My Wife Taught a Muslim How to Drive!

If my wife were running for president, the 30-second attack ad would probably show a black and white image of rioting Muslims burning a U.S. flag superimposed over a photo of how Debi looks when I forget to take out the garbage. A stern voice would then say, “Debi Santos taught a Muslim how to drive. Debi Santos hates America. Don’t vote for Debi Santos.”

Photo by Dane – CC BY 2.0

Because we have so little firsthand information about anything, we tend to live in a world of stereotypes. What we think we know is often based on a series of images constructed by water cooler gossip, media reports, political ads and carefully crafted public relations campaigns. All too often these images are completely inaccurate.

During our years in college ministry, Debi and I took an interest in hosting international students. It was an excellent opportunity for us to express the love of Christ by meeting with internationals once or twice a month. Our lives were enriched by these relationships.

Fatin was a Muslim teacher from Jordan pursuing a higher degree in English so that she could teach at the university-level back home. Added to the burden of higher education in a distant land, was her need to care for two small children while her husband remained in Jordan for work. With the common bond of motherhood, Debi and Fatin became immediate friends. Recognizing her need for transportation, my wife also offered to teach Fatin how to drive. This all took place not long after 9/11, which presented additional but not insurmountable challenges.

Photo by Keoni Cabrai – CC BY 2.0

I too, had the opportunity to interact with Fatin and her beautiful children, to meet a few of her Muslim friends and to eventually share dinner with the entire family during one of her husband’s visits. Through the years I have met several other Muslims and most have been sincere, warm and friendly; putting a great deal of value on family and friendship—much more than we see in most Christian circles in the U.S.

Several of us in campus ministry later shared office space with students involved with the Muslim Student Association. That experience, for the most part, was negative. The young men were cold and distant—we could not help but wonder if they were involved in some type of terrorist activity. Regardless, we did our best to treat them with respect.

Another significant interaction with a Muslim student took place pre-9/11. He was a very sincere young man with a humble heart and a genuine desire to seek truth. Eventually, and with no pressure from our group, he converted from Islam to Christianity. But things didn’t go so well after that. His father, a high ranking government official, removed him from college in the U.S. and essentially put the young man under house arrest for a season. In spite of repeated efforts on our part, we never heard from him again.

Why do I share this wide range of experiences? In order to show that just as there are significant differences between Christianity and Islam, so there are between Muslims. However, the bottom line is that as Christians, love is our highest call. Would Jesus call it sin to share genuine friendship with those who might be considered our theological enemies? I think not.

As a Bible-believing Christian, I am no religious pluralist. I believe in the supreme uniqueness of Jesus Christ and reject the ideas that all religions are the same and that all paths lead to God. Having said this, I am embarrassed and ashamed by some of the things I see being done and said in the name of Christ.

Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department – Public Domain

When I consider the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans in Libya this week, I find myself deeply disturbed on several fronts. The loss of life is tragic. That they were attacked in a country that the U.S. helped to liberate is highly troublesome. That even one professing Christian may have somehow had a hand in promoting the deplorable film (Innocence of Muslims) that served to unnecessarily heighten tensions between us and them is beyond foolish.

The Apostle Paul and his associates once sparked a riot with their evangelistic efforts in Ephesus. The town clerk finally quieted the crowd by making this amazing statement about those Christian evangelists: For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess” (Acts 19:37). Paul and his friends apparently lived out the Biblical mandate given by Peter to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17).

If persecution happens because we are faithful to the Gospel, then so be it. Jesus promised as much. But to express any type of contempt or disrespect toward those of other belief systems is to do horrible disservice to humanity, the Gospel and ultimately the God we profess to cherish.

If the Spirit of the living God truly dwells within us, we can do better, much better.

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4 thoughts on “My Wife Taught a Muslim How to Drive!

  1. Ir is refreshing to hear a thoughtful tempered comment on the current situation. Emotional responses do not lead to truth…but this type of response does!!

    1. Ruiess, just think how much pain and how many lives could be spared if our world had a little more thoughtfulness and a lot fewer knee-jerk reactions! Thank you for your input!

  2. Outstanding blog Bob – I tend to only write when I disagree with your posts – both because I have more to write and because of what tends to be one of my biggest strength and weakness – being outspoken (both when I should and shouldn’t be – I often pray for help with this).

    So, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for this great post – there are 2 billion Muslims in the world and of all different stripes, just as Christians (or people who claim to be Christian). Because of Jess’s job, I too have had the wonderful experience of meeting hundreds of Muslims over the years – devout, not devout, Sunni, Shia, American, Middle Eastern, African, etc. What you mention in your post is one of the biggest failings of both our media and much of the media in the Middle East – over-generalization. Just as the American media is blaming all Muslims for the violence / protests (even though the violence has been determined to be Al Qaeda), I have been watching media clips from the Middle East that have claimed the deplorable movie is a “Hollywood Blockbuster”, backed by the US government, and that “Americans are flocking to the Theaters.” Of course, I want to avoid false equivalencies, but I want to point out that details and context are extremely important and appreciate your post for that.

    I especially have a heart for my Muslim friendships because I have watched them be discriminated against both with violence and being harassed by Homeland security (one was locked away for 6 months and another for a year and then released with no charge) and I have seen many beat up or abused because of cultural discrimination. And God has always given me a heart to fight against this type of injustice.

    Another thing that I have appreciated, and that I have struggled with at the same time, is that most moderate Muslims believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all going to heaven. The Koran specifically states that all of the Abrahamic religions are brothers who will go to heaven (the fights are political and land based except among the most extreme groups). So, it is great in that they show me this respect that they believe I will be going to heaven, but it is always difficult when I have to respond about the opposite. Luckily, I have developed such close relationships, that when I have been asked about this, I have been able to share my testimony and it has turned out well.

    So, my main point is that I want to write about my appreciation of this blog post. The only way we are going to reach more people for Christ is through love, truth, and respect. The only way that we can do that is by understanding our cultural differences and not overgeneralizing about them in the way we wouldn’t want them over-generalizing about us…

    Finally, I think I can shed some light on your interactions with the Muslim Student Organization. Jess has worked with the Muslim student Association for over 12 years now and her experiences have been very positive – some of the more kind people she has known overall. When reading your post, she was confused at first, but then was convinced it was probably cultural misunderstanding more than anything else – especially because many involved in that organization have very low English skills, are often the spouses of students rather than students themselves, and are probably intimidated by other organizations – especially after 9-11, worried that other people might think they are terrorists. Especially because of the Homeland security harassment, they probably just wanted to keep themselves. However, I would have to know the specifics to know for sure – just Jess’s opinion.

    Thanks again – outstanding post.

    1. Jeff, I appreciate your encouraging feedback. Just for clarification, I shared my experience with the guys involved with the MSA because it was an experience that I had. It was, however, a one-time snapshot taken not long after 9/11 so I would never consider it to be entirely representative of the MSA. In fact, I would say that they were the only Muslims I’ve ever met at IUP whom I found to be distant and cold.

      And since you initiated the positive I agree with you feedback, I was thinking of saying the same today about your Facebook position on the PA voter ID law. (I try to refrain from commenting on much because it becomes too time consuming.) At any rate, I was favorable toward the law until I read more about the actual details. I think it is a good idea in principle, but not if it isn’t implemented so that all have reasonable access. I think they need more time to work out the kinks than we have before the November election.

      Jeff, what a great day! We our opinions track on two different issues! 🙂

      Thanks again for your input!

      Bob

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