Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Walls of Marrakesh -- A Metaphor on Belief

Two weeks ago I was sitting on the roof of our Riad (palace) in the old city of Marrakesh, Morocco.  It was dusk and the prayer call went out.  I counted five mosques within earshot.  Of course when you have five loud calls going off, using different words, at the same time, it is really hard to tell if it was five, six or . . . ten.

In the background I could hear the bustling down in the narrow labyrinth of medieval streets, streets that never sleep, or pause for prayer.  These streets have not changed, but only became more crowded since their founding a millennium ago.

I sipped my shay aswad (black tea) and thought. I put myself in the place of children who had grown up here, more than a hundred years ago. Before the days that Marrakesh was discovered and her nomadic  remote, desert world was pierced by two iron rails and the people started to come.  Then the tarmac and the fair skinned people rode in on the breezes from Europe.

But imagine that ancient world, where those pink adobe walls were the boundaries of your world and the world of your parents, your grand parents and your great grand parents.  Five times a day the call would go out and in those generations (before secularization) you did stop in your tracks, unroll your prayer rug and face east to Mecca.  In that world, the faith of the children would be a given.  It would be automatic to believe in the Islamic narrative, as there was no competing ideas in the souk.

Some days I envy that world because faith is easy, as easy as drinking a cup of water.  The little minds didn't have to contemplate the mysteries of a 14 billion light-year wide universe with the bizarre quantum playground.  They didn't have to consider pantheism, atheism . . . or Christianity. There was no discussion.

But it comes back to that concept of the blue pill verses the red pill.  There is bliss in the blue, not knowing, not caring to know but to pretend that what you believe is the whole of reality.  But I've been cursed with an appetite for the red.  I want to know.  I ache for truth, even truth that is unpalatable.

So, I was thinking about this idea of belief.  I know I've said this before, but I've heard so many times that it is like a mantra within evangelicalism, "I've never doubted God for a second!"  People say this with pride and fellow Christians look on them in envy (as I sometimes do).

From that same notion comes the concept of building the walls, like Marrakesh.  These are cultural walls not of adobe.  They are in the mind set of; put you kids in Christian schools, don't let them play with non-Christians, don't let them watch TV (signals coming in from outside the walls) and then you will keep your children safe from evil.

I know someone who practiced the culture walls with their seven children.  Now, several are hooked on Oxycontin, a couple on alcohol, at least one is wife abusing (physically), a couple practice adultery, and the girl . . . now with her own porn site.  What went wrong with the walls?  The parents believe that they should have made the walls higher and tougher and this would never have happened.

In our early married years, we were wall builders. But why my kids were still quite young, I went through my great disillusionment with evangelicalism and I began to tear down walls.  Eventually our kids were of the world, reading all they could get their hands on and deeply engrossed in our own (non evangelical) culture.

The aforementioned family use to criticize me harshly for the way I was raising my kids.  But I look at my kids now.  Three (out of five) are working on PhDs.  One happily married and stable with two boys.  A girl doing mission work with inner-city poor and one who is a great kid and a house painter.  Their faith?  Let me say that they are in their healthy exportation stage.  I believe that in the end they will be in a good place and if they still believe in Christianity then (and I think they will) it will be a faith that they own not inherited.

I want to talk more about this but now I'm out of time. But I will re-visit this at least once.


Headless Unicorn Guy said...

What with wrong with the walls? The parents believe that they should have made the walls higher and tougher and this would never have happened.

Just like the Democrats after losing in 2000 and the Republicans after losing in 2012.

And more ominously...

Just like the Soviet Union when the cracks that led to the Second Russian Revolution started showing. Double down, Increase Political Consciousness, Purge all Counterrevolutionary-Political-Ideological Heresy, Increase Revolutionary Zeal, Purity of Ideology, Purity of Ideology, Purity of Ideology.

jmj said...

Hey, I'm glad you could read that. I rushed through it on the way to work. Tonight, I found it was full of typos and hard to understand. My excuse? Dyslexia and speed typing. Or is it Lex-dysia?