I appreciate the Muslims in my community who motivate me to be more courageous about my own expressions of faith through their everyday radical. As we commemorate the horrendous 9-11 attacks, and as many contemplate Abraham’s tremendous trust in God’s perfect provision during the Eid of Sacrifice, I wonder, what would it look like if we were all a little more radicalized to show extreme love, drastic kindness, and fanatical forgiveness in a hurting world? Thanks, everyone, for taking a moment out of your lives to consider my thoughts on radicalism. (As published in the Yemeni American News, September, 2016).
Defining Radical Religious Practices
When I was in college my roommate and I had a hunger to learn more about our faith and live out what we believed, even when other people thought we were a little bit crazy. We wanted to be radical about what we believed. By radical I mean, we wanted to pray publically when others would have thought it awkward or inappropriate. We wanted to stand out in modesty and purity of heart when other girls we knew were choosing to wear smaller shorts and date lots of guys. We wanted to study our Holy Book, talk about what it says, and figure out how to live it out every day, even when others were more interested in talking about the latest drama on their favorite show. We didn’t want to judge others for their choices, we just wanted to stand out as committed, passionate, and sold out for what we believed in. That was my definition of radical. I wanted to study the teachings of Jesus the Messiah and then live them out as best I could in my context. He was radical in his day and I wanted to follow in his radical ways of kindness, love, peace, and purity in my day.
Today, if someone is radicalized, it means they have a religiously based motivation to terrorize others. The word radical has been hijacked! Why does being sold out for what one believes in have to involve hurting others? There are radicalized religious fanatics of every flavor—those who bomb abortion clinics, those who bomb twin towers, those who terrorize innocent village children… All those extreme beliefs are crimes against humanity, and they are so far from the loving heart of God.
Practicing Radical at the Gym
The other day I pushed myself to get to the gym rather than take a nap on the couch. I convinced myself that I would feel better after a good workout. It was hot and sticky and I grumbled in my T-shirt and capris as I anticipated getting even hotter running laps. When I walked into the rec center, I passed a modest Muslim woman working out hard in her hijab, covered from head to toe—and I thought I was hot! Motivated by her commitment to religious purity, even on a treadmill, I bounded with greater fervor up the stairs to the track. I was greeted by the sight of a man and his son pausing their workout to stop and pray eastward in the corner. One of the things that I appreciate about living among Muslims in Dearborn, is that moments like these are “normal” occurrences at the gym. They are also radical in my mind. Radical by my first definition. Many devout Muslims in our community seek to live out their faith everyday, even when it seems uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just strange to those around them.
Inspired by these examples of radicalism to stand out at the gym, I decided, why not…I’m devoted to God, regardless of what others think… So, I waited my turn for the secluded prayer corner beside the track, and I knelt down and prayed. I wasn’t trying to show off or prove anything; I just wanted to take a moment out of my workout to connect to God in prayer. It was a demonstration of everyday radical. It was my small moment to take radical back from terrorism and reflect the heart of God.
What would it look like if we were all a little more radicalized to show extreme love, drastic kindness, and fanatical forgiveness in a hurting and confused world? What if we all paused to pray throughout our day more often? One of my favorite bumper stickers challenges people to Wage Peace. What if we all practiced just a little of everyday radical by waging peace wherever we are? Love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness…these are the fruit of the Spirit of God. These are fundamental virtues. Maybe, then, we should all strive to be a bit more radical—and fundamentalists!