Unity doesn't happen by pretending
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:12 AM [+]
An interesting POST over at Common-Place Book regarding Christians trying to participate in Ramadan for the sake of "interfaith relations." The original AP story notes that this is effort is apparently led by none other than Brian McLaren the current star and darling of the emergent church world.
It's a nice gesture and while I cannot speak on behalf of Muslims, I can say that were McLaren to seek to participate in his own religion's MUCH OLDER fasting traditions with those communities that still maintain them, then I would likely suggest that it really is like trying to learn a martial art by watching old episodes of "Kung Fu." He's making clear that he's not trying to become a Muslim, but I am assuming that like our fasting traditions, Islamic fasting is heavily connected to a whole body of practices, beliefs, and traditions. Not to mention the important need that all three of these are found within a specific community where they are properly upheld and revered. It's an arrogance that is all too typical of post-modern Christianity, to think they can pick and choose bits and pieces of various faith's revered traditions and adopt them and change them to fit their own perceived "needs." We Orthodox would go as far to say that it is also dangerous to do so...people have no idea how self-deluded we can be and as such we NEED context: traditions, practices, and beliefs held together in community to BALANCE us.
Put simply you must be a Muslim to experience Ramadan, just as surely as you must be an Orthodox Christian to experience Orthodox Lent and Pascha. Sure, you can glean much beauty and truth from it, but you cannot truly participate in it. Taking our fasting and prayer rules home is a shallow substitute for the fullness of participating in everything else that comes with being part of a faith community. Let's stop pretending.
McLaren notes some of what he's learned and that's great, but he could have learned just as much from traditional (and much forgotten) Christian fasting.
I also blogged on this, and someone came up with a term to describe it -- "cultural appropriation".
Thought you might like to know.