Two stories caught my eye/ear in the last 24 hours. The first came on MPR last night. It seems that a group of Somalian Muslims had boycotted the first few days of school in the small town of Winona, Minnesota because their children were not being allowed to pray when they wanted. Six years ago, the school superintendant reported, a group of parents and administrators had agreed on when the children could pray, even though the prayer times shift slightly every day in relation to sunrise and sunset. But the current parents don’t feel they should have to abide by an agreement made six years ago by other people.
But, of the entire report, I found a quote by an Islamic rights expert to be the most interesting. He said that afternoon prayer can take place anytime between 1:30pm and 4:00pm — it’s just that some Muslims only want to pray at the very beginning of that time and not wait until, as the superintendent called it, “Non-instructional time” (a.k.a., passing time, recess, lunch, etc.).
The other story has been around for a while, but it’s just been written up poignantly by its protagonist and posted on Steve Waldman’s blog. Doug Kmiec is a scholar and author with conservative, Republican bona fides out the wazoo. But he endorsed BO because of BO’s commitment to the full range of life issues. In a much ballyhooed incident, Kmiec, a devout Catholic, was denied the Eucharist by a priest, and even shouted at during the mass for “cooperating with evil” and “killing babies.”
It seems to me that both of these are stories of religion beyond the limits of religion (how’s that for a Rollinsesque turn-of-phrase?). These are examples of when religion slips past theology and into the realm of unthinking ideology. And, methinks, this is the very thing that Jesus so often spoke and acted out against. When we turn thoughtful, reflective theology into reactionary, unthinking behavior, we’ve left Christianity (or Islam, for that matter) and ventured into a space that is no longer bounded by a humilty before God.