Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Hyphenated American

America has become a society of labels.

Recently I attended an event where I learned a new label, Cisgender. Cisgender is a term for someone who has a gender identity that aligns with what they were assigned at birth. The term was created for referring to "non-transgender" people without alienating transgender people.

Who knew?

Our identities are getting way more complicated.

History and Evolution of the Hyphenated American

Hyphenated designations in the United States were originally meant as a disparagement of certain groups: German-Americans, Irish-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans. The insinuation, and disparagement, was that these groups were loyal to a foreign country rather than the United States.

Today, many groups have chosen to identify themselves as hyphenated Americans to demonstrate their pride in their ethnicity: African American, Afro-American, Chicano American, Latino American, Indian American, Indo-American, Native American, Arab American, European American, etc. The list goes on and on. A few years ago I heard Anglo-American for the first time. Even the very groups that were hyphenated for disparaging reasons in the past, now wear their heritage hyphens with pride.

But have you ever heard someone label themselves as a Christian American? Have you verbally called yourself a Christian American?

Friday, March 25, 2016

God: A Concept No One Owns

I participated in a small group discussion with several people about similarities and differences in our diverse American society. A Muslim woman commented she often felt she had to work extra hard in her profession to show her abilities because she was identifiable as a Muslim. She wears the headscarf. Another woman responded that she worked around people not of her faith but she never felt she had to demonstrate her abilities more because of her religion. She was sympathizing and went on to express how unfair that must feel.

As I know a lot of Mormons in Arizona, I asked the lady if she was Mormon.

She responded, "No. I am Christian." Pause. "Seventh Day Adventist."

I responded, "Isn't it interesting that you answered the question in that way?"

I saw the light go on in her eyes. She replied, "Isn't it?" She understood what her answer had indicated about her inner-belief system.

That is a problem I often seen. It is also a problem that few people see themselves.

All About Perspective

Over the years, many religious groups have struggled to find their place in American society. People in the "majority" do not understand the past and present struggles of minority Christian denominations to be accepted.

People may know history, but only from a philosophical level. They have never really thought about what it must have felt like living it.

The conversation I had was an example of that.

She answered that she was Christian, while, unconsciously, insinuating that Mormons are not. This is not unique to Latter Day Saints. I have heard similar "knee-jerk" reactions from a lot of Christians, whether "minority" or not.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

But They Believe They Are Going To Heaven

My husband, who is out of the country on business, called me at 1:40am to tell me about the bombings in Belgium. This has been a consistent part of my life - not the bombing but my husband or the media calling me at all hours to tell me or ask me about some major or horrific event involving Muslims in the world.

The people who bombed Belgium could use a refresher course on humanity and being human. If they claim to be Muslim, they could use a refresher course on Islam. Make no mistake, there are no words they can use to justify their actions that will overcome their harsh judgment to eternal hell and punishment on The Day of Judgment.

As I laid in bed wondering how people who call themselves Muslims could possibly believe what they are doing is in-line with God's teaching and that they would actually be rewarded for it, I remembered a conversation I had with one of my sisters years ago.

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

I had already become Muslim, she was not Muslim (nor is she now), but religion was not the issue. It was about God.

My sister was struggling with the idea of God. Not about whether he exists, but whether she liked him. 

She had the age-old complaint of why would a loving God, a God with ultimate power, allow bad things to happen.  

But that was not really the problem.

The problem was our dad.

Our dad was a wife beater. Our dad was a cheater. Our dad abandoned us when we were children.

Our dad was also Southern Baptist. Not Fundamentalist Southern Baptist, and there is a difference, but Southern Baptist. He was not particularly religious (he attended church on Easter Sunday and some other times), but he believed as a Christian, Jesus had died for his sins and he was automatically going to heaven as a result.

My sister was upset that, despite everything our dad had done to us and our mother, God would allow him to go to heaven. She saw this as unfair, unjust. 

She actually said, "If God will allow Daddy to go to heaven, I do not want to go to heaven."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Core Values Are Not Convenient

We all have values, whether we have formally acknowledged them or not. You hope to make your decisions based on those values. Unfortunately, when you have not really decided what your core values are, it sometimes becomes difficult to make decisions based on those core values because you are not clear on what they are.

It becomes even more difficult when options appear to represent opposing values. That is when you really need to understand the priority of your core values.

A while back a representative from a university student group contacted me for advice. It was a Muslim student group. The question was whether the group should join a coalition of other student groups in support of an LGBT student group that had been discriminated against by the school.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I Don't Hate "Us," I Am "Us."

"I think Islam hates us.... There is an unbelievable hatred of us...." You mean all 1.6 billion of them? "I mean a lot of them."
This rhetoric is not new. The accusations have become common. Muslims who have fought, even died, for this country are not exempt.

Too many people in the United States actually believe 1.6 billion people are carbon copies rather than individuals - and that the lives of 1.6 billion people revolves around hating the United States.

Never mind that 1.6 billion is a huge number, about one-fifth of the world's population.

Never mind that those 1.6 billion people are spread throughout the world - different ethnicities, different languages, and different cultures. 
  • Asia has the largest number of Muslims in the world. 
  • There are more Muslims in the United States than Afghanistan. 
  • India, where Muslims are a minority, has more Muslims than the entire Middle East combined.
No, none of that matters.

What matters is that some Americans are convinced Muslims cannot be "American." That Muslims are not "us."

What is an American anyway?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Setting Boundaries by Knowing Your Core Values and Learning to Say "No"

Boundaries has become a bad word. Somehow it has become associated with not being nice or helpful - even selfish or insensitive. That is total baloney.

Boundaries help you make decisions about what you will (or will not) do and what you will (or will not) accept. Without boundaries you float through life like a plastic bag, constantly feeling taken advantage of or overwhelmed.

When you feel taken advantage of and overwhelmed you cannot help but become frustrated, irritable, and resentful. Not nice for you. Not nice for others. 

Setting boundaries comes down to two things: 

1) Knowing your core values and making decisions based on those core values; and
2) Giving yourself permission to say "no"

It is not just that you are uncomfortable setting boundaries. Most people do not even know what their core values are, so they cannot consider those core values when making decisions. Secondly, most people also associate the word "no" with "not being nice." We all want to please or help other people, and most of us are super worried about being liked by others too. Getting to know your core values and learning to make decisions, even saying "no," based on your core values is how you start setting boundaries.

Do you know your core values?