Since the last blog post, I’ve been thinking: What have I learned in the period since the tragic terrorist attack of September 11, 2001? Is there anything good in my life that was brought about by something that was otherwise an evil deed?
(I don’t believe God causes evil, but that sometimes, when you look back over a long period of time, you can find something good that God brought out of an otherwise bad/evil situation.)
In reflecting on this question, the thing that surprised me most is how much I’ve learned about Islam, that is, people called Muslims. It’s not that I even know that much about Islam, but before 9-11, I knew nothing about it. Absolutely nothing. If it hadn’t been for 9-11, I doubt I would have ever wondered about this major world religion and its devout believers.
Looking over the past decade, I discover that I’ve read a number of books I never would have thought to read otherwise–and a number by Muslim authors:
- Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Asar Nafisi;
- The Kite-Runner, by Khaled Hosseini;
- A Thousand Splendid Suns, also by Khaled Hosseini;
- The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, by Irshad Manji;
- Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, also by Asar Nafisi);
- The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew –Three Women Search for Understanding, by Ranya Idilby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner;
These books do not represent all sides of the Muslim world–they just happen to be the ones I read. As I said, I didn’t exactly plan it that way. I just observe this when looking over the past decade.
These books gave me windows into other people’s worlds, realms that were completely unknown to me. Reading stories or the personal experiences of others was far more engaging than merely reading theological textbooks (although those have their place). My reactions to various parts of these books covered the full gamut of human emotions: sometimes I was laughing or crying, sometimes feeling shock, anger, outrage, or empathy–and always, always, I learned something.
This doesn’t take away the evil or tragic dimension of what happened on 9-11–and particularly not for those who lost loved ones–but for someone like me it shows that God can bless us in unexpected ways.
Until next time, Amen!
1. Can you think of a time in your life when God brought something good out of something that was in other ways a bad situation?
2. Is there something positive you can do today about a situation that is otherwise sad, trying, frightening, or painful for yourself or someone else?
One thought on “Building Bridges with Books”
Reading “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” broke through my own tendency to generalize about people in some of these countries where the stories take place. The movie “The Stoning of Soraya M” offers another such opportunity to help us empathize with individuals — people — and not brush aside whole countries, cultures and ethnic groups.