Preface: I'd like to share an excerpt from my "about me" page with you...
I consider myself a man of faith. I was born, raised, and practice the Catholic faith, and I am not afraid to say that believe in God. While I have no desire to leave my faith, I am both tolerant of, and interested in learning more about the other faiths and Religions around the world.
There is a little place I stop at for lunch from time to time. It’s called the Gyros Grill. It's a tiny little shop that (as it's name implies) serves "lunch counter" style Greek and Mediterranean food (like gyros, kebabs, falafels, etc).
Being a fan of the gyro, having obtained a 1/2 price coupon for Gyros Grill, and having never patronized the establishment – set the stage! I headed out to acquire my Gyro Grill 1/2 price Gyro sandwich.
From the outside, the Gyros Grill looks like any other small shop in a small suburban strip mall. The first indication that I was going to see more than just a restaurant was the words "Import Foods" under the "Gyro Grill" on the shop's sign. No big deal really. Even though I do not frequent them, I have seen and have been in a few "foreign" markets in my lifetime.
When I first stepped through the door, and entered the Gyro Grill, I felt as if I had stepped through some sort of time/space continuum portal - and had been whisked away to a shop somewhere in Jerusalem. I was a little shocked (and, to be honest, even a little nervous).
My first impression was that this was less of a restaurant, and more of a Middle Eastern grocery store / news stand. There were boxes and cans of food I did not recognize, printed with Arabic text that I did not understand. There were shelves of books and newspapers (mostly written in Arabic). There was an opening between the storage room and the rest of the store that used a curtain of beads as a door. There were tables, with Middle Eastern Men sitting at them, visiting or reading Arabic periodicals. There was a television in the corner tuned to Al Jazeera (and I am not sure if it was the English or Arabic audio), and middle eastern muzak playing in the background (which I am quite fond of…).
The kitchen / lunch counter was not much more than a small portion of the the back corner of the store. There was a stove/oven/grill, a sink, a refrigerator, a spinning spit, and a glass counter (like the ones you see in antique shops) with the register on it. Inside the glass counter were several other items, (hookahs, I believe) but one thing that stood out in my mind was a stack of Korans.
I truly felt out of my element. Once I took in my surroundings, I was half expecting to hear a "record scratch" sound while everyone inside stopped what they were doing, looked up at me in stunned silence, while the TV turned itself off, and the lights flickered... Then, as I walked back to the lunch counter, the gazes of the other patrons would track me through the corners of their eyes. Culminating in my inability to order food because I did not speak the native Persian tongue of the guy at the lunch counter spoke.
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised!
No one looked up, or gave me a second thought. The guy at the lunch counter (while speaking with a thick Persian accent) communicated in English. He was helpful and friendly. I ordered (and enjoyed) a DELICIOUS Gyro with a Greek Salad, and promised myself (half out of my guilty feeling for having been "afraid" when I first walked in) that I would return.
I have returned a couple of times since. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is... "authentic" (Well, at least "authentic" in relation to a non-worldly suburban 40+ year old father of five, having grown up in a moderately affluent second-tier suburb in the middle of the Midwest, USA...)
Why did I dredge up this old (but true) story about Gyro Grill?
I dredged up this old (but true) story about Gyro Grill because I am (personally) disgusted by recent events in the news. The events I am referring to reminded me about my first stop at the Gyros Grill - and another (since forgotten) idea that crossed my mind that day.
Seeing the Koran there on the shelf of the Gyros Grill that day peaked my curiosity. I have friends of all different faiths. I try to learn as much as I can about their beliefs when the opportunities arise. I strive to be respectful of, and learn from our differences while being amazed at the similarities. I have taken both High School and college level World Religions courses (voluntarily), so I have a vague overview of what the Koran says, but I have never actually held a copy of, or read anything directly from the Koran. I have told myself (on several instances) that in all honesty and fairness, one day I would like to obtain a copy of the Koran for myself.
Why, you ask? (Besides the obvious “Why not…”)
I believe knowledge is power.
I am comfortable with my own faith and I do not fear others.
To satisfy my curiosity.
To see for myself what it is the Koran says and does not say.
To better understand the views of another faith.
To try to understand my own faith a little more.
To set an example to my children, on what tolerance is all about.
To put into practice that what I hold so dear - the freedoms that the foundation of this great nation was founded upon.
This post is dedicated to "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson. A man so desperate to get the attention of the world (and his "fifteen minutes in the spotlight") that he is willing to use the media as his stage to the world while he commits vile, offensive, and hateful acts in the name of God. His actions fly in the face of what I believe to be (and try to exemplify) being a Christian is all about. His deplorable actions will only only serve to drive a wedge between the already strained relationships between the faiths of the world, and I have to wonder what good can come of that?
Instead of becoming the hypocrite that the "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson personifies, and spew hatred his way, I will instead use his hatefulness towards a good cause. His actions have only served to remind me, and solidify my intent to purchase a copy of the Koran in order to learn more about the Islamic / Muslim faith.
In what can only be an unexpected consequence, his hatefulness is helping to spread the word of the Koran!
So, "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson – put that notion on your bonfire and burn it…