The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,
“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”
(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).
Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)
I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.
On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.
And I am confused these days.
See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.
By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.
There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.
I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”
Cars have neutral. People–not so much.
You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.
In the classic children’s book A Fly Went By, Mike McClintock harnesses the The Great War’s lesson and with perfect eloquence tells a story that frees children from fear. With Fritz Siebel’s poignant illustrations as the glue holding a child’s gaze, McClintock’s repetitious prose etches its way into a young listener’s mind. The story is simple: a boy sees a fly go by, and asks him, “Why?” We soon find out that the fly ran from the frog. But the frog isn’t chasing the fly; he “ran from the cat, who ran from the dog.” The boy continues his search for the thing behind all the running, and in perfect metaphor to life, it turns out that a man was the first to run, and he ran from sounds of unknown origin. The chain reaction resulting in all the characters running in fear thus began. We soon discover, though, that these sounds were caused by “a sheep with an old tin can.”
Like any toddler whose parents read this book to them, apparently I had the big finale memorized before I knew how to read. It wasn’t until after college, though, that in reading the book to a nephew I realized the lesson that stamped itself on my person. Have no fear. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Be brave. These sentiments and more are captured within McClintock’s fun little book. It is a sure winner for parents who are looking for ways to teach their children a timeless truth–without the children knowing class is in session. A life without fear is a life worth living and a gift worth giving. Give children freedom from fear. Share with them the story of a boy who “sat by the lake, and looked at the sky.”
McClintock, Marshall, and Fritz Siebel. A Fly Went by. [New York]: Beginner, 1958. Print.
The bell rang. “Alright everyone, we’ll pick up here on Monday. Be safe this weekend.”
“Finally,” he exhaled, “I have a moment to prepare for the rest of the day.”
After one last glance making sure the hallway was clear, he closed the classroom door. Inside, he sat alone. He cleared his throat.
“Do your work,” he said. But he wasn’t pleased. He tried again.
“Do your work.” He still thought something wasn’t right.
“Do your work.” Eek! Too much Batman. He chuckled to himself before continuing.
“Do your work.” Getting better, but still not perfect.
“Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Do your work.” It was subtle, but he heard improvement. Looking up at the clock, he saw his prep period was almost over.
“One last time,” he said to himself.
“Do your work.” He smiled. “Perfect! And just in time.”
The bell rang. Getting up to go stand outside his classroom door, relieved, he said to himself, “Okay, I’m ready for the students.”
Rounding the corner, he heard her yelling. Creating one of the most iconic images of a teacher lecturing a child imaginable, she loomed over the student one hand on her hip and the other extending her finger towards the students face. Walking closer, he finally heard what she was saying.
“What was respectful about walking into the classroom with your mom berating the teacher on speaker phone?”
Secretly wishing he could hear the rest of that conversation, he hurriedly walked to his classroom. Along the way he ran into a student.
“Didn’t class start 10 minutes ago?”
“Yeah, I tried to skip but got caught. I didn’t want to come to school today.”
“Hey Mister, did you hear what happened this weekend?”
Applying the no-news-is-good-news standard, he dreadfully replied, “Umm, nope. What?”
“One of the students was shot and killed.”
“Huh-uh, my three year-old niece is going to be so smart. She’s playing these learning video games already.”
“I don’t think video games are so great for three year old’s, even if they are supposed to be educational.”
“What?! No Mister, you’re wrong. She’s already so smart, and her one year old sister is even smarter already and she’s only one.”
Clearly an un-winnable argument, he tried to change the subject. Then it occurred to him. What these kids needed to do was unthinkable, unspeakable even.
For weeks he had struggled as he tried to pinpoint the problem that needed to be solved. Step one of problem solving required “Recognize the problem.” It wasn’t that the kids didn’t know information, it was that the kids didn’t want to know and didn’t need to know. Unfortunately for them, he also knew what he knew: Learning opens the door to life. The news from the morning reminded him this wasn’t a metaphor. This day–especially this day–he was reminded of this not only logically, but emotionally.
As if an insatiable itch, his conclusion wouldn’t allow him peace. He was a doer. But this? He could not bring himself to do it.
He wondered if anyone could understand the fear he felt. He knew his track record. Once he made up his mind he went to work. But this time, he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t. It was too dangerous. Literally. He wished he would’ve seen it coming so he could have just avoided the whole mess. Where was his intuition this time?
These kids had one chance. If they had any hope of changing their future, they had one and only one opportunity. Someone they respected had to tell them the truth.
“Sorry kids. Your parents are epic failures. This is observable scientifically; it is measurable and quantifiable according to every scale imaginable. The only thing you can learn from them is what not to do. Your only hope is to internalize this and its unavoidable conclusion: You are on your own. The good news is that none of this was your fault. The better news is at your age you are fully equipped to take responsibility for your actions. And if you choose to believe this and act accordingly, one day you will look back on this decision as simultaneously the greatest and worst day of your life. So…what do you want to do?”