the idea that there is one so badly."  Perhaps if Ranya did a little more than HOLD her Quran (like, perhaps reading the thing) -- she'd know that God talks a LOT about the soul.  I'm assuming if God, who created us and all that we see (and all that we don't) has said that there is a soul, then there is a soul.  I certainly believe that we have souls...a body is just a body...the soul is what (I believe) makes us who we essentially are.

I was shocked to know that Jews have no afterlife.  I had no idea!  So what is to prevent one from doing bad things (I mean, weren't the 10 commandments sent to the Jews??) -- what's to stop one from breaking a commandment if there is no reward/punishment??  Do I have Jewish followers?  Can someone explain this one to me??

Oh...and as an aside -- I really find their little "conversations" that they have interspersed through the chapters corny.  Who talks like that??

All in all, chapter 12 talks about mortality.  I think it's foolish to say that one isn't afraid of death...it's such a big unknown...however, I think that we can be prepared for our eventual death...in my case by doing good deeds, following (what I believe) to be the wishes of God, and staying away from evil.  Death still scares me, yes...and I certainly would like to stay as far away from it as I can, but in the end (no pun intended) it's the one thing that you can't escape!

Chapter 13 -- I was glad to see that Suzanne finally had some doubt (that sounds horrible, but I'll explain).  All this time, she has been like that girl in school, Perfect, Pretty, Smart, and well liked...and then one day that girl walks into school with a giant zit on her face and you just think "Yes!  She's human!!"  That was me reaction when I read about Suzanne's doubt.

I think that faith is sometimes strengthened with doubt...after all, faith is a belief in something that is "unprovable."  For someone who's scientifically minded, like me, it's a giant step to believe in something that you cannot find solid proof of.

There were just a few notes that I made in this chapter...on page 204, Suzanne was talking about an author (Pagels) who "called into question the divinity of Jesus, saying that only John calls Jesus the Son of God.  The other gospel authors simply use the term 'Messiah,' which means 'of God,' and could refer to a prophet."  This is something that I didn't know, and I find very interesting!

Another interesting thing (on the same page) was when Suzanne wrote, "I had found myself wanting to discard beliefs that wouldn't please Ranya and Priscilla."  All I can say to this is WHY?  Why do you need to discard your beliefs to please others?  How is it an interfaith dialogue if you don't talk about things that may make others uncomfortable??

Then Ranya, not surprisingly, whines some more.  Whines about Ramadan and not being able to fast in it because she was lonely.  Oh...boo hoo...  Life is what you make of it sweetheart.  Stop being a victim and suck it up.  Deal with it!  Find a way!  Try fasting with your kids (they certainly don't have to fast all day, but they can for a couple of hours) -- I just have no tolerance for her outlook on her poor American Muslim life. Nothing more than excuses, in my opinion!

She only stops whining when she finds an Imam who allows her to carry out beliefs and rituals that have nothing to do with Islam (and are strictly forbidden, I must say -- for example, Easter baskets, Christmas trees??  Your teaching your kids to believe in something (the divinity of God) that is stressed as an absolute wrongness in that Quran she carries around in her purse.  It's kinda like my thoughts on the McDonald's thing -- sure, you're not teaching that to the kids, but that's what they are getting out of it.

I think that I have a more unique outlook on this...you see, as a convert, my family is NOT Muslim...so my kids get baggies of chocolates and junk from my mom at Easter; but my mom just tells them "Oh, I got you some chocolate."  Her other grandchildren get Easter baskets, my kids (who visit at a separate time) get little goody bags.  The same thing happens at Christmas.  This is a sore spot for me, but it's really the only time that all of my family gets together.  So, we gather, the kids get gifts and we eat dinner....we don't sing Christmas songs, and we don't have a visit from Santa.  My house is not decorated in Christmas stuff  -- and there is always a discussion about how Grandma is a Christian and this is her holiday but we are Muslims and we celebrate Eid.  I have had people tell me it's wrong, but I won't cut out my family to please others.

Anyhoo -- back to the book.  One page 212, her new Imam says, "Those parts [of the Quran] you don't understand should not inhibit you from embracing others."  I love this.  I have read my Quran time and time again, and every time I read it, it can have a different meaning to me...depending on where I am in my life and feelings at that moment.  He also says, "to engage in the five pillars [prayer, charity, fasting, hajj, and belief in the oneness of God] without faith is nothing." Again, I agree...without faith, these are merely actions and not pure intentional deeds.

Okay, that's all I have for this part...what are your thoughts??


C said...

Asalaamu Alaikum

I guess you are beginning to see why I was so fed up with this book.

Keahn said...

The beginning of Chapter 12 sounded a bit contrived to me. And I question Ranya's choice of words sometimes: "I was 'forced' to submit" (181). Forced? How about just saying that you gave in to the possibility of a higher source? Or something similar?

I expected her to say something about the term "Expiration" used when her grandfather died, but what she said wasn't exactly what I was thinking. Perhaps because I was thinking about this exact term a few days ago when I was thinking about when my own father died. The doctor said that, "Mr. Keahn expired this morning." I remember thinking "Expired?" I was 14-years-old -- expired was a term you used for food that had gone bad, or a coupon that was past its redemption date, not a human being.

Ranya being "afraid of the unknown" (181)is something everyone fears. Nothing remarkable in that statement or thought.

I thought the part that Priscilla shared regarding what her rabbi said when her father died was interesting -- about her father's life energy living on "as real matter" (186). Made me think immediately of those who say that spirits move among the living.

And I often think the same way as Ranya does regarding her father,"I think that I feel God when I reflect on my father and his sense of fairness. He has that graciousness of spirit" (189). I feel very much the same when I think about how my father was.

I chuckled when Ranya said, "Well, if there is a heaven, I think that you would find a lot of people disagreeing as to who get to go there" and when she related the statement made by the little boy at her daughter's school,"...only Muslims get to go to heaven. Jews and Christians burn in hell because they don't listen to God" (197).

Here we go again, "If you missed the Rapture bus, get your E-tickets ready for the OTHER bus."

Suzanne actually shared a good point about how with some Christians, "In their hands Jesus seemed to become a polarizing force rather than a unifying one" (199).

I also found her statement that she "realized [she] never addressed Jesus when [she] prayed," that her prayers were always directed "straight to God" interesting as well. Mainly, because I can attest to basically doing the same thing. Even though, as Catholics in particular, we believe in the Holy Trinity (Father (God), Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit) as three entities that are all one and the same God, we still have a tendency to catagorize them independently of each other when we pray. I do not picture Jesus or the Holy Spirit when I pray. I just pray to God.

What I found again, like with Chapter 11, is that although Chapter 12 is titled, "Intimations of Mortality," it just touches on the subject in regard to each woman's views and doesn't necessarily go into deeper details according to their faith and beliefs.

It's beginning to appear to be more of a "touchy, feely" book, instead of an informative one -- to me anyway.

Keahn said...

I was surprised to find out through Suzanne's opening section that, at this point, the women had been meeting for nearly two years. Somehow the way they are talking, it seems like they are still in the beginning of their journey.

Suzanne's doubts didn't surprise me though. I noted in another group discussion ealier how changing churches is what a lot of Catholics do (perhaps followers of other denominations as well). They try to rationalize that it is the church, its priest or preacher, that had caused their wandering from their faith, but the reality is that it's something inside of them -- not any outside source,that is causing their religious discomfort. Suzanne is experiencing that in this chapter, though she hasn't truly recognized it for what it is yet.

Her statement, "I couldn't believe in a God who would condemn those who hadn't 'accepted' Him. To me, God's love was the unconditional love..." (202). I've been in her shoes on this one. I am constantly amazed at Christians who can totally understand their earthy parents having unconditional love for them -- no matter what -- but fail to acknowledge this attribute in their own divine Father.

She continues, "I needed to go to the early days of Christianity, a time before authoritarian teaching took hold" (203). Amen to that. Why is it that people can totally understand what it is to be influenced by political figures, yet so totally do not comprehend how they are influenced by the intgerpretations of their faith by the leaders of their churches? Even though a priest is a messenger of God's Word, I am aware that he is still human -- and human's are fallible.

I was taken by Craig Townsend's explanations on various issues. I thought,overall, he was a pretty sharp and open-hearted leader to admit that we must recognize that "other paths to God [exist]" (203) and that "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it's certainty" (204). How many times have you heard someone profess their faith in a way that they are absolutely certain that theirs is the only way to God?

"I believe in God because of what I find when I look into my own heart" (207) -- I'm going to have stationery printed up with this quote. I like it THAT much.

While I'm glad that Ranya apparently has found an imam that she is comfortable with, I was puzzled by how she relates that, "The mosque was difficult to identify, located in a nondescript two-story townhouse without any exterior indications of being a mosque" (209). Why was that? Why would a leader choose a non-descript space to share one's faith? Even though it was supposed to be an interfaith meeting -- why not acknowledge the faith of the one holding it?

Question: how many times does a Muslim see or meet with their imam? When I go to mass each week, I am connecting with my parish priest. Ranya says that it was two months before she met up with Imam Feisal after their first meeting. Is this normal practice?

At one point, when Ranya was writing how she finally "got" the whole riutal thing, I wrote in the margins of the page, "How OLD are these women?" Because it seemed to me that it shouldn't have been so difficult for any of the three of them to understand ritual and it's place in their faiths. Maybe my sarcasm is surfacing now -- but hey -- there are no stupid questions, right?

I've gotten a few insights into their different faiths and practices, but it is begining to seem as if anything of value this book may have to offer, could easily have been carved down to about 100 pages. :/

Keahn said...

Ooops, forgot to identify the second posting as being on Chapter 13.

Hethr said...

I do agree that there's been little discussion or changes or whatever for TWO YEARS of faith club meetings.

As to how many times does one meet with an Imam -- I guess that depends. In my case...Once -- when I got married. My mother in law, though, will meet with the Imam or his wife more than once a week. The mosque is a very open place - and they are quite open to suggestions (We need a water fountain, we'd like classes for ___) -- However, I don't need the Imam for "reaching" God, if that's what you mean. He is there for a spiritual guide, a person to come to if you have a question or problem that needs help on -- but he is in no way an intermediary to God for us.

Myself, I have never liked going to PEOPLE to learn things godly. I read my holy book (That's how I found Islam, was through reading books) -- people, even priests and Imams, can lead lives that are far from faithful - I prefer to go to the direct source.

I totally agree -- this book is full of long winded, useless passages. I am 1 chapter away from finishing it. I still hate it. :(

Erin said...

Contrived....that's exactly how this book feels to me.
I could surely live my whole life without Ranya going on about holding the Quran when she was in labour.
I listened to Rufus Wainwright and clutched my cd player while in labour with my daughter....I can neither sing nor write beautiful music now.
At this point, I am going to finish this book because I hate to give up...no enjoyment for me yet.

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