Monday, September 24, 2007


They have turned the speaker from the local mosq in our direction recently. I hear it more clearly than usual. Perhaps they have turned up the volume as well because the call to prayer holds a tighter reign on the people at this time. It is the month of fasting for them now. This means they don't eat between sunrise and sunset, although there is much feasting otherwise. The students tell me it is to feel the suffering of the poor and one girl added that it makes her feel more thankful for food. Many more women cover their heads as well as a sign that they are fasting.

There is a strange duality to my thoughts about this. My first thought is that these people don't know really how a poor person feels even by fasting through a day and that if it doesn't change the way they feel about the poor then it doesn't matter if it changes their understanding. The idea is all well and good, but just because someone is educated about something doesn't mean it will change their behavior.

My second thought is that most Christians in America pay very little attention to even the possibility of fasting even though it is certainly not unheard of in the Bible. And while we live under grace instead of under law, isn't it an embarrassment to lukewarm Christians that people who have not truly been offered real life are willing to suffer more for their beliefs than people who have been exposed to real truth? There are many facets to this, and the longer I think about it, the less capable I am to write about it. But I will leave it there for now.

What about you?


Nick Jesch said...

Interesting, that duality. I think it is World Vision which encourage people to observe a fast of, I think, forty hours, in "solidarity" with the hungry....and give the money that would have been spend on the food not eaten to a fund to actually FEED some of those poor. That's a longer step in the right direction.

I am convinced that the only to even come close to changing ones heart in this matter is to GO--live amongst them, if even for a week or three, get inside their homes, lives, their food, work at communicating with them in their setting/language. Roll up your sleeves and learn first hand what they must do to eat, sleep, clothe themselves...and relax and recreate. And come away knowing you've only got a taste of their circumstances--precisely because you CAN come away.

e-Mom said...

You're right, Protestant mainline Christians don't really fast. There are a host of health benefits to proper fasting, not to mention the spiritual effects. We're not under law to do so, but Scripture give plenty of examples of fasting, even in the NT. I read a book some time ago, called God's Chosen Fast. I think I shall go re-read it! Good "food for thought" my friend!

eLr said...

This is something I thought about while in the Middle East also. Even Christians in America who consider themselves evangelical spend little time praying and typically zero time fasting. My friend from Kuwait who is Muslim told me the thought Christianity was a weak or wishy-washy religion because we don't DO anything; we don't fast, we don't pray a certain number of times a day, we don't keep the feasts in the same way a good Muslim does.

A large cause for this trend among American Evangelical Christians is the overemphasis on sincerity, authenticity, and genuine-ness. Don't get me wrong, those things are not bad!! But they are not enough on their own (actually, I would argue that if you were "truly sincere" in your worship, you WOULD pray and fast, but that's another point). When we place TOO MUCH emphasis on "authenticity" we by default downplay actions. We say, if you're not "feeling" close to God, you should pray just because everyone else is... that would make you a liar.
Rather we have left our masters learning and no longer know that, sometimes, praying anyway makes us feel close to God. And sometimes, we must do what we do not feel, because God is God and He sets the rules.