Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Is the cost of security and self-preservation worth it?

Security has become a bit of a conversational past time the last couple of weeks. The Syrian refugee crisis and Paris attacks have, of course, brought this to a significant head. But the issue is not new and comes up with various issues, including gun control, police force, just war theory, etc.

My problem is that, like many issues, we have dichotomized the sides, which doesn't help any solution-finding. We need to validate that a sense of security for ourselves is important. But security for other people is important, too.

Assuming refugees pose various dangers to us (on Monday, I talked about my personal experience with Muslim peacemakers), is our safety more important than the safety of the refugees? Should we be putting our needs and (more commonly) comfort about the basic (often life and death-related) needs of others? It's human nature to do so, so it's understandable, but is it what we should strive to do?

When we start denying people asylum in order to protect ourselves from potential (not guaranteed) cultural changes and potential (again, not guaranteed) attacks, we should also not place these as opposites and acknowledge the true costs. Few people want cultural change, and no one wants the safety of their loved ones and themselves to be put at risk.

What we are saying is that maintaining our culture as it is is worth hundreds of thousands of lives of the Other who have no safe place to go. We are willing to let hundreds of thousands of innocent people live in limbo with a horrible quality of life with many likely dying in order to maintain a status quo culture and give us a sense of security. Is that cost worth it?

Let's assume for a moment that denying refugees prevents another 9/11-like attack, so we have saved 3,000 American lives. The cost is hundreds of thousands of refugees' lives. All are innocent victims. All would be tragedies. So are our lives worth more than theirs? What does it say about our value system that we put psychological security above human rights? The problem is the cost of denying refugees isn't ours to pay, at least in the short term and materialistically. It's theirs. But it's ultimately our cost morally.

What is our obligation to our fellow human? When do we put ourselves at risk in order to reduce the risk to someone else?

Should security be pursued at all costs? Is self-preservation or (wise) self-sacrifice for the sake of another the higher goal? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

My First-hand Experience with Muslim Peacemakers

As we all know, there has been increasing ignorant, critical dialogue about Muslims being a threat to the foundation of American and Judeo-Christian society. I have seen and heard comments ranging from ISIS representing over 90% of all the world's Muslims to ISIS followers being the most serious and honest Muslims. People are regularly claiming that followers of Islam are fundamentally interested in divisiveness and contention.

During graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with a group of both Muslims and Christians from across the United States on an interfaith peacemaking effort. I literally had the opportunity to break bread with Muslims who took their faith very seriously, which led them to advocate for, raise awareness of, and build competency in interfaith peacemaking. Oh, and this effort was funded by a grant from the US Department of Justice.

This experience led to my dissertation, entitled Being a Peacemaker: A Qualitative Study on the Faith-Based Values of Exemplar Muslim and Christian Interfaith Peacemakers. This title should help emphasize that peacemaking can actually come from deeply-rooted serious faith, even from Islam.

There is good in the faith world. There are wonderful people doing amazing, important work. They have been doing it for decades, getting very little credit, but positively transforming people's lives. And both Muslims and Christians are doing it because of their faith. I believe the values of the people involved in these efforts are far more representative of the larger Muslim and Christian cultures; the perspectives are just not as well-known because the participants do their work quietly and humbly, in contrast to the work of groups like Westboro Baptist and ISIS.

Let's acknowledge the amazingly positive, pro-social transformative power Islam can provide, not just the destructiveness of minority extremism.

Wednesday, I'll explore the cost of security and self-preservation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review: De-Stigmatizing Depression

As a psychologist and Christian with a particular speciality and passion for the integration of spirituality and behavioral health, I was hopeful when I started David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too.

While Murray explicitly admits this is a short text to introduce Christians to some of the facts about depression, he regularly oversimplifies things in a way that probably contributes to on-going stigma and discrimination. He has an excellent intent to reduce such stigma from the Christian community, and the book starts out appropriately combating some common theological myths with regard to depression. However, he also quickly makes other statements that stigmatize and inaccurately represent other diseases (like addiction).

He also gets many facts wrong about treatment options, often due to the theme of not acknowledging the complexities of behavioral health, including depression. Further, he makes assumptions about the readers, once even saying, "as Reformed Christians, we..." Not all Christians are Reformed, and not all Reformed Christians would agree with his more extreme theology that falls in line with people like John Piper.

As I've noted in other blog posts and reviews, this theology is incredibly damaging. Murray makes several statements along these lines, including stating that if someone is depressed, God made them depressed and wants them depressed. He argues that God working all things for good supports this, which is a warping of this Scripture. Just because God can use something for good doesn't mean he made that something happen. This kind of explanation is what leads people away from Christ.

I'm frankly conflicted about this book. For those coming from extreme views, it's probably helpful to validate their beliefs and help them be open to alternative explanations and understandings of the world. But again, Murray actually contributes to on-going stigmatization of the behavioral health community. I don't for a moment believe this is intentional. Especially as he narrated the audiobook, it is easy to hear his heart of compassion and true desire to help others. Therefore, I pray this book will be helpful to those who read/listen to it, but I would not recommend it for most people.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: Love Truly Casts Out Fear and Hatred

In a time of increasing globalization and exposure to people with different ideas, cultures, values, and faiths, putting a face and a personal story to the Other can be quite powerful and meaningful in building love, respect, and understanding. Love Casts Out Fear: A Jihad Survivor's Journey from Revenge to Redemption is a personal testimony of one man's experience of pain, tragedy, hatred, and personal transformation that has led to the transformation of many other lives.

This book is the story of Brother Nathan, an Egyptian Christian who witnessed his father's murder by Islamic extremists. He details how this event changed his life and could have led him down a path of responsive, retributive violence (and he was planning on going down that path). However, the consistent love and support of community helped him experience the transformative power of Christ, replacing his fear and hatred of his father's murderers. He went on to build relationships and demonstrate the love of Christ to all in his community, including Muslims of the dominant, ruling party in his country.

While many Christians in America claim to be oppressed and discriminated against and yet continue to show hatred to those "oppressors," Brother Nathan's story is a powerful reminder of priorities and what real oppression looks like. It also reminds us of what Christ's true love calls us toward. All those who want to continue to pursue self-protection at the cost of destroying others should read this book and remember core Christian values.

The audiobook version was very well done, and narrative Youssif Kamal was excellent. I frequently had to remember that this book was not read by the author, as Kamal put appropriate emotion to bring the story to life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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