Friday, October 26, 2007

Most people, unless they're saints of some kind, fail to fully envision God's equal and infinite love for ALL people. And I imagine that I lack about as much sunshine as the next rappin' cowboy.

Fortunately, there actually are a few saint-like people in our midst--prophetic voices that echo the teachings and actions of Christ, the Buddha, Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Rumi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others.

Just as Dr. King challenged injustice during the Civil Rights and Vietnam War eras, so does one man I know shine a similar high beam onto the current state of affairs in this post-9/11 era. His name is Dr. Omid Safi. Twice this week I drove to Dickinson to listen to him speak.

Dr. Safi is an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina. He specializes in Islamic mysticism (Sufism), contemporary Islamic thought, and medieval Islamic history. He's what might be referred to as a "progressive" Muslim. That is, he plants himself firmly in the soil of his tradition, and he also welcomes inspiration from other spiritual and political movements. He's severely critical of violence done in the name of Islam or any religion.

He's not a religious apologist. He writes: "God doesn't need any defenders. It is humanity that needs help, especially the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, and the all-but-forgotten who desperately need champions and advocates."

Before his talk last night at St. John's Episcopal Church, I had the honor of performing one cowboy poem ("Typical") and three songs: "Laborer," "Scapegoat Song," and "Folk Legend (MLK)."

Today, I believe, he heads back to his four children and wife, who live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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