:: Sunday, March 09, 2003 ::
Horizontal and vertical prayer
Who'd have thought a movie critic would clear up a lifetime of puzzlement about religion.
Religion as such was never much of a part of my childhood. We were Episcopalians, but the times I remember going to church with my parents I can practically count on one hand. As a young child (my childhood has two parts: before and after my dad died, which was about a month before my 7th birthday) my favorite holiday was May Day, when I'd make paper-woven baskets, fill them with violets picked from the yard, and leave them on the doorsteps of our neighbors.
But I was always interested in religion, and as an older child and a teenager, I even started going to church, belatedly got myself confirmed, and even taught Sunday School for a while.
At the same time, at youth group meetings, our priest almost just told me to shut up, because I kept asking those questions -- you know, like, just who was it that Cain married? and what about those dinosaur fossils? why did Mary have to be a virgin -- and wouldn't it have been even more miraculous that a normally born human being would become the Son of God?
And then there was the time when I was in college that he got so worried about how I was getting involved with Judaism that he drove the 90 minutes to drop in on me to try to convince me out of it. Sheesh.
I liked the Episcopal Church though -- I liked the singing and the structure of the services, but mostly I respected that nobody seemed to really much care what people believed ... whatever they believed was between them and God (or whatever). Everybody was happy to leave it that way, and the point of actually going to church was to provide some social or psychological benefit not some religious benefit. Even a religious benefit of communing with your creator privately-in-public was that in-public part ... you could commune at home or anywhere privately, but for some reason, doing it privately-in-public filled some need of its own, and not a religious one.
It's just that I was always looking for something else -- what came before in human's religious thought? (thus the explorations in Judaism) Out of respect, I refrain from asking the question of my Muslim friends, the one that goes "[X Middle Eastern country] has such a long, ancient history ... don't you wonder about the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of your ancestors before Muslims from another country came in and converted people?" (which actually stands for the question "don't you ever feel the urge to explore your pre-Islamic roots?" which is even less respectful)
So, over the years I dispossessed myself of organized religion. Although the standard explanations held, I still felt vaguely disquieted. Maybe I just didn't believe enough to want to find people who shared my beliefs. Maybe I was just masking antisocial tendencies by not wanting to join up with people for the purposes of something religious.
But I never really believed those things, and while I know that I thought that religion as an institution was about politics and social control rather than spirituality, it all finally came into focus with the distinction between the horizontal and the vertical. Thanks Roger!
Changing the subject ....
Here's an update on the UTA student who was deported. They gave his friends 25 minutes to get his things together and drive to Dallas to give them to him to take home with him. What's the point, when it takes 25 minutes just to drive to Dallas from UTA, let alone packing up his stuff, getting it into the car, and then parking once you get there.
The print version of The Shorthorn had a sidebar to that story:
The Road to Jordan
Jordanian graduate student Tahir Ibrahim Aletewi's month-long detention by U.S. authorities ended Thursday [Feb 28, 2002] with his deportation to Jordan. His departure is the latest in a joint terrorism task force investigation that apparently began last year.
- Spring 2002 FBI and INS agents initiate regular interviews with Aletewi at his apartment on Center Street near campus. Friends familiar with the questioning say they began as informal conversations, and at one point officials attempted to recruit Aletewi to provide intelligence.
- Sept. 10 The State Department notifies Aletewi by a letter sent to his family's residence in Jordan that his student visa has been revoked. According to friends, Aletewi was later assured that the matter was resolved by one of the immigration officials who had been interviewing him.
- Fall/Winter 2002 Aletewi tells friends that the federal interviews are growing more intense as agents pointedly question him about his political and religious views.
- Jan. 31 Federal agents ask for and are given consent to search Aletewi's apartment and later ask him to accompany them to their office for an interview. He later tells friends that he was interrogated extensively over the next week while being held at the Euless City Jail.
- Feb. 2 After not hearing from Aletewi for two nights, roommates try contacting the FBI, but cannot reach anyone on a Sunday.
- Feb. 3 FBI Special Agent Robert Fowler notifies Aletewi's roommates that he is in federal custody awaiting a deportation hearing for violating his student status. The detainee is allowed to speak with friends on the phone, and, later that week, receive visitors after he is transferred to the Dallas County Jail.
- Feb. 7 U.S. Immigration Judge Anthony Rogers orders Aletewi deported, reportedly within five days. A court spokeswoman now says there was no time stipulation on the order.
- Feb. 22 A friend is allowed to visit Aletewi in jail for the first time since the judge's ruling, the friend says.
- Feb. 27 Aletewi is deported, according to a government source. He is not known to have contact with any friends here since his departure.