I'm Not a Christian Anymore

“I’m not a Christian anymore,” the 12-year-old girl I have been mentoring for four years just informed me.

She tells me she has decided to become a Muslim.

Once in the car on the way to our regular date to the library, I ask her to elaborate.

She has recently had a conversation with her stepfather, who is a Muslim and who is apparently trying to convince her to follow the ways of Islam.

For the past six years, my mentee has attended a Christian school where she has—at least in the classroom—been brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” But this year signaled the beginning of seventh grade and the beginning of her transition from Christian school to public—a transition that is removing her from her lifeline to the Christian community (except for me, and perhaps her grandmother, who occasionally takes her to church).

I kindly told my young friend that she could call herself what she wanted, but as long as she was hanging out with me, we were going to read the Bible together. She nodded her head compliantly.

There are two things I do not want to do:

1) Subvert her stepfather’s authority, or

2) Shove Christianity down her throat.

But when a 12-year-old—who has always been very receptive to teachings about Christ, and even offers to pray (to the God of Christianity) from time to time—suddenly decides that she’s going to call herself a Muslim, there’s something within this protective mentor’s heart that makes me want to believe that it’s just a phase she’s going through . . . either to impress her stepfather, or to prove her independence, or to try to draw attention.

But, what if she’s not?

Aside from making her wear the hijab every time we hang out (to show her that she really does not want to become a Muslim), I’m not sure what to do. Except continue to read the Bible with her and pray that all the seeds I have planted have not fallen on deaf ears.

Any advice for this disheartened mentor on a Wednesday?


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Had been married twice before meeting each other? How did they do that?
Lee Quod, Glad to provide a little inspiration. =) I had some inspiration today too. I used the phrase "American style eschatological eisegesis", and then I thought to myself "Self, what a nice turn of phrase! I wonder if anyone else ever used it?" So I did a google search for the exact result (that is, with quote marks around it), and *TADA*! zero results--which probably means I coined it. Hooray! =) (the thread is officially and fully hijacked)
Benjamin, your upbringing and mine are much more alike than you realize. I was in my middle teens when I learned that my sister was actually my half-sister, and in my late twenties when I discovered that both my mother and my father had been married twice before meeting each other. Elephant in the room? We had a herd. // I'm inspired to see what happens if I type a double-quote after typing a double-quote; maybe Son-of-Typepad will crash...! Here goes: """" Woo hoo!! Let's do that again! """""""""" How about parentheses, like my old LISP editor? ((((())))) SWEET!
Benjamin, I meant a looming debate, not a looming flame. That is why I chose not to answer it further. The debate just wasn't on a subject which interested me and it did not look like there was much room for interesting intellectual gymnastics on the subject. Low empathy is certainly a disadvantage in situations when empathy is desireable. If you are neither a diplomat, nor a merchant, nor a therapist, nor a professional poker player, I suppose you can get along without. Sometimes I feel like debating and sometimes not.
Jason, Was there an argument looming or happening? Given that most people think limitations are bad luck, why do you think limitations are bad luck? I wonder what Joni Tada would say? Lee, I think I kind of had the opposite experience from you. I spent much of my life inside a family and church system where questions were discouraged unless they were on the pre approved list, where no one ever wanted to talk about feelings, or much of anything else, really, and where there was a clearly defined and lived by range of acceptable answers. Now as a grownup I'm finally getting "permission" to ask questions, to let other people speak for themselves, to believe that if they want me to stop asking, they'll say so. By the way--to the editor/tech person: the software does this unbelievably annoying thing where when you type one quotation mark ", it automatically makes two quotation marks "", putting the cursor between them. Can you make that stop? If I want two quotation marks, I'll type two =).
Benjamin, I've found that some questions revive painful memories. I don't ask my wife's uncle about being a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, anymore. If he volunteers, you bet I listen. I maintain a respectful silence in the presence of Holocaust survivors, but listened intently to my professor who spoke freely of his time in the camps. I have a long list of people and their individual subjects that I avoid. I've rushed in with both feet in my mouth into far too many situations, only to see someone's eyes flood with tears or look away in anger or pain. Meg's right that you're onto something big with your point about listening. My intent, though, was to get you to stop talking directly to Zoe and instead talk to me. Glad I succeeded. Furthermore, I'll take your point one step further and add that it's possible to listen with the heart. Mine says that Zoe needs neither answers or questions from all of us, but instead a virtual hug. I believe those who truly love will join in.
Because it is a limitation and most people think limitations bad luck. If you do not think so then good luck to you. Arguing over whether low empathy is a disadvantage is not of interest to me.
Benjamin, I took LeeQuod's hypothetical story as a chance to examine what might be going on in someone who holds certain things to be true and the repudiation of those truths to be bad. Can you explain how you don't see what he was getting at, please?
Lee Quod, Do you think asking sincere, non judgmental questions can cause someone emotional harm? Jason, Why do you believe that having a limitation that not everyone else has is bad luck?
"I'm kind of into the idea that no one can explain anyone's emotions apart from their own." I think this is wonderful, because it means Benjamin listens to what people are actually saying, rather than assuming he knows what they think and feel. I think Benjamin's words are the key to truly listening and truly loving!
"Jason, I'm uber delighted to have maybe been described as mildly autistic. Thank you! Why do you think it's "bad luck" to not understand someone else's feelings? " Actually I just said that was a theory. I didn't intend to say you were autistic and I was in fact afraid it would sound patronizing when I wrote it. I only pointed out that it was ONE possibility. And it is bad luck because it is a limitation that not everyone else has.
Benjamin, my apologies for being overly terse. (And apparently my long reply to you from last night has disappeared. That's OK; I over-disclosed in it.) Suffice it to say that I'm dealing with a family member who is extremely self-absorbed, and your description helped me to articulate some issues at a critical time. So I meant "You rock" sincerely. But I do think that you should accept any attempts to shield Zoe from further emotional harm as indications of how highly she's valued, even if the attempts are clumsy. They're also designed to value you as well, since another option is to flat-out tell you to leave her alone - but that would be rude. I'd recommend that you ask your questions in another thread - even an old one that deals with Islam. You're asking the right questions - just in the wrong place.
Jason, I'm uber delighted to have maybe been described as mildly autistic. Thank you! Why do you think it's "bad luck" to not understand someone else's feelings?
No LeeQuod, that is not "unsympathetic". That is simply "introspective" or at worst "cold personality" or possibly "mildly autistic" depending on the person. It also can imply culture dissonance. But it is not necessarily unsympathetic. Not comprehending someone else's feelings is just bad luck not callousness
Lee Quod, That's fascinating =). Would I be correct in deducing that for you sympathy is (often, anyways) when you understand someone's feelings without any explanation/imput from them? My own most remembered/significant experiences of sympathy usually happen when I'm deeply involved in working toward understanding someone's feelings by listening and listening and asking lots of non-judgmental questions so i can really get at the totality of their feeling and the beliefs that drive it. Sometimes when I'm doing that with someone, I get to this moment when they say something and I sort of come to this fuller understanding of how-they-see-the-world and thus why they feel that feeling, and I'll suddenly be overwhelmed with experiencing myself the emotion they were/are feeling. My experience is that this latter is a much richer and truer experience for me than when I think I understand what someone is experiencing right away. Hence the question I asked =).
Benjamin, you wrote: "I'm kind of into the idea that no one can explain anyone's emotions apart from their own." Thank you, sir; I was looking for a good definition of the word "unsympathetic". You rock; too.
Hey Jason, Lee Quod, Thanks for the explanations. I'm kind of into the idea that no one can explain anyone's emotions apart from their own. So your explanations don't really help with what I wanted to know. But thanks for trying. You rock =).
Benjamin, I think I can help you somewhat with the "disheartened" question: Imagine that for the past four years you had been working with me to get me to become a liberal. Four years - what were you doing back in 2005? Probably, you were dreading another four years of the GWB Administration. So you work with me to help me understand the essentials of why I should vote Democrat, why certain ballot measures would have dire consequences, why getting the Republicans out of the White House and out of Congress was critical, and so on. And one day I tell you that I have a new girlfriend, she's introduced me to Rush Limbaugh, and now I support Sarah Palin for President. You look back on four years of spending time with me, answering my questions, taking me to political events, and so on. How would you feel? Worse, imagine looking forward to me consistently supporting everything you oppose, and opposing all that you support. Islam is a religion of works, with no guarantee of success. (Compare to Diane's statement about eternal security.) You can faithfully follow the Five Pillars your entire life, and have no idea if you'll get to Heaven. Its social consequences in this lifetime can be dire, particularly for women. And since it does not have the Way, follow the Truth or bring the Life, it is obviously not going to lead anyone to the Father. Instead, Islam calls for political conquest and enforced religious obedience. When you become a Muslim, you cannot change your mind; apostasy is punishable by death. (Contrast this with many Christians who are now atheists or agnostics.) And the evidence from many European and Asian countries demonstrates that Moslems are quite willing to shove Islam down peoples' throats. So by converting to Islam Zoe's young friend stands to lose her freedom to choose her religion and all the freedoms for her gender that feminists (including Anne Morse, incidentally) have fought for over the years. This is not a fate that any caring person would wish on someone else. But I think you and I should await a better opportunity to discuss this more via some other thread, out of sensitivity for Zoe's feelings. (At that time I'll tell you about my friend from a Middle Eastern country who came to the USA and pastors a church for converts from Islam to Christianity. The services are held in secret, due to the strong possibility of violence against the congregation - in the USA!) I hope and pray that indeed this is merely something a 12-year-old might say without thinking, and that in the end (and hopefully sooner rather than later) Zoe's labor will be rewarded. Hundreds and hundreds of Muslims are becoming Christians in Islamic countries, on the basis of dreams about Christ, where the dreams come unbidden. Perhaps Zoe's friend will have such a dream of Jesus asking her to continue to follow him.
Well Benjamin, in the first place, while not all of us are QUITE exclusivists some are and others are just a wee bit nervous. That is an obvious point. Then too, any parent who sees their child leave the way they were brought up in is likely to react emotionally. It is not even a matter of religion. Benjamin Franklin (another Benjamin, don't you know)had a rather frightful reaction when his son took the King's side. A sad story, to be sure and one which shows that even someone like him could be torn. Similar stories abound. So the whole thing isn't all that surprising on any level.
I wish that I had started off asking "Zoe, why are you disheartened?" It feels to me like I've kind of been somewhat unpresent so as to have created a bit of a trust bank deficit, which leaves me unable to ask the question. Alas.
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