A few weeks ago I was approached by a gentleman in the store where I was working who told me that he was a minister who spent his days traveling around and organizing prayer circles around the world. This was intriguing and I asked him to tell me more.
“Prayer Canada” his card said. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really consider which religion he adhered to, I like them all. But I assumed it was some form of Christianity. I told him I was a spiritual person too and thought that prayer was something very powerful & I wanted to know more about what he did.
He joined me at the cash and we began a conversation that would last an hour – but would create an indelible and powerful impression on me.
He told me that god spoke to him and told him things. OK, fair enough.
That he had just received a message that God wanted me to know something – urgently, and I had to really listen to him.
OK – ready.
He asked me if I had any Muslim friends.
Of course I do. I started life in an international high school and then traveled most of the world – so yes, I enjoyed a circle of friends from all walks of life.
Well – he said, that is very dangerous. You must not let these people into your life.
He told me the story about a man who had a “best friend” who was Muslim. And when he asked his “best friend” if his religion told him to kill him, would he? And the man responded that yes he would (I would too, what a dumb question…) Then he told me that I would be destroyed by sharia law, and that “they” were “taking over” our land…
I know what you’re thinking. Stop there.
In hindsight I have a million things I would have said to this man. But at the moment, I was just in shock. And it would only get “better”.
He then waved to the lovely massive Tibetan Buddha to my left and spoke about those who worship “hocus pocus” and false idols.
“I didn’t insult your religion sir – and your people have killed more than any other in history.”
I swallowed my desire to give him a history lesson and tried to soften things, the way a Buddhist might:
“Do you want to know about that Buddha? Because each one has a very interesting story?” I wanted to take the focus off the hatred and weird shit he was saying.
“This is the Buddha of enlightenment. It represents the moment at which Buddha realized that he is a manifestation of and connected to everything alive around him. The Pineapple on his head represents that the Pineal gland, in the brain which looks like a pineapple when it is fully activated. Somehow ancient Buddhists knew that this part of the brain was fundamentally important to spiritual enlightenment; something our scientists today are only catching up on.” He looked at me blankly, like you look at a three year old who is babbling.
“Um – Buddha and Jesus taught the same thing you know.” I ended, hoping a real fact would stir him out of his stupor.
By now his wife had joined us. She looked exactly as you might imagine a pastor’s wife to look; middle aged, neatly dressed with smart reasonable shoes and a sort of permanent “amen” stuck to her face. As her husband spoke she habitually amen’d through his diatribe:
I remember him going on and on about stuff like:
There is only one book…amen
The word of our Lord…yes lord
People of the devil…help us lord
Take over our land…amen
Lord is right.
My brain rattled off epithets of admonishment always ending in something like
I have Muslim friends sir. I find your rhetoric insulting and based in fear. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT what Jesus would teach.
It is the opposite.
That’s what I would have said – If i would have had presence of mind. Anger and shock take that away from you.
I would have said – if I thought saying anything then would have made a difference. It’s what i said in my head a million times since he left the store with his Amen wife in tow.
But my silence was I think part of a sudden sadness that I felt like I was not in my own country anymore. Something in me thought we Canadians were “better than that”. I was so proud of us when I lived in Australia. We are good people. Kind people. We like to help and we have abundance and we like to share.
We’d like to say that what is going on in the USA is their problem, and we are untouched by it culturally. I think in Canada there is a bit of a sense that we are “above that” and it doesn’t really have anything to do with us – but it does, I see now.
Somehow, the shift in the American political winds has created a platform where it is OK and even celebrated to spew and propagate hatred and fear. And now, this dark wave is somehow seeping into neighourhoods and personal interchanges. That is really disturbing. It seems those fearful disillusioned and ignorant folk who were “dampened” by a culture of hypocritical political correctness, can now come out of the woodwork and expound their fearful rhetoric. They have found their people now – they have friends who support their ignorance. Indeed they have even found a leader.
I wanted to write about this in case you encounter hatred on your path.
How will you respond?
Because the world does not need all of us bowing to hatred and fear – even if the anger is directed at those that perform the greatest atrocities, of which the misuse of power is one. Someone has to keep their head on.
It is more likely today than it has been before that you will encounter this idea – that one kind of person is dangerous or not good enough for your country.
So what will you do about it?
If I could have a “do over” i would have liked to have been more prepared for this, so that i could somehow have effected positive change on this man, and discouraged him from going around using his authority as a self proclaimed representative of God – to incite hatred and fear in people.
I don’t know what the answer to such a thing is, but I am certain that silence is not it.