Housecleaning, driving, Potts and Christian Islamists?

There are a lot of people in my house right now – several people home from college who either grew up here or are spending the summer, Buster and his large, noisy, pals. But today everyone is out and will be for a while, so I’m going to use the time for a bit of intensive housecleaning of the both literal and metaphorical sort, because I have a lot to think about, and lately it seems like none of us really get to think. Something is always blaring at us and we seem to be living in incessant states of reaction.

Is it our nature to be reactionary beings? Perhaps to an extent, but there is a difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is often knee-jerk, a response generally a little thoughtful. I need to think.

Someone wrote to me the other day remarking that I was giving up the immigration debate for my hormones, and expressing what I think was a bit of frustration with me. I am sorry. I’m not “abandoning” a cause but realizing that I really need to take care of the interior hearth and the exterior home, if I am to be any good to anyone about anything. And anyway, I am more and more convinced that there is an enormous illusion at work here, meant to keep us barking at each other, not listening either to each other or to our better angels, and to prevent us from tending to our souls.

If you leave off the radio/stereo/television/phone, housework is contemplative work; it allows you to think about things, argue in your head and give your gut a good hearing. I need that.

Of course, I am not thinking of anything particularly wise, edifying, charitable or insightful just now. Driving this morning I saw the usual really bad, inattentive sort of driving one sees in a day, and spent my time behind the wheel muttering, “come on, ye bastid, drive like you mean it! Which lane do you want, sweetie, do you know? Why are you driving like you’re in a coma?”

No, I didn’t say this stuff to my fellow drivers, just spent the morning muttering, muttering, muttering, when perhaps a few, “Lord, helps us all drive well and safely” would have been better. Muttering is superseding instinctive prayer these days, because I am quite the menopausal, weepy, almost incoherent beetch. This is not good.

I’m also thinking it’s nice that Paul Potts won the thing over in Britain, but I wonder how his ego will fare once the hype drops off, as it inevitably will – I hope he can remain balanced. Part of his success is due to his gift, of course, but it’s also due to the fact that his story, manner and initial performance worked as an emotional depth sounder. We – who wander through most of our day numb – had the thrilled reaction. Gooseflesh was raised, tears were shed, everyone had a chance to “feel” something, and people responded to that gift by hoping he’d win…but now that he has, some will soon wonder why they don’t feel that same charge they’d felt and they’ll move on to whatever the next thing is that can stir them. Others will find in Potts an excuse to let themselves weep and emote, long after others have stopped, because feeling something is better than feeling nothing, and crying brings a nice release.

See? Horrible. I almost can’t stand myself.

Then there is this Episcopal Priest
who says she is a Muslim. (H/T this thoughtful post at Junkyard Blog)

…at a St. Mark’s interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one’s heart. The chanting appealed to the singer in Redding; the meditation spoke to her heart. She began saying the prayer daily.
She still doesn’t know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”

In March 2006, she said her shahada — the profession of faith — testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his messenger. She became a Muslim.
She found the discipline of praying five times a day — one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims are supposed to follow — gave her the deep sense of connection with God that she yearned for.

It came from “knowing at all times I’m in between prayers.” She likens it to being in love, constantly looking forward to having “all these dates with God. … Living a life where you’re remembering God intentionally, consciously, just changes everything.”

Given her background, it is interesting that Ms. Redding could not perceive the idea of “surrendering to God” within Christianity, and I cannot imagine that she is unaware that chanting, surrender and praying five times a day (or more) is not exclusive to Islam, and surely did not begin with Islam. Chanting prayers multiple times a day is not even exclusive to the Abramic religions. Buddhists do it and have done it for a loooooong time.

Jews were chanting prayers 5 times a day ‘way before Mohammed ever met Gabriel, and Christians were doing it before the birth of Islam, as well. Hermits and Monastics have been “sanctifying the day” through set prayer times practically since Christianity’s inception. St. Benedict’s monks and nuns were at it ’round 500 AD, rising even in the middle of the night to chant, read scripture and pray for those who will not pray for themselves. This monastic tradition of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is ongoing, and in fact thriving right now, particularly among lay people (of all Christian traditions) possibly because the world is so loud.

So, you know…she wants to be a Muslim, more power to her – we all find our own ways to God, in the end – but the Christian churches might want to sit up and take notice of this piece, and consider whether watering down the tenets of Christianity to “suit the times” is not in fact resulting in sharp swings toward fundamentalism by people who are looking for more than the liturgy of “whatever makes you happy is enough to be your god;” who are looking for a real relationship with a Living God who actually dares to make a few demands on us.

As I’ve scolded before, we’re supposed to live the faith throughout the ages, not live the ages throughout the faith.

See, I told you. I’m not fit for human company, lately. I’m going to go shut up, now, and give the kitchen floor a good scrubbing.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Hantchu

    As an Orthodox Jew, I have great affinity for the power of fixed-time prayers in creating a mindset for meditation and connectedness to G-d. I am not sure at all why this Episcopal priest had to find this pathway through Islam; I thought Episcopalians were relatively High Church, but that just shows what I don’t know.
    And don’t the Episcopalians (and everybody else EXCEPT the Moslems) have the Psalms? The Psalms are really the concentrated essence, so to speak, of prayer, meditation, and G-d mindedness. They belong to everybody and speak to all of us.
    I just spent a few hours saying “Tehillim” at the Western Wall here in Jerusalem, so I’m on a bit of a high right now.

  • davod

    It is my understanding that her Episcopalian bishop sees this as a way of closing the gap between the two faiths. I got the impression that she is going to remain a Christian priest while being also being a Muslim.

  • Krumhorn

    This woman makes the outrageous statement that there are some unreconcilable aspects between various Christian denominations. So why should anyone complain about features of Islam and Christianity that don’t match up?

    Well, for one thing, there’s this matter of Jesus. What do you do with Jesus?


  • Kevin

    Someone wrote to me the other day remarking that I was giving up the immigration debate for my hormones, and expressing what I think was a bit of frustration with me.

    And here I thought that this was YOUR blog and that you could write about any topic you chose, or none at all if the spirit does not move you. If I’d only known that you were obligated to write about whatever topic most concerns a specific reader whenever that reader demands that you do so, I’d have started pestering you long ago. Here’s a suggestion: offer to refund to any dissatisfied reader the subscription price they’ve paid.

  • Jean

    Had to smile when I read your preference for housekeeping today, Anchoress. I’m on a week-long “summer cleaning” mission myself. I’m also involved in a support group for people living in squalor who are moving out of it. The one thing I learned from them is that washing a sinkful of dishes or scrubbing a bathroom is a necessary good. :) Cleaning can be emotionally draining, physically exhausting, but yes! it is good.

    To me it’s very sad to read about the minister converting to Islam, yet thinking she’s still a Christian. I knew a woman who insisted she was in love with her wonderful husband and would do anything for her children, yet felt drawn into an affair with a charismatic man. It was only much, much later that she realized that her husband had all the good qualities which she looked for in the other man. Islam rejects Jesus and paints his sacrifice as a fraud. How can she not realize it?

  • DCMorrison

    The biggest boost the Holy Spirit has led me to try in the past two weeks has been to turn off the radio and/or television. Not because the content was necessarily awful, though it can be. I had already gone out of my way to try to choose better content. But just because it was always on, always there, distracting, cajoling, tempting, engaging, harping, informing, yadda, yadda yadda. Enough! I let there be peace in my hours and let that, in turn, lead me the contemplation which had led me back to more active prayer.

  • mishu

    This woman makes the outrageous statement that there are some unreconcilable aspects between various Christian denominations.

    I hope she remains open minded enough after her emotional rush from converting to take a good look at that sunni-shia rift.

  • KIA

    Anchoress I had to laugh when I read this today

    After reading your “laugh out loud” post on driving yesterday, I thought, “Wow, that anchoress sure must have a connection. The next day, the Vatican comes out with the 10 commandments on driving”! Kidding aside, driving is a very serious matter. None the less, you post on driving was hysterical.

  • Viola Jaynes

    So happy for Paul Potts! Since he does not have a type A personality, I am not so concerned about his ego. The only concern that I would have for this man, is that other’s may take advantage of his good nature. I think he will be fine though.

    I put all three clips on one post on my site under, “The Choice to be Happy.”

  • newton

    Re: the Episcopal bishop who is “also a Muslim”

    She has totally (or conveniently) forgotten that Jesus said clearly that “No one can serve two masters.”

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  • mythusmage

    Well, for one thing, there’s this matter of Jesus. What do you do with Jesus?

    Hand him a beer, point him to where the disreputable are hanging out, and let him be. He’s more than capable of entertaining himself, and anybody else around him.

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  • JimC

    I can’t help thinking of C.S. Lewis’s last Narnia book “The Last Battle” and Tashlan.

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