Monday, March 21, 2011

A Difference in Value: Women, Sex, and God



It was a typical morning walk. As a way of blending in, I always wear my sunglasses to shield my light eyes from standing out, but this morning, they were no use. Two blocks from work, I was rounding the corner near a veggie stand, Chris Tomlin's newest album blaring on my i-pod...my pace was brisk, and I was excited about my day ahead. My thirty minute walk always gets me energized for work...thus I look forward to it almost every day. Lost in thought, I didn't notice a white, shiny taxi pull up right beside me, and it wasn't until his hand had a firm grip of my behind, that I realized what was happening. Horror struck my face, and he knew it. As I made eye contact with him I noticed he was smirking. My immediate reaction was to cause a scene, something I have been instructed to do when dealing with matters such as this. Without thinking about how illogical it would be, I started chasing him. His expression changed to shock as if he was surprised by the fact that I was ticked. He of course made a quick right and sped down the road. And what would I have done if I had "caught him?"

Angry, I started to cry, but I don't know why I was surprised. After heading over to a nearby building to catch my breath, I put hands over my face...I just wanted to hide. Some men had been unloading a veggie truck near the corner where this occurred and were caught off guard to see me chasing a taxi. I walk by these same men everyday. Apprehensively, one came over to see what the details of why I was outraged. Intending to explain in Arabic "my story", I opened my mouth only to blab in English. He stood there with a look of humiliation and shame on his face, and began apologizing for the inappropriate actions of his fellow Egyptian. He was so embarrassed.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the first time this has happened to me. You may be surprised to hear that even fully veiled women deal with situations such as this. Even young girls and elderly women deal with this. Women in the company of a male are not even assured protection...some men will still grab if they get the chance. If you are a woman living in Egypt, you face the challenge of physical sexual harassment. Sexual fondling isn't illegal in Egypt...only rape is. The police can't legally do anything about it. So in my case, he didn't break any laws.

In response, one would assume that anger would be justifiable...and the moments following this were definitely that of rage and hatred. Many know that I have always struggled with not having any sort of grace with Egyptian men...almost never. If it wasn't the sexual harassment, then it was the comments...or how they overpower and laugh....or try to take advantage of me financially. What makes my blood boil even more is that there isn't a lot I can do about it, no laws to protect me from being touched...and the police, government, and military are just as corrupt.

In honesty, I seem to naturally detest the most men here, and that is simply an unacceptable response as a Christian. I felt a very quiet nudging from the Spirit today not to dwell on this incident...and certainly not to allow it to paint my view of all Egyptian men in a negative light. As my day progressed, the knot that had built in my stomach slowly began to deteriorate . I was able to push this aside and focus on my day.

The conclusion I have come to is simple. Yes, aspects such as these may be offensive to Americans, as well as other western nations...but daily practices of American living are just as shocking to those living in the Middle East. I can't judge Egypt for not controlling their men, any more than I can judge myself for the immorality that my home country represents to the world. America is known for being an immoral country that prides itself on this very fact. That which Egyptians would consider detestable in the eyes of God, we smile and simply explain it as "open minded thinking." We code our nasty lifestyles as "freedom".

Egyptians can't comprehend so many foreign factors of my American culture. Allow me to name a few: our teen pregnancy rate, our promotion of multiple sex partners, our fight to accept homosexuality, our sky high divorce rate, our drunkenness, our millions of abortions and how we treat our elderly. When they think about America, this is what they think about. Can we blame them? I understand that this is not everyone, but it is what we show the world. I am not saying these things don't happen here, they certainly do, but they are not acceptable here as they are in America.

Switching gears for a moment, but I promise I will make a connection...

In a discussion with a Muslim friend last week, I learned that according to Islam it prohibited to say the word "Allah" (God), in any restroom. One might deem this as silly, but when you stop and think about it, it makes sense. Today I walked into the restroom at work, and placed the Bible I was carrying on the floor by the sink as I fixed my hair. I was stunned, at the sense of guilt that rushed over me as I gently laid it on the floor. Was I sinning? I don't think so, but I do see their point.

It's not even as if I can say, Christians in America are different from the world. I mean, are we really? I can't even say, we Christians treat God as if we understand the element of respect He should receive ...that we know Whom we are addressing when we come before Him. Do we? Reverence...what ever happened to RESPECT when dealing with GOD?

It's not uncommon to see children running about church sanctuaries, people dressed as if they are going to the gym after church, and sanctuaries set up to look more like coffee shops then God's house of worship. I think somewhere in our striving to "come as we are" we have missed the mark that we are coming into the presence of the HOLY and SOVEREIGN GOD. Do I think these things matter? Not particularly. What concerns me is the picture it is painting of our view of God. I think the Muslims get it...I think American Christianity in general does not.

Yes, God looks at the heart...but why is the heart of the Christian church so comfortable with treating God so casually? Shouldn't we desire to show Him the reverence and respect He is owed? Why don't we care? America values people, but rejects God. Egypt respects God above all else, but doesn't value its people, especially its women. Neither are in the right.

In conclusion, my thoughts come together like this. Women are not equals to men in Egypt...not even close. Islam teaches this. If they were, I wouldn't have been grabbed for a third time. Is it sickening? Absolutely. But it is, what it is. Does it excuse the behavior of the men? No, but it does explain why it doesn't seem that it will change any time soon. The west can get worked up about this all it wants, but we can't change the Qur'an, and how those who interpret it create gender statuses within a society. Likewise, Egyptians will never understand the American mentality. They look upon our "norms" with the same element of disgust that we view their treatment of women.

It's not just that America is heading down a dangerous path, but I think we Christians in America need a reality check. I wish we were known for our respect for God...but we're not. I wish I was as careful and thoughtful as my Muslims friends are when dealing with the things of God. Washing before prayers, such as they do, is not necessary, but it does demonstrate an awareness of what prayer is...communication with the pure, Holy Almighty One. I hope Egypt's respect for God and what He represents will eventually pour over into how they value their people, just as I hope we American Christians can be challenged by Muslims, with their example of conviction in how they worship Holy God.

We can learn from one another...but first, both sides have to get past the arrogance of "being right."