Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Swine Flu Song

{EDIT: This post was written a year ago during the epic TV news swine flu scare, but it's still interesting and relevant. Also, unfortunately, two of the sources I cited have either moved their websites or taken them down, so I apologize in advance.}

From the artist who brought you the song, “I Hate Israel,” Shaaban Abdel-Rahim, the “king of Egyptian kitsch” releases a new hit single about: Swine Flu!

It’s kinda catchy (and honestly, really funny!) But with all these jokes about swine flu, I have to wonder the reasonings behind why it was made into such a huge deal in the news back in May. Ratings, maybe? Fear about next flu season, that swine flu may come back with a vengeance when the weather cools off and immune systems weaken? After the Mexico scare, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave orders for every pig in Egypt to be slaughtered. Over 300,000 pigs are projected to be killed by the end of May. No cases of swine flu have yet been reported in Egypt, though there was one in Israel after a man returned home after a trip to Mexico. American students protested for animal rights as a result of Egypt’s move here. But was this just a huge overreaction, or could there be more to it than that?

Keep in mind, first, that Muslims do not eat pork. Islam considers pigs unclean animals. Coptic Christians, a 10% minority in Egypt, generally do the dirty work as they are a lower social class. Many are garbage collectors who farm pigs to help dispose of the rubbish. Some have spoken out saying that that the swine flu scare may have just been an excuse for the Egyptian government to disenfranchise their businesses (source: an animal rights website that as since been removed). What will this mean for Egypt’s day-to-day culture? How will these minorities be forced to adapt?

Read up on growing religious tensions in Egypt here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jesus Love

True love does not expect perfection, but rejoices in forgiveness.

As a relatively still young person with a recent childhood history of abuse, it is difficult for me to know how to get truly close to people. At first I struggled with paranoia, always wondering why these “church people” were smiling and friendly all the time. Then it was perfectionism and attention-seeking, with an emphasis on performance. Later, I was a more pleasant person, and less depressed; knowledgeable about the Bible, but still distant. I became very good at pretending to care about people’s inner souls without actually risking anything.

As a child, I learned to trust God because he was perfect and wouldn’t hurt me, and mistrust the imperfect people in my life who were doing evil things to me. But what would happen in a human relationship in which I was sinned against? Surely no human can be expected to perform perfection. But it makes so much sense to protect myself from hurt! Little did I know that these self-protective ways, while useful to me in earlier situations I had no control over, would hinder me from enjoying true relationship.

It always blows my mind to think about how vulnerable Jesus was when he was on this earth. He so desired to save us that he got to know us personally and felt constant grief over our sin, and so willing to teach that he risked death daily and almost never had time to himself. He was so consumed with zeal for his Father’s house that he allowed himself to feel righteous anger and indignation. He loved with a reckless abandon that took him even to death on a cross.

Jesus never had time to “stop and smell the roses.” I never see him as being a very happy-go-lucky person, as some make him out to be. His compassion caused him sorrow, even gruesome abuse, over all the ways we have wronged him. (In fact, true compassion is actually very difficult to walk around with, because it causes intense sorrow over the truth of the human condition.) And how vulnerable do you have to be to be absolutely silent before your accusers, and to be mocked, scorned, rejected, and killed by the very people you came to save?

But consider the joy mentioned in Hebrews 12: 2-3:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

For as much suffering as we know Jesus had to endure for our salvation, because of OUR SIN that nailed him to the cross, it says that it was for his joy! (See also John 17). Apparently God desires to be the Father in the story of the prodigal son, who instead of demanding retribution or compensation for the son’s sinful adventuring, cared more for his safe return and the reuniting of a family than anything else.

God misses us. He wants us reunited to him. It’s not about what role we were not successful in filling– it’s about returning to him with our hearts.

To love like this, one has to accept that there will be pain in life, simply because of the fact that we all walk around with a sinful nature. The people we love most will sin against us from time to time, even if we know they would never intentionally hurt us. And, inevitably, we’ll sin too. To deny these facts would be to deny that we exist. But in repentance and forgiveness, there is surprisingly more rejoicing that takes place than if the sin had never happened. Simply due to the fact that forgiveness is difficult, true love is able to be shown. Jesus love. It accepts the reality of the hurt, deals with it directly, and extends compassion that leads to acceptance and forgiveness. No shortcuts are allowed! Jesus surely didn’t take the easy way.

The most important thing is to allow Christ’s blood to rest on the sin committed. While it may not be forgotten until heaven, the joy that arises out of forgiveness is to be desired more than if the person had been perfect to begin with (or rather, safe enough to keep you from loving boldly).

This is the lesson I have learned over the past few weeks. God wants me to love boldly, especially in the face of sin, and not to live in fear and self-protection. Instead of defaulting to my tendency to systematize relationships in order to gain an illusion of control (and thus live in a two-dimensional world), I must step out in faith and courage and risk my very heart the way Jesus did. There is no other way to enjoy the people I love the most!