Friends are not afraid to ask

We have just had another great holiday in Turkey! Great weather, great food, great company. When we booked these glorious days, it was without any regard for much else than our own work and family commitments. It was only when we were in Turkey that we realised our last day would be the first day of a four-day national holiday in Turkey. Our last day of holiday in Turkey was the beginning of bayram

(Bayram is the Turk word for a nationally celebrated festival or holiday, applicable to both national (i.e. secular) or religious celebrations. – a national celebration.)

The greeting is “iyi bayramlar” – this one is four days of an annual religious festival. Every shop that is open offered a plate of sweets – some a refreshing dash of cologne. But most remained unopened. The streets were much quieter than usual – only those working, those travelling to see family and friends, and us tourists were about.

Amongst us tourists – us westerners – this religious festival is considered a somewhat barbaric day. Animals are slaughtered (discretely by the standards of the Turkish population) but far too openly by our standards.

The area we were staying in is Turkish. Animals don’t go to their death quietly. When we heard the first animal being lead in from the fields we shut the windows. It was remarkably quiet – the sounds outside sanitised by double glazing. We had not realised more than one animal was being dispatched.

“Smells like someone is having a bbq” my wife asked hopefully when I opened our windows again. “Yes”, I replied noting the hide of a butchered animal being singed by fire. As far as I could tell, at least four animals were killed and butchered within 50 feet of our back window in the shared waste ground.

And just as we did – we avert our eyes and pretend it is not really happening. And where we stumble across this killing we are often quick to condemn. They shouldn’t do that – not out where we can see it. Muslims. Them. Definitely not Us.

Them and us?

Let’s talk about our Bible. Our Abraham. Our Abraham who was to sacrifice his only son. Our God who stayed Abraham’s hand and praised Abraham. Who allowed the sacrifice of a goat instead. Our God. Not theirs.

Not their Ibrahim. Their Shaitan. Their G-d. Their (almost the same) version of “our bible.” Because this year I read up on what and why. Here is a link to get started:

Our bible, our beliefs, our Jesus, our “truth”? Uneducated. Dirty. Provincial. Them. Not Us?

“While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.” Luke 8: 43-45

Educated. Shiny squeaky clean. Sophisticated. Saved. Us. Not them.

Us who would never set foot in “that church”, eat with “those people”, agree with that way of doing things, their way of worship, their lifestyle, their choices, their irreverence, their reverence, their rules, their … (and after we have dissected the differences in our “own religion” … we haven’t any time left over to understand “their religion”).

We simply puff our own pride in “our truth” by dismissing anything of them. And in so doing we become just another “them”. Our own them:

“It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”

I left Turkey with smiles and affection. We are friends. And friends do not need to be the same. Friends allow. Friends accept. Friends enjoy their differences. Celebrate their differences. Our “perfect truth” even has “our” hymn about “our” friend:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!”

And yet – still today – even as we box our own God into ever more sanitised can’t-hear-Him double glazed sliced-and-diced denominational (or “non-denominational”) proud temples … Then we start on “muslims” … “jews” … label after label … division after division … paranoia after paranoia … lazy fearful thinking after lazy fearful thinking … little double glazed boxes after little double glazed boxes … all neat and tidy … the whole world over.  It’s how educated and sophisticated people do things. People who have found The Truth.  Their own truth.

“It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”

Friends are not afraid to ask.