October 23, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Last Sunday our local newspaper published a front-page article about a former radical Muslim-turned-Christian and his remarks to an area church congregation. The article was a rehash of his remarks, which were pretty incendiary and awful. Dave was so mad he could hardly speak. I went to my own UU church that morning (having not read the whole thing yet), and lots of people there were that mad, too.

So Dave and I wrote a letter to the editor. It took us nearly a week, and then another week for them to print it, but they did (Friday, Oct. 22). They took out two large paragraphs (it was longer than their guidelines, I admit), but left most of it. We've gotten amazing response from friends about it, for which we are grateful.

But I wanted to put up the whole letter, including the paragraphs that didn't get printed. So here it is - enjoy. :)

To the Editor:

We are appalled at the front-page coverage in Sunday’s Daily Item that was given to the hate- and fear-filled presentation by the former self-proclaimed radical Muslim who has converted to Christianity. It is bad enough that his remarks, at least as reported in the article, were one-sided, incomplete, and inaccurate, but for the Daily Item to give him so much attention without any counterpoint is irresponsible.

While it is true that there are radical Muslims who seek to destroy Christianity and Judaism, it is not true that mainstream Islam as taught in the Quran does so. Dr. Shayestah learned his variety of Islam from radicals, so it stands to reason that that is the Islam he knows. But just as members of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation profess a distorted form of Christianity, the extremist movement in Iran of which Dr. Shayestah was a part espouses a distorted form of Islam. Mainstream Islam holds that peace and harmony are the highest of values. The word “Islam” comes from an Arabic word that means to submit to and obey the will of God.

Another inaccuracy is his characterization of Allah as a “man-made god”. Al-Lah is the Arabic word for God, as revealed to the prophet Muhammad, just as Yahweh and God are other cultures’ names for the revealed one true God. Although the names are different, the god is the same. Muslims pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob just as Jews and Christians do. Although Muslims do not believe Jesus is the son of God, they do revere him as a great prophet.

He also makes the same mistake that many people make of selecting bits and pieces of a holy book and using them to paint a religion with a broad brush. Applying the same logic to Judaism and Christianity would lead one to conclude that the God of Abraham encourages second-class status for women, slavery, human sacrifice, and genocide (the parting of the Red Sea and the Great Flood stories come to mind). But that is not the loving God that is the centerpiece, with his son Jesus, of modern Christianity. A whole reading of the Bible gives another picture. Likewise, a whole reading of the Quran gives another picture of Muhammad’s teachings: one of peace, unity, equality for women, and welcome to strangers, to name a few.

We live in an increasingly connected world, one that more and more is falling into fear from radicals who claim theirs is the only true religion, the only true way, the only way to live. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us in the long run to learn more about each others’ humanity and to find the beliefs, values, and ways of treating other people that we hold in common? Fear-mongering will only serve to destroy us. Love, as taught by the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian God, is the better path.

David and Sara Kelley

October 12, 2010

Katie meets her congressman

Yes, Katie got to shake hands with our congressman (Chris Carney) tonight. It was very nice, actually; before he tried to meet me, he bent down and asked her name. She told him "Katie", so he held out his hand and said "Hi, I'm Chris." It made her comfortable enough with the crowd of adult legs to stay through the whole meet-and-greet-and-pep talk at the local Democratic headquarters.

The thing that made the biggest impression on me (other than introducing himself to the kids) was when Carney mentioned his wife, who we all know is undergoing breast cancer treatment. It was clear she and his kids are his number one priority. He said he wants to beat his opponent for a lot of reasons, but the main one is for the charge that he skipped out on important votes in Washington to go home for a few days. In actuality he went home to be with his wife when she had surgery. That kind of accusation really says volumes about his opponent, and made us all feel that it was worth defeating him for that reason alone. Jeez.

On the way home, I got to give Katie a lesson on how democracy works. Cool. And it will be fun to let her punch the ballot for Chris in three weeks.

October 9, 2010

... and Beginnings

Fall really is the time of beginnings, if you're on a school cycle. Katie started every day preschool this year - and we both love it. She really enjoys going every day, and I like those few "free" hours every afternoon. They get eaten up pretty quickly, but not as fast as last year, only three times a week.

She's still at Kinderfolk, with a lot of the same kids as last year - and a few more. There are 17 in the class. I have a lot of respect for their teachers. :)

She also started reading this fall (maybe late summer), but I don't have any pictures of that. I guess I should take some, since she spends a LOT of time with books!

And ballet started up again in September - Katie's now in the "pre-ballet" class. There is some of the free-ish movement as before, but they've added barre work and more step learning, as well as combinations. They are all so cute! It's more tiring (especially coming after an afternoon at school), but Katie's learning more and becoming more confident in her dancing, if that was possible. It's spilling over, still, into out-of-class dancing: this was at her friend Ryleigh's fifth birthday party. Dave hopes this isn't the beginning of a new kind of move....

October 7, 2010


I usually think of spring as the time of beginnings, but once you're on a school calendar, fall really feels like beginnings - which means August is endings. OK, the slowing downs, maybe. So here are a few photos of our end-of-summer activities (August and September):

Last trip(s) to Knoebels - we went in mid-August with Laura and Lisa, and then in early September with Jude and Elizabeth. Katie and Jude don't see each other often, but were glad to spend the day together (so were their moms).

And the last family hike of the summer - Labor Day at Shikellamy Overlook. Katie did the whole thing herself, and was triumphant after a long downhill and leap over a little creek.

Our CSA is still going strong as I write this, but we've already had our end-of-season potluck. Farmer Jackie made a little pumpkin patch for the kids a few weeks ago - here are Katie and Naveen having a ball rearranging the pumpkins!