2018 was my ride or die. It was full of moments that left me in awe, put my capabilities in a trial, overwhelmed me with joy and with its last bit, challenged me with deep sadness as well.
I love the photoblogs because it has always been hard for me to see the small successes. As I looked through these moments, I said to myself, “I did all this?“. Believe me, there were a lot of question marks, not just one.
As always, thanks to the many friends I made along the way.
The answer is actually quite simple. But, you wouldn’t read the whole article if I gave it to you right away. Unless—
You are one of those people who flips the book, reads the very last page, –it is usually something like this “And, they walked away, holding each other’s hands tightly”—, literally is now shocked that the two main characters actually saved the world together walking off to a different planet, flips back to the first chapter, keeps reading.
Who are you?
I am caught up in the middle of everything. I am sure you know the feeling. Waking up too early, running in no fuel, sleeping too early, not sleeping, doing this for that, doing that for your co-worker, doing, literally doing something all the damn time.
Brain overloaded. In my case, I cannot properly speak the only two languages I know—especially my mother tongue. Words, words, words… what are those things?
You want to be in place A but expected to be in place B.
You want to pursue your dreams but expected to live enough to survive.
You want to say something but can’t oversee the consequences.
I am sure every single old person you met told you this golden rule of life: Everybody dies. They probably didn’t tell you this: Some kill themselves and some kill the ones they love the most. They commit the biggest crime in this life alone, push until they burst, snap or tear.
The online world is occupied with what other people do, where they go to eat, what they wear, how they consume. My world consists of those with ambitions who have endless goals and just as much greed and anger. Just maybe, the pure love that expects commitment. Death. Words. I start clashing my teeth. The society I see needs a reality check.
Let’s jump to the part about why you were reading this whole thing.
Follow me: It’s you. In you.
Do what makes you, you. (Maybe avoid major decisions, like me). Find that One to talk to. And, you will live forever.
(As you already know, writing is my therapy. Thank you for listening.)
The following content is confidential, and there are no titles or names given that would put anyone in danger. Although I do not identify as a Christian, this post explores the Christian worldview and its approach to vocation through guest speakers from Washington, DC.
All Abrahamic religions, in some way or another, are based on the same truth that once the ultimate mission of shaping the world is accomplished, they will bring peace and harmony on earth. However, the ways and methods they claim that will bring peace often involve changing the other, at times forcing the other, eliminating the other, or eliminating themselves from the other. We are all well aware that the easiest way to achieve conformity requires a little help from national politics. It sounds much like escapism, it is an escape from the beautiful pluralism we can strive to achieve, and it is, in essence, what we all are called for.
Inazu gracefully states in the very first chapter of his book that Americans fail to agree on “the purpose of [their] country, the nature of the common good and the meaning of human flourishing” (p. 15, Inazu). While we try to coexist, we fail to do so in peace. As Christians (and all other religions) would do, we find the solution in relying on the state. We delegate the holy power on a golden tray, trust with our eyes closed, and watch the state polarize us subtly.
So, what happens next? In a valuable conversation, the president of a DC-based Christian Forum said, “Our identities become political. Our religious identities become political. And, it becomes increasingly hard to find which is true and which is not”. As Christians, we face the risk of over-politicizing our faith and being present within our culture through partisan eyes only. Yes, politicizing faith creates political gain at all costs, but what happens next is disillusioning. She continued, “People start talking about elections in apocalyptic terms, our relationships start depending on the political views of the other, and in other words, this over-simplifies our faith”. She is right, we voluntarily over-simplify our faith, but is our faith really that shallow that it promotes burning the bridges between us?
The answer is no, but we still shatter things into pieces. According to Volf, “some of faith’s damaging effects can be attributed largely to differences of perspectives”, but not all. Most are simply ill-effects, or how Volf refers to them, malfunctions of religion. The Abrahamic (prophetic) religions, at their core, are based on ascend and return, and that is where we encounter the malfunctions.
Ascend is when the prophet rises to encounter with the divine, and receive the message which then changes him. To allow the message to change us, we need to have faith in the meaning of the language. When we politicize religion we hold a risk of hollowing out the language about God from within, due to losing faith in the encounter with God. We employ God and religious language to promote perspectives that are not related to the Divine. This is when we face functional reduction, as Volf says, “shaping people and their social realities, but in which God now lies dead, no longer a transformative reality, alive only as a topographic memory” (p. 11). Politics tirelessly use the language of God, over-simplifying faith, and losing its Divine meaning.
The return malfunctions arise at the time of delivering God’s message and correspond to two sins in Christian tradition: sins of omission, as we fail to deliver the language itself and pick parts of it, and sins of commission, when we impose it on the unwilling (Volf, p. 13). Max Weber’s argument on his classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, can be applied to what we face in politics today (p. 14). Politicians play the game by preset rules without applying the moral considerations because their end goal of winning is greater than all. Politics imposes its own rules to those who wish to participate in it, compelling them to conform. Volf adds, “In this new polytheism, we follow the voice of one god at work, another at home, and maybe yet another at church. Each sphere resists the claims of the one God to shape all of life” (p. 14).
There are many challenges that communicators and advocates face when developing strategic planning for organizations. The director of a global communications advising firm, talked about one of the hardest crisis management plan he had worked on for the BP, during the time when BP experienced an oil spill in one the Macondo Prospect. Upon analyzing such a tough situation, he gave the simple solution we all would not expect: Transparency. “The break down of trust requires new levels of transparency”, He said, “How did we take BP out of being a brand behind an industrial disaster? How is BP still in our lives?”, he continued. According to the Director, it was hard to convince BP to put a camera down to where the oil spill was, but they trusted the communications group, apologized, shared to the truth with their constituents, and asked engineers around the world for help. As Lederach would agree, truth brought freedom and reconciliation (p. 52).
The chief communications officer of a national multi-religious organization, deals with both internal and external communications, and he had insights to share on messaging. His golden advice when making decisions for the sake of the organization was to put away personal feelings and think about what benefits the organization the most which would hopefully eliminate any confusions on messaging as well. However, he added, “It is crucial to always be ready for the worst case scenario although the hope is that it never happens. When we anticipate the messages that can fall flat, an organization can work backward from the least bad scenario”.
Moreover, communicators and advocates are well aware that politics provide a platform for faith to be hyperactive, imposing it on the unwilling. While speaking in a religious voice may not be oppressive, bringing religions solutions to solve public issues may very well can be. It should not be the duty of the state to object the church’s perspective, defend the church or define what is right and wrong under the light of religion. As DC-based Religious Forum Director put into words what we all forget at times, “The church does not need to define its place in society, the church is society”. And, Hunter would add, the basic intent and desire behind delegating the religious power to the state “is to dominate, control, or rule” (p. 106), in other words, simply doing what Christianity does not want you to do.
According to the Forum Director, “whatever power we give to the state, the state can never solve our problems for us”, and Volf and Hunter would argue, using the state as a referee to solve or settle problems would create a psychology of ressentiment. Ressentiment involves anger, envy, hate, rage and revenge as the motivation for political action, causing us to push one another away rather than striving to walk the fine line of coexistence. So, in spite of all these malfunctions we hold dearly, how do we coexist?
The culture of ressentiment focuses on “our needs only”, however, it is important we put the effort and “try to understand the concerns of each group has on their own terms” (Hunter, p. 110). Inazu offers a three-step solution to achieve pluralism as God intended it to be, through tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance allows us to accept one another’s differences and develop endurance while doing so. Humility helps us project our self-reflected values to those who have different views. And finally, patience eliminates coercion and violence, in the midst of the long road of establishing coexistence in harmony.
The leader of a global peacemaking organization, is someone who dedicated his life to find peace in the face of conflict. He says, “Conflict is a dynamic learning opportunity for genuine relationships” and he takes the posture of the learner during his travels, instead of imposing his own views on others. One of his life-changing experiences was in the Middle East when he met a man named Issam*, who was a server at the hotel the leader of this organization was staying with his family. Issam asked him why was it that Americans hated him, and he said: “You need to stop hearing about us, and start hearing from us”.
The Leader believes in these words religiously “My flourishing is connected to your flourishing”. And he claims to coexist with harmony, peacefully and beautifully, we must see humanity, dignity, and the image of God in everyone, just like Jesus did when he talked to the Samaritan woman (John 4). We must immerse in conflict, equipped with tools to heal rather than to win. We must be contend, and not try to find ways to get even but get creative in the way we show love. And finally, we must strive to restore, share our table with former enemies and celebrate the big and small ways God is restoring our world.
Similarly, an official from the Obama Administration, says the only utmost important Christian political duty is to “love thy neighbor”, and “seek the peace and prosperity of the [your] city” (Jer 29:7). We hear many say “Jesus could have been just as faithful working in politics”, but we can all agree that politics is not hospitable towards followers of Christ, and often results in disappointment or religious isolation. “But, how we fight with the tendency to escape when we face conflict is simple: Have the right size of expectations, pursue justice, and have humility”.
If we keep putting a greater identity to politics than it deserves, we are in danger. And taking the final advice of the Obama official: “It takes disinvesting ourselves in politics”. Then, Christians will be capable of creating good culture as they work modeling the image of God, and will finally find the beauty in coexisting, despite all of our deep and at times painful differences.
I’ll try one more time. Hello. I miss writing here.
I have a lot that I have been holding close to my heart that I would like to share with you. I’ll try justify why I haven’t been able to pour myself out to Hazal’s Camera. My time in Washington, DC, came to an end. Just couple of weeks before I left the penthouse apartment, my one-year-old laptop let me down. Don’t even ask me about it, in the words of one of my favourite co-workers at the little organization I spent most of my days in DC: it was “tragic”. I left writing all together for a little longer than I would’ve liked, and embraced being upset about leaving yet another place– And, returning home.
So it is. I am torn into pieces, but I am also home to collect one that I left over here. With the courtesy of Hazal’s Camera, where I see things more clearly: Here is home.
3 am: Woken up by external noises. 4 hours long “The Best of Classical Music” on YT. Headphones on because external noises are louder and more consistent. Steam is downloading “Civilization V” demo. Oops, it’s completed. I’ll be right back.
Legit 3 am: I was overexaggerating how late it was before. I am surprised my computer can run Sid Meier’s greatest treasure, considering it is a baby gaming computer. Well, thank you, computer Gods. Getting 15 mins into the game, I heard a familiar Turkish hymn melody in the background, ‘Come, see what love has done to me. Like the river rapids raging for eons, my worrisome heart wrecked on the rocky shore. Master’s away I’m withering. Come, see what Love has done to me’.
Future. Thinking about future is like thinking about God, death or thinking about the fact that I am traveling over 24 hours to an unknown place, all alone. Or I am 4 years old again, having to read a poem in front of the kindergarten parents. Not thinking about it, finding or pushing myself into it. Possibly freaking out the moment of, then, the prevalent feeling. All is gone, comes tranquility. I have done that very many times, so it is a familiar friend to me.
Making decisions have never been easy for me. Some people struggle to choose between an Oreo mint and strawberry cheesecake milkshake, but they can make life-changing decisions very easily. Some people do it the other way. I genuinely struggle if I think. So, I don’t.
I have been putting it away and up the shelf lately, so I don’t reach it, and I can’t think it. I have also been eating sugary wonderful treats because I am a stress eater. No big news here.
Growing up, I was told not to ask so many questions about creation, or the creator, because it would lead me to a rabbit hole. It would be a mind trap. I just needed to believe without a subsistent reason. I think that is how the future should be too. At least, for me.
I do not know the way, don’t know where it will take me, don’t know how it will get me there, don’t know who will be there with me at the end of the road, don’t know how to plan it because there is no plan.
Re-reading the above is overwhelming… I praise living your life to the fullest, but when you have everything, how narrow can you squish your future into a lens that will be fulfilling?
Upon participating in a religious studies course in my university, I had the privilege to interview a Buddhist. I find all religions fascinating. As I talk with people of other religions, it makes me realize how most religions have similar fundamentals. Buddhism was the one religion I struggled the most to understand. This pushed me to meet my my interviewee in the Walnut Grove Community Centre library and ask her all the questions I have (and you might have too). My interviewee is a married Chinese woman between the ages of 30 and 40. She is a firm believer in Buddhism.
IMPORTANT: This interview had been submitted to Trinity Western University and was graded before the online feature. (It is written and submitted for grading purposes by Hazal Senkoyuncu on June 9th, 2017.)
Were you brought up in this religion? What led you to the beliefs you are now practicing?
I was not brought up as a Buddhist. I grew up in a family that had no religious belief. While I searched for meaning of life and the ways to improve myself, I studied Christianity, Islam, Falungong, Buddhism and many other religions. I found that Buddhism provides the most profound and reasonable explanations to the world and our life experiences. However, I should mention that Chinese culture and local belief system had an influence on me. 1000 years of Chinese culture is made up of Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism as well as many other influences. Even though I was not religious, the belief systems within the culture had an impact on me. I visited Christian churches many times but did not feel the cultural closeness I receive from a Buddhist temple.
What is your denomination? Can you explain its significance?
I practice Vajrayana Buddhism which originates from Tibet. Its difference from Mahayana and other denominations is the way we practice prayer. You throw yourself to the floor and you search to prostrate. This is a way to cleanse one’s self from bad karma. Moreover, we follow a specific teacher. Our lineage is never discontinued and come linear from Buddha. Therefore, our teacher will teach the same teachings of Buddha, and we can trust them.
As we are in the month of Ramadan and I am being asked many curious questions from my social circle, this post has been long overdue… You may call it a coincidence but I am currently attending a religious studies summer course, and being in an environment of diverse ethnicity within a Christian school, I have been reflecting on religion.
Today is the second day of fasting for me. People have been asking me “How do you do it? Why do you do it?”. Just to quickly fill you in, fasting for us starts from sundown to sunset, about 18 hours a day for this year to be exact. My answer to the many questions took me (too!) by surprise. If you asked me why I fasted before, I would say “Well, my religion requires fasting so I do it”. Coming to terms of learning about other religions and attending their ceremonies, I look at things differently now. I started doing what I do for me. I fast because I feel at peace. My mind is clear and I have no worries about what is going to happen next. I stop worrying about doing things. I sit down. I focus. I feel like I have all the time in the world. I feel, that I am close to God. Continue reading “On Religion…”→