In regard to spirituality, he surprised me by straying from his Christian convictions and bringing Muhammad into the light. He said that Muhammad was hone of his heroes. I don't have so many problems with Muhammad, but I have problems with middle-aged white guys who grew up in America claiming Muhammad as a hero, not because Muhammad never did anything good (he did), but because calling Muhammad a hero is such an incredibly trendy thing to do. I know I am judging the guy's motives and all, but can you get any more trendy than subscribing to half-Christian, half-Islamic ideas? The guy was layering religious propositions like clothes in a J. Crew catalog.
The absolute most annoying thing about this guy's religious ideas is that they were so precisely where I was going with mine. It was like seeing my future pass before my eyes. I was on my way to becoming Captain Trendy Spiritual Writer. It was spooky.
Trendy Writer talked about how Khwaja Khandir is his fishing guide. He described Khwaja Khandir as the Islamic version of the Holy Spirit: Khwaja Khandir tells him where the fish are and teaches him things about life like how to manage his money or achieve inner peace or please his wife. It was all hokey and hoo-ha. I felt as if I were being visited by the ghost of Christmas future, and the ghost was saying, "Hey Don, you're going to end up like this guy: a yuppie Christian writer with no backbone!"
I think my desire to believe in a god other than Jesus had mostly to do with boredom. I wanted something new. I wanted something fresh to think about, to believe in, to twiddle around in my mind. I understand the plight of the children of Israel, to be honest. Moses goes off to talk to God, he doesn't come back for a while, as so the people demand a god they can see and touch—a god they can worship with the absolute certainty it exists. So the build a golden cow (odd choice, but to each his own). Moses comes back from talking with God and finds the children of Israel worshiping a false god, so he goes postal. I imagined myself as the children of Israel when Moses comes down off the mountain....
"Don," Moses responds, "before I put you to death and send you home to the one true God, I want you to understand something. I want you to understand that God has never been nor ever will be invented. He is not a product of any sort of imagination. He does not obey trends. And God let us out of Egypt because you people cried out to Him. He was answering your prayers because He is a God of compassion. He could have left you to Satan. Don't complain about the way God answers your prayers. You are still living on an earth that is run by the devil. God has promised us a new land, and we will get there. Your problem is not that God is not fulfilling, your problem is that you are spoiled."
And Moses was right. God is not here to worship me, to mold Himself into something that will help me fulfill my level of comfort. I think part of my problem is that I want spirituality to be more close and more real. I understand why people wear crystals around their necks and why they perform chants and gaze at stars. They are lonely. I'm not talking about lonely for a lover or a friend. I mean lonely in the universal sense, lonely inside the understanding that we are tiny little people on a tiny little earth suspended in an endless void that echoes past stars and stars of stars. And it's not like God has a call-in radio show.
But as Trendy Writer read from his book that night at Powell's, I thought about the Muslim babies dying in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I thought about the economic crisis in Saudi Arabia and the children of Iraq who are being bombed because their ridiculous dictator wouldn't cooperate with the United Nations. And then I thought about Khwaja Khandir, and I wondered what gave Trendy Writer the audacity to assume that Khwaja Khandir would have the time, or the desire, to take him fishing. Trendy Writer was trying to be hip and relevant, but in doing so he was cheapening the entire nation of Islam. And he was cheating on Jesus. He reminded me of Lot, who offered his daughters to the perverts because he wanted peace. Trendy Writer was sending out Muhammad and Jesus, asking them to hold hands so nobody would have to feel wrong or, rather, so he would have something fashionable to believe.