I’ve just finished reading “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2007, Free Press, Simon and Schuster).  It’s the story of her indoctrination into the clan structure and stern Islam of her native Somalia, her emerging sense of self as a child living in Saudi Arabia and Kenya that included the normal beatings endured by children, espsecially girls, forced marriages of pubescent girls to older men, the institutionalized violent oppression of women, and the growing force of Islamic fundamentalism.  In a remarkable sequence of events she learned to assert her self apart from family and clan, escape to Holland, became a Dutch citizen, served in parliament and endured the murderous hatred of those who remained in the life she had left behind.  
Obviously there is more, and if you have not read it I encourage you to do so.  Don’t let the introduction by Christopher Hitchens get in the way.  In the end Ali comes to the place where she can no longer believe in the Allah of her youth, and therefore she cannot believe in God by any other name.  That just feeds Hitchens’ delight.  Another nail in God’s coffin.  
The Allah and Islam she grew up with deserves to be nailed in a coffin.  But lest we become arrogant, so does the God of extreme Christian fundamentalism, and, by the occasional news report, I suspect the same is true for the extreme fundamentalist gods of all other religions.  Ali’s is a strong voice warning against being naive about the danger to liberal democracies of religious fundamentalism, and especially in this moment in history of the Islamic zealots who are so locked in their little worlds of bigotry and hatred that they cannot see beyond the next bomb.  But again, words of caution.  Her warnings can too easily become energizers for our own ignorance and prejudice leading us to demonize Islam and all Muslims.  Moreover, we Christians are not immune.  We have our own extremists, perhaps not as violent in action but certainly as violent in words.  And they are not beyond acting out now and then blowing up buildings, murdering abortion doctors, nurturing white supremacy and the like.  
Perhaps it is this very tension, felt but hard to articulate, that has generated such a resurgence in apprection for Niebuhr’s Christian Realism.  It is difficult for Christians to be politically astute and yet persevere in following where Christ has led.  It’s hard to remember that he came to save the world and not just you and me (with my doubts about you).  And it breaks my heart that one who tried so hard to find a God who would love her, rejecting the cruel god she knew, could find nothing at all. 

12 thoughts on “Infidel”

  1. For my eyes and mind, this is an excellent post. The warning about our yearning to be right \”in the name of God\” , I think I read that, should be used cautiously, and with great self-examination. I understand that God came to earth to preach love, not \”right at any cost, but love. That's a hard rule to follow even when we THINK we are following it. Again, to my thinking this post is on a track that I can attempt to follow in my daily living. Thanks.

  2. Excellent!Here is Sodom there are many people who have been turned away and have given up because of those who say they speak for God. I can't say that I blame them much. In this little corner of Sodom it is the christians who are the most frightening. I seldom see a day go by when I am not treated to the message that it is god's love that will send me to hell.

  3. ViderepercipereI took a quick look at your site. Your observations would carry more weight if you would identify yourself. Anonymity is good in gift giving but little else. CP

  4. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has left Holland for a safer(?)haven in the U.S., with bodyguards (when last I read) provided by the Dutch government, as she had received so many death threats for turning kaffir (infidel). This is actually a teaching of the Quran-no one who has ever been a Muslim is allowed to leave. The same injunction is found in Deuteronomy: anyone who turns aside to worship any other god is to be put to death. In the play \”Fiddler on the Roof\” Tovye's daughter has married a Christian, and so has become an infidel. By rabbinical \”liberal\” reinterpretation, the parents of such a person can avoid actually killing the child by just pretending that the infidel child is dead already, and never speaking of that child again. But it breaks Tovye's heart.

  5. A great post, Country Parson, and of course reminds me of the chill I get every time I even remotely think of the attraction white supremacists have to our North Idaho neighborhood. And just as soon as I use the word \”neighbor….\” in any form, I am completely challenged by what God calls us to in loving neighbors. How easy it is for us to love only our own sect or faith or culture and consider ourselves as serving. Then there is the completely lost skill of listening to ourselves within. If every human had to lock themselves in the closet everyday and ask the question: \”What is my motivation and do I really admire myself?\” whew…we might then be able to hear God shake us up. And looking at your blog the day before…lack of \”real\” working can clear the way to walking down the wrong path… looking for easy answers, time for envy and yes anger and hate, and seduction into wrong groups. We always end up in a group — but… anyway enuf. like your blog, but can never remember how to respond. kr

  6. There is nothing to accept. There is no god. You want me to believe in something that you can't prove exists? Then give you time, money and effort? Are you serious? For what? If I want to support \”progressive\” causes, I'll join the Sierra Club-I don't have to get up early to watch grown men swan around in satin robes and blow smoke.

  7. Brad,You are partly right; God cannot be proved, although many have tried. However, God can be known, or perhaps more accurately, God can be apprehended but not comprehended. As for proofs in the scientific sense, let's face it, science is in its baby stages yet, and even at this stage, the more we learn the more awesome the universe becomes. CP

  8. Brad,The Episcopal church in the USA is pretty white, although two of the four bishops I've worked under were black. Congregations in most denominations tend to be pretty monochrome, especially in rural areas. Oddly enough, the average Anglican is not white and does not live in North America, England, Australia or New Zealand. Moreover, and for all its faults, the Episcopal Church is strongly committed to breaking down every barrier between peoples that demeans, oppresses and disadvantages.CP

  9. If someone is \”strongly committed\” to \”celebrating diversity\” for over 35 years and yet remains as colorful as cream cheese, what does that say about either 1. his commitment or 2. his strength? If I bought lots of fitness equipment, diet books and smaller clothes but remained about fifty pounds overweight with high blood sugar, what would that say about either 1. my genes or 2. my following up on my new year's resolution? You seem to be far more successful in attracting more than your share of sexual minorities, even (or especially)to the ranks of your clergy; why can't you seem to get many nonwhite faces in seminaries?

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