Saturday evening, The German, VanGoghGirl, and I went to a family fun night for the General Lafayette descendants. After we left the restaurant, VanGoghGirl and I went to an impromptu "girl's night" at the house of one of my distantly related cousins (I think her mother is my grandmother's sister). We had a great time! We didn't get home until 4a.m.
Anyway, while I was there, some were talking about how difficult it was going to be to get up for church the next morning after staying out so late. One cousin said that she wasn't actually going to a Christian church the next day; she was visiting a mosque with one of her coworkers.
I was very happy to see that no one said anything critical or ignorant in response. There are two entirely Muslim households in our family, but neither live in our city, so most folks don't know about them. We're a rather tolerant family; I think it's in large part because our multi-ethnic/multi-racial identity makes us more inclined to embrace diversity than to reject it.
Out of curiosity, I asked her what made her decide to visit a mosque. She said that she's been feeling really disillusioned with Christianity for a while and she really liked that, from what she's seen so far, everything in Islam seems to revolve around doing things for God's sake and not to impress people. I was pretty pleased to hear that. I don't know her coworker, but it's obvious that this person was setting a very good example and living her faith at their workplace. It's frustrating when I see an individual from a marginalized community behave in a way that makes life harder for everyone else in the group.
She said that she wasn't really sure about whether she was interested in becoming a Muslim, though. It might have been a bit nosy, but I asked her what made her feel that way, because she seemed a little uneasy. She confided that she was worried because she found out that Muslims only view Jesus as a prophet. That made me feel really glad that I'd asked.
I explained that what Muslims mean by "prophet" isn't exactly the same as what a Christian means when they use this term. In Islam, a prophet isn't just some guy who says true stuff about God. I think that the Muslim use of the term "prophet" corresponds most closely with (the Catholic title) "Saint". I told her that Jesus isn't viewed as "just" a prophet, either. His role is unique and asked her if she knew that Jesus is the only person in the Qur'an who is referred to as the Messiah. She didn't know and a few others in the room also expressed surprise upon hearing this. Seeing their reaction brought back fond memories for me. I half disbelieved it when a class mate in college first told me this. When I researched it for myself and found that it was the truth, my mind was absolutely blown.
VanGoghGirl was right there next to me and she chimed in, by telling our cousin that being a Muslim wouldn't mean that she was just ditching the God in the Bible, because Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The biggest difference between the two religions was just how you worship God.
I was very pleased by my child's contribution to the conversation. Like many parents, I often wonder how much attention she's paid to what I've tried to teach her about the world around her. She could have left the room or put on her Mp3 player and ignored us. Instead, she showed a great deal of wisdom by discerning the root of my cousin's hesitation and then making an effort to dispel one of the most common misconceptions held by people from Christian backgrounds.
As a parent, I expend a lot of effort trying to make the most out of every moment that can be used to teach her something. However, on Saturday night, I got the opportunity to see her creating her own teachable moment. I couldn't have been prouder of her than I was at that moment.