Today is August 11, 2010, the last day of my summer vacation. Tomorrow I begin my thirty-fifth year of teaching. The actual teaching part will not begin until the eighteenth. The days in between will be spent, as usual, with what are called “faculty workshops” consisting of coffee, OJ, and Danish pastries. The bulk of the time is spent listening, or at least appearing to do so, to things of little interest to all but a few.
What I will miss about the end of summer vacation is my usual morning ritual of beginning the day by listening to Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” online. If you have not listened to this program, either online or on MPR Radio at noon, then you really must give it a go. For five minutes the bard of Lake Wobegon talks about the birthday of writers and poets, or the anniversary of some great novel, poem, or historical event. These little gems of literary trivia are followed by Keillor reading a poem.
This morning, for example, I learned that today is the birthday of Marilyn vos Savant. Born in 1946, she is two years younger than I. She has written several books and writes a column for Parade magazine. What caught my attention however is the fact that she has the highest IQ on record through 1989, the last year that the Guinnes Book of World Records included that achievement among its lists.
Being a slow learning that learned to read while enjoying the fifth grade for the second time, I admire people like Ms vos Savant. Perhaps that is why Dr. Gregory House and Dr. Temperance Brennan are among my favorite television personalities. Marilyn vos Savant once said, “If your head tells you one thing and your heart tells you another, before you do anything, you should first decide whether you have a better head or a better heart.” A good preacher could add a few Bible verses and turn that bit of wisdom into a really great sermon.
Today is also the beginning of the month of Ramadan, the most sacred time in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan commemorates the time when Muhammad is supposed to have gone out into the desert, where he was given the first verses of the Qur’an. Muhammad claimed that Allah gave him a new and final revelation. Hence, the Qur’an has greater authority for Muslims than the Bible.
For those of us who do not know what Ramadan is, or are not yet educated in the basic beliefs and teachings of Islam, it is time we spent less time watching football and reading internet blogs (like this one) and spent some time learning about the worldview of an estimated 1.4 billion of the earth’s population. No longer do we live in isolation. While many of us were sleeping or discussing last week’s big sports event over cans of Bud Light and barbecue Buffalo wings, the USA became a multi-cultural society, religiously and otherwise.
Many Americans and Europeans alike are becoming rather hysterical about the growing number of Muslims among us. The fear appears to be due to acts of terrorism by individuals or groups claiming to be defending the honor of the Prophet Mohammad or combating the spread of American popular culture, which even many Americans acknowledge is grossly immoral.
The paranoia is fueled by politicians who find votes and dollars in promoting the message that America is somehow threatened by our historic support of freedom of religion. However, to paint all Muslims as terrorists is simply wrong, not to mention unbecoming of those who profess to be Christians. One day there may be more mosques than Super Wal-Mart’s in America, but if that should happen, who will be to blame, Muslims or Christians?
Some political pundits warn that the real threat to our way of life comes not from the Middle East, but from south of the border. We are told that thousands of illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanic, cross our borders daily, taking jobs that otherwise would be filled by honest Euro-Americans. It has even been suggested that these illegal immigrants are using a secret weapon against us, one not permitted under the generally accepted rules of illegal immigration. They are using the “baby bomb,” sometimes referred to as “baby drop.”
It is claimed, and I suppose in some cases true, that some pregnant women enter the United States illegally in order that their child be born here and thereby entitled to dual citizenship. I think that if I were in their position, I would seriously think of trying that, myself. After all, a child born poor in America has better prospects for the future than a child born poor south of the border.
Illegal immigration and terrorism are both serious issues for our county. I certainly am not qualified to provide the perfect “fix” for either. Perhaps a “guest worker” program like those in place in Germany and other EU nations would be worth considering as a reasonable response to illegal immigration. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves why we have become a target for international terrorists. It might have something to do with a new form of economic imperialism driven by modern international corporations, many of which are based in the United States and Western Europe. I will save that thought for a future blog.
Many Christians feel a special burden to pray for Muslims during the month of Ramadan. Of course we should pray all year for Muslims, as well as all of our fellow human beings who remain in bondage to the Enemy. God is no respecter of persons. There are really only two categories of people—those who have accepted God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and those who remain in bondage to the devil. We Christians are to be known for the love we have for one another, the love we have for those who are yet lost, and the love we show the stranger among us.
If I had not listened to Garrison Keillor this morning, I probably would not have thought of either the Muslims or the illegal immigrants. At least, that is, until a more spiritually alert brother or sister mentioned them. Maybe God meant for me to be reminded in that way today? Can God use Garrison Keillor to speak to his children? Is God alive and well in Lake Wobegon? More important, is He alive in my life and your life?
Hmm. You think God can use things like Keillor’s blog to speak to us? How about King Cyrus, the force God used to get the Jews back to their homeland as recorded in Ezra? Or when God told Abraham to look at the stars and count them to make a point? Or the many times in the Bible that babies being born were signs? I agree that God uses all kinds of things to speak to us. We just need to be listening and watching. Take a good look at one thing today and see if it isn’t a wonder. Read about string theory or transport systems in cells and be amazed (and confused). And a good dose of humility about whether we are understanding things completely (think spontaneous generation) or reading the signs in the correct ways wouldn’t hurt us, either. :^)