2.25.2008

Lest Ye Be Judged

Live and let live. Throughout his life, Max has believed it is important to accept other people as they are, although they may have a different way of life. He reasons this is not only logical and fair, but also the moral and right way to conduct himself. We live the life we choose and must respect others’ right to do the same.

Max’s guiding principal of respect and tolerance were honed throughout his life. Born to Egyptian parents in Cairo, he never lived in the country of his origin and had to learn to quickly adapt to other cultures. His father work for an American company in the Sudan, where a young Max went to Catholic school and learned English. When the political situation in the country soured, the family transferred to Athens, Greece. From the ages of 9 – 22, Max attended American schools in Greece alongside youth from all over the word, of every color and creed, the children of expatriates and diplomats.

Whether it was the international exposure or his curious and questioning mind, Max began to have doubts about the Islamic faith that his family held as dear. Instead, his guiding belief in the principal of ‘live and let live’ became even more firmly rooted. Although he respected the traditions of his parents, Max stopped practicing Islam by the time he became a graduate student in Chicago.

Max met Ken, an outgoing, friendly American student, during this period while attending graduate school. The two became best friends and maintained a close relationship for years. When Ken got married, Max was a groomsmen in his wedding. Later Ken joined the Air Force, and Max made a point to visit him wherever he was stationed. The topic of religion started to come up only after Ken joined a small Christian church in Florida. Max respectfully listened. He felt happy his friend had found something, which brought meaning and comfort. But when Ken started to proselytize, Max explained he didn’t feel compelled to join or follow any religion.

Two Christmases ago before he was stationed in Germany, Ken gave Max a book called “God Loves You My Muslim Brother.” Max was troubled by the gift and never opened it. When Ken would press on the topic of religion, Max would eventually ask the topic be dropped.

But Ken hasn’t dropped it. Last week he told Max that the Koran encourages Muslims to be terrorists. Max was stunned, but not rendered speechless.

“Ken, you know me. You know my family. Why would you ever think this?”

“An Egyptian man and former Muslim spoke at church on Sunday,” Ken replied.

“Do you believe everything you read and hear? Max asked. “People can take a random passage in any book of faith and interpret it any way they want to. You know that I do not follow Islam, Ken. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that this man does not describe my parent’s faith. My parents our sickened by the extreme factions of Islam.”

Later, Ken followed up on his conversation with an e-mail explaining how the Bible has never been mistranslated. My husband never bothered to respond.

Max is a patient and open-minded man, but this last conversation has caused him to question whether he and Ken should remain friends. My husband doesn’t care that Ken is Christian. My family is Christian. We also have friends who are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, agnostic, and atheist. But Max feels that he couldn’t, or maybe even shouldn’t, remain friends with someone who could hold another group of people (not to mention those of his own family and background) in such poor regard. Ken’s words weren’t those of godly love; they were words of hate.

This would be an easy decision for me. If you have a gangrenous limb, you lop it off. If you are in a toxic relationship, you end it. But, this is Max’s decision to make. And he is wrestling with whether he should turn the other cheek once again, accept Ken for who he has become, or end a 17-year friendship. I’ve never seen my husband so sad and preoccupied. Live and let live, but at what cost?

29 comments:

Lynda said...

Goodness me - what happened to your blog?

Jenn in Holland said...

This is a topic which is on my mind a lot lately. Having come out of a religion which tends to over-simplify the belief structures of others in order to more easily pass judgment on the doctrines and beliefs, it is something I really get bugged by. This idea that somehow some of us are 'wrong' or worse yet, that there is only one way to live, or one way to God, is something that just sets me spinning. This relationship for Max sounds like poison to me and it seems really unfortunate since they share such a history. But it really sounds like friend Ken is not acting like much of a friend at all. I am sad for Ken in that. I am especially sad for Max as he is feeling that judgement up close and personal.
No advice from this camp, but there is sympathy.

Lynda said...

A very thought provoking post - especially for me and where I am living right now.

The analogy of 'lopping off a limb' goes down a difficult path. To push and push for Ken to understand where his words are going would serve what?

In the end - all religion is based on the idea of love - just love. nothing more, nothing less. Compassion.

A difficult time... but your husband sounds like the sort of man that will know where to go.

running42k said...

Poor Max. I read the Koran a few years ago to see whether it does talk about killing infidels and what not. From what I read, I did not interpret it that way. It spoke of love and respect.

Then again the bible has been used as an excuse for killing for centuries, so it isn't like Christians are speaking from the moral high ground.

as for the dilemma with the friend, people change. Perhaps it is time for Max and his friends to continue growing apart.

Diane Mandy said...

Lynda - Surprised you, eh? I had every intention of writing the most fascinating post about my trash dilemma here in Germany, but this topic has been weighing heavily on my mind. Now that I have purged these thoughts by blogging, perhaps I can bring you the garbage tale tomorrow. You'll be waiting with baited breath for it, right?

Jenn-I relate to what you say and am similarly troubled when people pass judgment. Really, who are we to do so?

42k- It's almost truck me fascinating that the major western religions all share some of the same religious writings. I wish people would spend more time focusing on similarities rather than differences.

christina said...

Most interesting post. I think I would be like you and promptly get rid of what was bothering me. It seems like Ken's agenda is something other than friendship, but who knows. I can understand how sad Max must feel.

BTW your blog, in both IE and Firefox is very wonky. All the images (header and sidebar) are covered with a "this image has been moved or deleted" notice and the sidebar has text over text making it impossible to read.

Diane Mandy said...

Thanks, Christine! I'll check on it.

Sara said...

I've had very similar thoughts lately. My sister is very "one sided" in her religious views and feels the need to forward me propagandous (if that's a word) emails from a list she is on. The latest was how Oprah's teachings on "A Course in Miracles" on XM radio was the opposite of the teachings in the bible and should be boycotted at all costs. Although I haven't had a chance to listen to the series, I understand that it is a course on finding your purpose in life and learning to love and respect all that is around you. Now tell me, what part of that would God disagree with?

Jamy said...

I actually think the next move is up to Ken. If he values his friendship with Max, he'll drop the subject. If not, I don't see how Max can tolerate his proselytizing.

As you know, I have an extremely religious branch of my family. We practice the "live and let live" philosophy as well as we can because we want to stay close (more or less) but it's not always easy and there are many off-limits topics.

I think the friendship can be saved if Max wants that and Ken can show some respect. However, I don't think Max is under any obligation to keep trying. I like that he wants to, though.

kenju said...

I wish that Evangelical Christians would not take it upon themselves to singlehandly *save* every Muslim. Catholic, Jew, etc. in the world. I say live and let live too, and be an example by how you live your faith, not by what you say about it.

If Ken was a true friend, he would let it alone and accept Max's ideas.

patches said...

I understand Max having such a dilemma about the fate of a seventeen year friendship... But like you, I would probably lop off the infected limb. I'm a tolerant person. As an agnostic living in the bible belt, my survival depends on it. I respectfully listen to others speak of their beliefs, but seldom discuss mine. I draw the line at being proselytized. Religion, politics or otherwise.

Max is my new model in the realm of tolerance and respect. He sounds like a great person with a difficult decision. Strength.

The Guv'ner said...

If someone believes something different to you, that's fine. If they are vehemently pushing the subject trying to point out that you and your beliefs are wrong then they can just eff right off. This guy needs to live and let live and stop pushing things he knows nothing about. I'm very areligious and have no interest in religion, but I have the utmost respect for someone who does. Other people's beliefs don't hurt me so why would I care? Ken needs to figure that out, I think! It's people like HIM that give religion a bad name.

The thing about religion that always irritated me was that it supposedly preaches love and tolerance and respect yet is full of narrow mindedness that directly contradicts this.

Max shouldn't feel bad, he's right!

Monica said...

I need to agree with you Diane... Its time for Max to realized that his friend has started on a path that does not aligned to what his beliefs are... Ken is NOT taking the high road here and just simply suggesting that Max (and his family) faith and belief are put in question by a charlatan (I want to say stupid, morron, but I'm taking the high road here)...then its proof to Max that Ken is not mature enough to think his own thoughts and can easily be influence by anyone.. something that from experience has taught me will come to no good.

Its time to cut off the limb.

Chris said...

People change, Diane, and not always for the better. Cut off the limb and perhaps it will grow back. Judgmental friends are toxic.

AmyD said...

Ugh. This is unsurprisingly painful for Max, but not at all surprising. I grew up in a very conservative, Christian-based town where judgments were easily and often cast without looking both ways. Sadly, people who "find" themselves through religion are often roped in by people/churches who want nothing more than to brainwash their believers into believing every word they say is law. It's almost cult-like in some ways; it sounds like Max's good friend here has gotten zapped by a church that subscribes to just this way of (small) thinking. Sad as it may be, Max's friend probably thinks he is doing Max a favor by saying these things. He feels it is his duty to "save" Max, even at the cost of hurting his feeling, and quite possibly their friendship.

I know Max will handle this the best way he knows how, but from my experience, silence works much better in this case. Unfortunately, if you try to "right them" they will only further be determined to convince you otherwise. :o( I hope this works out! My best to your hubby during this uncomfortable time...

Shelly said...

I'm a Christian, and this breaks my heart. I want to pull Ken aside and talk some sense into him. Every church and every religion has a "Ken", and they scare me. Sometimes if I can summon the patience to talk with the "Kens" of the world, I'll ask them what they think Jesus would do in this situation...once in a while it works and they get back to a place of peace. I feel so bad for Max, Ken sounds pretty lost.

Cowgirl Warrior said...

This is my theory on friendships. I believe we are friends with people during our lifetime for a reason. Not all friendships are designed to last forever, people change, things that were once in common are no longer. The way I read your post is Max believes in being open minded and Ken doesn't. Letting go of a friendship is a difficult thing to do, Max will know what the best course to take is.

Arjewtino said...

I mostly agree with you, DM, but I can also see how difficult it can be for your husband to cut off a friendship he has had for 17 years.

Sometimes, not even your brain can make your heart feel good.

Charlotte said...

I struggle with fundamentalism of any kind, be it Christian or Islamacist. I can imagine it must be incredibly hard for your husband to decide whether to sever himself from this relationship, but it's grim being judged especially by someone who only sees the world in black and white.

Thanks for visiting my blog - do you know we are practically neighbours? I live in Ladenburg. We should meet up sometime!

Diane Mandy said...

Sara - Good question. Why would God disagree. Ask your sister. I bet she knows. ;-)

Jamy - I completely relate because Max and I both have extremely religious families. Somehow, we make it work, but it's not always easy.

Kenju - that's my problem with evangelical groups, too. Live and let live.

patches- I have a friend who is an atheist in the Bible belt and handles things a lot like you do. Sure ain't easy, is it?

guv - I was thinking maybe you could draft one of your carefully worded letters in Max's behalf. I'll send it on to Ken, deal?

Monica - Off with the limb! I wish I could tell him what to do. It's so unpleasant being around he and his wife anymore. Life is just too too short.

Chris- Hi!!!!!!!!!! Glad you checking in on my blog. I can't wait to catch up in person when I'm home in March!

AmyD - I am sure Ken thinks he is doing Max a service, but it's sad that he has become so misguided.

Diane Mandy said...

Shelly - I like your approach and wish Ken could get that message. He's not a bad guy. Sometimes the newly converted (in any faith) become overzealous, and need to be locked in a room for a year...or 10.

Cowgirl Warrior- It's a really interesting theory. I know it certainly applies to friends I once had, but no longer. Regardless, it's sad and I am sorry for my fellow. He's really hurting.

Arjewtino - You are right, of course. This often happens in love and friendship. Letting go isn't easy, even if it's in your best interest.

Charlotte- Hello neighbor! I actually live in Bad Durkheim off the Weinstrasse, but it's still close enough to visit. I love your blog, which I found through Lynda and Lulu Bay. Let's meet!

LZ Blogger said...

Diane ~

What? You guys have NO friends who are Hòa Hao or Cao Đài? (I jest… surely!)

What a great time for me to weigh in… NOT!!!

When you get into both political and religious situations and dogma, (especially on blogs) opinions can often get testy. Having said all that, I am a little reluctant to even respond here given some of the answers I’ve already read (above) and the fact that almost NO ONE seems to be supporting Ken’s position here… (and also) without trying to sound preachy… let me offer a point that perhaps, Ken doesn’t understand that he is actually pushing his friend Max further away (rather than) “closer.” But, it could actually be that Ken looks at Max as his brother and as such, wants his brother to KNOW what he knows and believes.

In today’s PC world, people don’t want to be told that there are “Rights and Wrongs” or “Good and Evil” in our lives in this world. For that matter… they don’t want to be told ANYTHING! They know it all and many are their own little gods. ”Absolutes” are real “turn offs” to those folks.

My feeling is that Ken actually loves Max (agape) as a brother. Additionally, Ken (more than likely) believes that the Bible is the infallible “Word of God”. And, as such, Ken is trying to point out to Max, that Jesus IS “the Way, the Truth and the Light!” I personally think that Max is a LUCKY guy! He not only knows how to pick a wife… but he also knows how to pick his friends too! I wish I would have had a friend like Ken earlier in my life, when I thought that the “meaning to life” was; “Drugs ~ Sex and Rock & Roll!” A lifestyle that is still rampant in Hollywood’s “A” list even as we speak.

Even though (as many have suggested here) Max could (and may) decide to leave Ken behind as a “severed gangrenous limb” but I still think Ken (if he is a man of his convictions), will always have Max in his prayers! (John 15:16-18) After all… could it be that Ken wants to see Max in eternity some day? But then… maybe that’s just my silly little opinion!

It always amazes me that making light of the world’s religions is always FORBIDDEN, that is… UNLESS they are Christians, then it just seems to be “FINE”!

May I suggest that Max just tells Ken… “brother your Christian conversion persistence of me is neither wanted nor needed… if you want me as your friend, you’ll just have to take me as I am!?

The funniest one for me (from the above comments) was the misspelled MORON! Now you just have to admit it… that’s just FUNNY! ~ jb///

Diane Mandy said...

LZ - I hear where your coming from and your comments and opinions are always welcome. Having been raised in a very strict and fundamental religion, I understand the points and Biblical references you make all too well. Neither Max or I believe that Ken is a bad person or purposefully trying to make Max feel uncomfortable, but no human has the right to judge another person's heart, let a lone cast judgment on an entire race of people. Max is a spiritual person who grieves at the divisions caused by all the world's religions. After what we see and experience in this world of supposed people of faith, Max would rather take his chances being judged by God than judged by men. I don't blame him for this. For years, Max, in the nicest most patient ways, has asked Ken to give him the same respect and tolerance he has always offered. That message isn't getting through.

Cheryl said...

You are right that it i absolutely not about religion or anything other than should you be friends with someone who is that disrespectful to your family and an entire group of people. It's a no brainer for me. And I so hate to tell Ken this, but wanna bet the Bible was never misinterpreted? I believe slave owners used it to justify slavery, among other things. I don't understand how people can let faith close their minds; faith should enlighten us.

Zhaan said...

This is a tough situation. You know me and in Max's shoes I would pray about it. Friendships are important but even though I am a Christian and we are taught to turn the other cheek, I don't recall Jesus ever becoming a doormat and he openly debated those he disagreed with and caused controversy where he went in his day. My point is, I don't think any human should be abused by another and while Ken may have the best of intentions, he's insulting Max, his family and frankly he's also insulting other Christians with his behavior. But I'm not Max, not in his shoes, so I will just hope for the best. I know this is hard for him, but he's a great guy and I know he'll do what he thinks is the best thing.
--From a Christian who loves you both :)

Dustin said...

Ugh. I don't envy your husband's position. So hard when someone you care for decides you are "living in sin." Sounds like Max has incredible patience.

Kudos to him.

karey m. said...

grrrr. i want to punch ken in the guts. forgive me...i'm an italian-irish catholic. we're a violent bunch.

i could go on for weeks, but i think most of the problems in the world boil down to this: mind your own business. i try to remember that what's good for me is probably not the best choice for others.

and if i think that all my decisions are the best and only? i'm probably a jerk.

i'll be thinking of this post for days!!! again, grrr.

meno said...

oh how sad. I lost a friend like this too, a long time ago. She just would not stop with the preaching at me. I finally lost it when she told me i was going to hell.

I so wonder why someone (Ken) would let himself be brainwashed like this.

Rositta said...

Wow, so everything I'm thinking has been already said by so many people, (except for lz bloger) who I don't agree with at all. It is hard to let a friendship go, I think all of us have had to do it at some point in our lives for various reasons so I think Max will do it when he is ready. It is really quite difficult. Seems most of the problems of mankind begin with religion.