The big picture
A few weeks ago, my former pastor’s daughter posted on Facebook about how some of her best memories were made at Camp Hickory. She tagged pretty much everyone she was in youth group with. A lot of other people chimed in in agreement. I didn’t get it. For me, camp combined the worst aspects of camping (bug bites, sunburn and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements), church (lots of lecturing, little chance to ask questions) and gym class (being judged on your athletic abilities, constant rick of injuring people if you play too hard). Camp was about the most miserable experience in my life and eventually I had to be forced to go.
Most of us grew up in heavily Christian cultures and are vaguely familiar with what the camp experience entails. Imagine, instead if you grew up around a few Christians and heard plenty of rumors about them at temple, but they were rarely featured on TV and the only books you could find on them in your language were the Bible, histories of the church that focused on doctrine and politics and books aimed at believers about how great it is to walk with Jesus. This would tell you nothing about camp, or what church services were like or the role of potlucks in community-building. Knowing all about the history of Christmas and the traditional ways of marking it tells you very little about how most Christians feel about Christmas and the Bible tells you even less.
Unless you live in a handful of heavily-Islamic communities, that’s how things are with respect to Islam in the English-speaking world. My friend Heina is trying to rectify this in a book she’s writing, tentatively titled The Skeptic’s Guide to Islam. She will cover what you do at the mosque, the way people obey all the rules you’ve heard about and so on. I encourage you to go help push her the last few hundred dollars over her stretch goal on Kickstarter to make the book extra awesome.