Tuesday, August 7, 2012

United Methodist pastor in Dallas observes Ramadan

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain:
Jeremiah 10:2-3a

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:16-18

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:20-23 (NIV)

As reported by Muslim commentator Dina Malki of Examiner.com, July 29, 2012 (links in original):

United Methodist Rev. Wess Magruder has not only decided to observe the Ramadan fast this year with his Muslim friends, blog about his experience, but break his fast with Muslims as well. Last night, Magruder accepted the invitation of a local Muslim to eat “iftar,” the fast-breaking meal at the McKinney Islamic Association. Having succeeded in fasting from sunrise till sunset for eight consecutive days, the pastor appreciated God's grace in this communal meal. Most importantly, this celebration reminded him of the main reason why he had decided to fast: neighborly love.

Magruder writes on his blog how he has been feeling spiritually stale lately and how he was yearning to the old Christian fast that he believes Americans are not big fans of. Therefore, Magruder turned to the Muslim faith for inspiration since he knew that Muslims have successfully been fasting for 30 days each year during Ramadan for over fourteen hundred years. The Muslim fast is a total abstention from eating and drinking during the daylight hours. Furthermore, the fast goes beyond the stomach to include the eyes, the tongue, the ears, and all limbs which are expected to be trained to submit to the pleasure of God by refraining from ill manners and moral vice. A few Muslims succeed in attaining a heart-fast where they become spiritually submissive to the divine as well.

Thus, Magruder’s blog includes a lot of comparative religion as well as spiritual efforts for a quest for the Divine. "I feel a constant “buzz” [during the fast] in my head," he wrote. "This buzz serves a useful purpose, by the way. It keeps me conscious of God, of God’s presence, of God’s will that is bursting to become real in the world. And so when something else isn’t going on in front of me, the buzz reminds me to speak to God."

Another main reason that the pastor took on the Muslim fast is his Christian ethics of loving God and loving neighbors. “But there’s another reason that I have chosen to ‘act like a Muslim’ over the next thirty days. I truly want to stand in solidarity with my friend, [Imam Sheikh] Yaseen, and his congregation in Plano. I want them to know that I do not resent their presence in my community and country. In fact, I am very glad that they are here.” (The New MethoFesto)

Not realizing what his blogging experience might trigger, Rev. Magruder woke up on July 26, the seventh day of Ramadan, to a flooded email inbox with comments from his blog. His blog posts have been picked up by local Muslims and Christians as well as by nation-wide readers who sent words of encouragement, advice, and support. The Huffington Post Ramadan Liveblog even included his posts. “I am overwhelmed by the response,” Magruder wrote.

Most Muslim commentators gave the pastor “high fives,” advice on surviving the fast, and thank you notes for sharing the experience online. One particular reader, Osman, invited Magruder to the break-fasting meal at the McKinney mosque mentioned earlier.
It's obvious from Pastor Magruder's blog posts that he doesn't understand the grace of God as revealed through His Son Jesus Christ's death on the cross to pay the full penalty for our sins. Like the Israelites in Jeremiah's day who worshipped the true God in the Temple and then worshipped false gods in pagan temples, Pastor Magruder seems to think that it's okay to worship God in a mosque as well as a supposedly Christian church. What an abomination.

When it comes to hypocrisy, Pastor Magruder takes a back seat to no one. Here is what he says about fasting:

9. Fast like Jesus – simply and privately (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus assumes that we fast. His instructions about fasting begin with the phrase, “And whenever you fast.” That means we should be fasting.

This is one spiritual discipline that United Methodists in America fail to exercise on a consistent basis. It’s probably because we are programmed to consume. We don’t comprehend how to go without, and therefore, don’t correlate “going without” with spiritual growth.

I believe that fasting is the one thing that we United Methodists in America need the most. We have to develop this practice, and learn the discipline of abstaining from things, from prosperity, from greed, from acquisition, from capitalism.

I will learn to fast.
If Pastor Magruder really believes in fasting privately, why is he then going public about his fasting during Ramadan here, here, here?
Despite Pastor Magruder's complaint of the lack of instruction on fasting in his United Methodist tradition, there's nothing to prevent him from fasting as a Christian. If he has to undertake a Muslim fast to grow closer to God, he is spiritually dry indeed. And as the passage cited above in Colossians states, there's nothing in this kind of spititual practice that has any "value in restraining sensual indulgence" (or, as the King James Version puts it, "honour to the satisfying of the flesh"), whether it be done by Muslims, liberal pseudo-Christian "pastors," or those practicing contemplative spirituality in Emerging or Evangelical churches.

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