37 pages • 1 hour readEboo Patel
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“In one of the moments when my father was feeling especially righteous about his ‘Muslim-ness,’ I overheard him expressing concern to my mother that the YMCA, which was after all the Young Men’s Christian Association, was teaching us Christian songs. ‘Do you think they are trying to teach Christianity to our kids?’ he asked, the tone of his voice a kind of auditory chest thumping.
“‘I hope so,’ my mother responded. ‘I hope they teach the kids Jewish and Hindu songs, too. That’s the kind of Muslims we want our kids to be.’”
Even though he is not a devout practitioner of Islam, Patel’s father still finds pride in his religious heritage, to the point of stating that he does not want Patel to drift from the faith because of Christian influence. But Patel’s mother knows that her son cannot have too many positive influences and that the YMCA’s mission can only benefit her child.
“In my head, I loved ideas. In my gut, I knew they counted only when they were connected to reality.”
Even as a young student, Patel understands that theory can be useless if it is not attached to practical action. He encounters this frustration again as he tries to get support for the IFYC. Many religious leaders support youth interfaith practices in theory but do little to provide young people opportunities to experience other faiths. Patel even feels that some inaction on the part of religious leaders is why young people are able to be radicalized. Religious zealots find and influence young people searching for community and identity. They act where other religious leaders do not.
“The heart of even the most ardent religious believer will provide more accurate clues to his or her behavior than the theology of his or her faith.”
Mormon doctrine requires Lisa to believe that a non-Mormon who dies will not go to Heaven, but when Patel asks her this question about his grandmother—“Will she not go to Heaven?”—Lisa says that “[s]he will go somewhere good.” Her heart will not allow her to say something that she knows will hurt Patel, even if the theological point is at odds with what she says.
By Eboo Patel