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Religious Wars in Texas


San Antonio, Texas Credit: Brandon Watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

San Antonio, Texas Credit: Brandon Watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Recently, a man took his stepdaughter to a Christian school in San Antonio Texas, to register her as a student. The interview went well until someone asked if the girl was a Christian. The answer was “no” because the whole family was Muslim. I think they are from Lebanon.

The school administrator rejected the girl’s application because the private school was only for Christians, or at least one parent had to be a professing Christian.

The stepfather was outraged and made a video about the experience, which went viral. This has produced much debate, and someone has pointed out that the local Jewish school only accepts Jewish students. As long as the school is funded with private money, they can reject anyone who does not believe what they believe.

I understand the debate and I’m not surprised. I hope the community can find a solution because they will still live together in the same space, after this argument is forgotten.

There is one thing that did surprise me. The stepfather spoke about the rejected girl and was quoted “Now she is old enough, she is 15 years old, and she can make that decision on her own. Maybe she says, ‘You know what? I want to be Christian. I believe in it. That’s who I want to be.’”

So apparently, he has no problem with his teenage daughter converting and becoming a Christian, if that is what she wants. The priority is for her to be enrolled in the Christian school.

I did not see that coming.

Christian schools are “faith based” and that might interest Muslim parents who are concerned about moral influences on their children in public schools. But the girl would have to attend Bible classes in the Christian school, where she would learn how to put her faith in Jesus. It seems that her family is OK with her leaving Islam and becoming a Christian.

What is happening here?

I believe the stepfather could be punished for what he said, and possibly killed, in a conservative Muslim society. Leaving the faith is “apostasy” and apostates are killed if they don’t return, in many places.

Outside of those conservative communities, many Muslim parents are choosing to send their children to Christian schools. For example, in England, the majority of students in many Christian schools are from Muslim families.

The girl in Texas ‘cried her eyes out’ to her mother, when she couldn’t get in to a Christian school.

I think the real story here is that some Christian schools are strict and have high academic standards. Graduates from those schools have an advantage for university and career success and Muslim immigrants want that for their children.

Every religion has founder bias. We want to be like the founder, and Jesus was a teacher and a healer. Now, high quality education and healthcare are common, where Christians are common.

I think there is something else happening in the stories from Texas and Britain. People are not as religious as we thought they were, and that includes Muslim people. That stepfather has no problem with the girl becoming a Christian, as long as she gets a good education.

Years ago, I was in England with some Christian friends, and they started a conversation with a Muslim man. I think the man was from Iran or Afghanistan. The Christians talked about Jesus and the Muslim was very interested. It was a friendly conversation.

Things got tense when several other Muslim men found us. They physically stood between us and the first Muslim man, and argued with us until we left. They acted as self-appointed guardians of their faith.

I have relatives from a Ukrainian farm community near the city, where most people are Catholic or Orthodox, or they were. There is also an active group of Jehovah’s Witnesses and possibly a Pentecostal church. Even though the priest is the guardian of the faith, people can be converted through private conversations. The priest can’t be everywhere.

If we can see behind the wall of guardians, the priests, and preachers, rabbis and mullahs, the world looks different than we imagine. Jesus told us to see better:

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4: 35)

He said this after his followers found him talking to a Samaritan woman, who had decided to follow Jesus, after talking to Him. She had tried to build a barrier but she failed, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4: 20)

When that didn’t work, she related to Jesus personally. The guardians of her Samaritan faith were not present, and soon after, many Samaritans in that town decided to follow Jesus.

I think the Muslim stepfather and daughter in San Antonio were close to doing the same thing. The fields are ready for the harvest and we are instructed to correct our vision.

There are no Muslim countries, or Catholic, or Buddhist, or atheist. There are almost eight billion people in the world, and each one is an individual. Most religious quarrels are just the guardians and shepherds fighting to keep their personal property.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7: 9 and 10)

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