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Memories from the Dorm: A Conversion Story

What follows is my old roommate’s response to I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam Parts 1 and 2.

Written by Gracie Lawrence (the roommate)

You know it has been at least 16 years since we had those talks, and reading about it reminded me how I am still trying to “figure it all out”.

I remember it was a time of a lot of questioning, we were free from both conservative Christians AND Muslims – where we could just THINK and we had the time to do it.

Dorm Room conversations

I don’t recall thinking that it was strange to think those things- but I use to have the bad habit of thinking everyone must be the way I am (got screwed over a lot for it, lol).

I remember during that time your mother had passed away. That impacted me a lot. I think I remember that more than the details of our talks exactly (I was a bit of a chatterbox, I think you once referred to me as a puppy and you were the cat. And a lot of times you just needed some peace and to be left alone- and I didn’t understand that).

I know one thing I struggled with as I became Muslim was wondering if I could make that cultural leap/ sacrifice and I would take a few steps forwards, and then a few steps back- then I just dove in and became extreme- then balanced out, made more mistakes, etc.

Ultimately, I became Muslims to become a better Christian- I think you remember us speaking about that. I think even from a cultural viewpoint we both saw something lacking, even lonely in our modern North American existence and I saw Islam as the natural progression to fill that gap.

Nowadays, I see Christians and Jews as very close to me. Christians and Jews are easy to understand us, as we have the same background- are just like siblings that bicker.

Anyway, one things that is great about Islam, even if people are reluctant to believe in anything divine, is that it makes for a great play-book on earth i.e. you are much less likely to F-up your life than if left to your own whims or faulty logic. You are more likely to win the game if you are given the instructions of how to play. Ya know? I think that for something like this to exist- is, by itself, pretty awesome.

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I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam, Part 1

I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam, Part 1

Written by Theresa Corbin

Of all the choices in life, why would a young woman living in one of the most affluent countries in the world chose Islam? Is she crazy?

Well, it is complicated.

me-1

And, yes, I am little crazy.

But Islam was not the cause or a symptom, but the therapy. Besides, we are all crazy. I find that those who don’t own their crazy are indeed the craziest.

No, there was no “miracle” or near death experience that prompted the decision. There was no man promising me love, riches, and life-long happiness if I would just convert. There wasn’t even a parting of the Gulf of Mexico.

My conversion came about through years of thinking, arguing, denying, defying, and searching. I would be foolish to think that my life experiences and my disposition did not lend themselves to my eventual decision. But for this post, I will leave them out. You are welcome.

It all began by trying to solve the Jesus problem:

Many, many decades ago, I was born to a virgin … just joking, I was born to a highly educated, agnostic, Vietnam vet with a drinking problem and a deeply religious, sarcastic, but patient, Catholic woman.

dearest, sarcastic mom with her groovy hairstyle
my dearest, sarcastic mom with her groovy hairstyle

Oh, the tales I could about being raised in a house with a violent drunk and a tenacious martyr. It was as though heaven and hell waged war nightly in my home which made me very tired. I am still tired. Seriously, I need a nap.

The parents fought over many things. One topic of contention was what type of education their six children would receive. They came to a compromise. For grammar school, we (the childrens) would be afforded a Catholic education so that we may learn the mass and all the sacraments, etc. (mom’s choice). Then, for high school, we (the aforementioned childrens) would learn the ways of the world in public school (dad’s choice).

In Catholic school, I identified with those people who doubted Noah. This scared the crap out of my seven year-old-self. I made a deeply sincere request to The Creator at this point. I asked God that if He should send any more prophets that He would guide me to believe in them. This will be important later on.

In public school, I encountered people from many walks of life. No Muslims that I knew of, however. All this exposure made me question what made my way of life, culture, and religion so correct and proper?

As I was travelling down this line of questioning, I eventually came to the Jesus question.

I distinctly remember when I first wondered about Jesus’ (Peace be upon him) true nature. I was about 15 years old and I was kneeling in a pew after mass. And all of the sudden the thought popped in my mind. What if Jesus is not God? What if it is a lie? What if my life is based on a lie?- doubt, something I would learn to embrace.

The answer came in the form of manipulation i.e. if you don’t believe, you will go to hell for eternity, etc. Just believe: don’t worry your purdy, little head with thinking too much. Hilarious!

This was like telling a wood pecker not to peck at wood or a beaver not to build a damn dam. I am neurotic. All I do is think. No matter how useless the thought, I think/worry, and worry/think, and think/worry some more for good measure. 

College came, and with it more space to question. Having been manipulated into silencing my intellect, it was difficult for me to give up my indoctrination. However, my college roommate and I discussed many existential topics and religion made the roster often.

She being Baptist and I Catholic, it all began with the innocent comparison of the two sects of Christianity. Then, it dangerously evolved into a debate of such things like why had the Bible been changed so many times? Why are there so many versions? Etc.

We’d opened Pandora’s box and all the repressed questions came pouring out: Did innovators in Christianity base their belief in Jesus on the original Bible or a Greek translated, 18th edition? And if it was many editions and translations later, what was editorialized and/or lost in translation? What had been added or taken out? You know, the typical 18 year-old-girl, sleep-over topics of discussion interspersed with pillow fights.

My dear roommate, who also never let me nap–brought to my attention that something like four hundred years after Jesus lived, Christian leaders decided that Jesus Christ was both human and divine.

the roommate agreement

We naturally wondered how could people come to the decision about Jesus four hundred years after his death. From Prophet to God in an evolving religion.

This eventually evolved into the great debate 1999: was Christianity mixed with Greco-Roman beliefs because of the time and place of its advent? Was Jesus (Peace be upon him) being sacrificed for ‘all of our sins’ just an extension of the belief in pagan sacrifice?

Another suspiciously Greco-Roman belief that was on the debate roster for that year: Jesus and God as son and father: Zeus and Hercules, anyone?

My roommate was more advanced in her thinking than I. She would often ask me, as I feared giving up my belief in Jesus despite the facts, “Is the search for knowledge so dangerous? Can it hurt to really search for the truth? Can it hurt to use our own intellect to find out what is fact and what is fiction?”

And my rebellious nature replied, “No, I would rather err on the side of thinking too much.” Why do I have the ability to think, if I shouldn’t use it on such a fundamental aspect of life? All signs led me to believe that Jesus was not God, there was no trinity, and yes, my life had been based on a lie.

This was the beginning of my journey. 

To be continued here 

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