At a party last night I spoke with two brand new acquaintances about my trip to India. One of them is widely read in religion and physics (is there ultimately a difference?) and seems truly to have grasped the meaning of my experience there.
The other is the daughter of a Pakistani Muslim. She is doing her graduate studies on the Muslims who stayed in India after Pakistan was established in 1947. They had longed for a strong Muslim community and had no desire for a separate nation. Today they remain extremely observant to daily prayers, cleansing rituals, and traditional clothing. It is a way for them to maintain solidarity as a significant minority. The people she has interviewed are now in their 80s. They were in their teen and twenties at the time of Independence.
By contrast, Muslims in Pakistan are just as likely to be non-observant, like her father (who loves bacon and enjoys an occasional gin and tonic). My new friend pointed out the obvious: In this county it is perfectly normal to be a non-practicing Christian. No one in the U.S. questions you if you say you are Christian. Who cares if you attend a church? Who is surprised if you attend only on Christmas Eve and Easter?
We have a single notion of Islam, right or wrong, black or white or mixed. What we too seldom recognize are the multiple versions of Islam. They are not all the same! Christians are not all alike!
When you think about it, Unitarian Universalists are not all alike. We know that. Then we visit Unitarian or Universalists in another county–The Philippines, Transylvania, The Republic of Congo, the Khasi Hills in northeast India–and we know we’re not in Kansas any more.
Open your hearts, your minds. There is a whole world more than ever any of us could have imagined.