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Status Quo Is Not Enough

November 16, 2016
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By Megan Stoker

On Monday night we attended a prayer service at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center where Andy had been invited to speak. We decided to go as a family, and took the boys. I was reminded that night how important and impactful it is to meet people where they are. The experience was a powerful one, and I think has yet to reveal its full impact and my understanding of it. It certainly was a powerful experience and a call to action. We participated in the mosques evening prayer service and then Andy spoke briefly, and engaged in some question and answer with the congregants there.

As a result of the recent election results, I have experienced many thoughts and feelings. I know I am not alone. I have a sense of doubt and uncertainty and an inner angst as to what to do next. I certainly want to be part of a constructive way forward, not a bystander that in my inactivity adds to the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next. If we are all honest with ourselves, we all have some prejudices and pre-conceived ideas about those that are different from us, whether it be appearance, faith tradition, ethnicity or background. One of the questions that was asked by a parishioner Monday night was, “What are people so afraid of?” The question came with such genuine thoughtfulness, from someone who has been raised in the tradition of Islam (which literally means Peace) and shares compassion and welcome with all of those they meet. What are we afraid of?

People, Muslims in particular, are hurting so much and are being hurt by those who feel they now have “free license” to openly express their hate for other people; maybe hate is too strong of a word. I truly feel that to be able to claim that you hate something, you have to have experienced it. I hate cottage cheese. I have tried it plain, with fruit on top, cooked into recipes, and I really don’t like it. The texture makes me cringe and the thought of eating it makes my jaw tighten a little. I have experienced it, I have had several encounters with it, and I know that I don’t like it. I know that it is a stretch to compare cottage cheese and human beings. My point is, that the hate being experienced by our Muslim community members is unfounded. The people judging with hate have not experienced the peace of Islam. I would venture to guess that people threatening mosques, have never  spoken to a Muslim. I would imagine that the students who tried to pull the hijab off of a students head in a Plano High School have never been to a prayer service at a mosque. I feel pretty confident that the anonymous caller that threatened a group of Imams meeting at Union coffee house has never shared a meal with, or held the hand of, or engaged in conversation with a Muslim. Those acting out of hate have never experienced what we experienced that night. It is very hard to hate warm hospitality, genuine smiles, kind compliments, gentle embraces and laughing children. We have far more in common than we have differences.

Last Wednesday morning, we told our boys that the results of the election do not change who we are. We are kind and compassionate. But I need to change that. It does change who we are. It must change who we are. Status quo is not enough. Simply doing no harm, is not enough. Walking through the day in our own personal silo is not enough. As we reflected with the Imam Monday night, if Clinton had been elected, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We would carry on as usual at a kind casual distance from those who we don’t know. This election will change our lives. All of the feelings that have been hidden in the closet to get through our daily lives have now been seen. We not only have to stand with our neighbor, but stand up for our neighbor. As Andy said on Sunday, we can not longer stand idly by as quiet servants of the Lord. We must actively seek out opportunities. Go and be with other people. Be intentional about getting past the hellos and hand shakes. Step way outside your box. Share a meal. Sit down and talk. Meet people where they are. Go with your family, go with your co-workers. Go with your Sunday school class. If you need a companion, call us. We will go with you.

The act of standing in a straight line, elbow to elbow with people I have never met before, but who somehow weren’t strangers, and bowing, and then cradling my head in a full prostrate position, was humbling. The words being sung were not familiar to me, but they were comforting. There was unspoken tension in the room, those around me were experiencing a threat to themselves and their families that I will never fully understand. There prayers were genuine and had a sense of urgency. I had no words. Anything I might have said I felt would be minute in comparison. Overcome with the gravity of the moment all I could think to pray was “God in your mercy, hear our prayers”. God in your Mercy, hear these prayers, GOD in your MERCY, hear…….

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