#TheRamadanStruggle is real…

My first day of fasting went pretty well…aside from that 3 o’clock beer.

No, I’m not TRYING to be provocative. (I didn’t have it with a side of bacon.)

What had happened was, I’d scheduled to meet with a local college professor BEFORE I decided to attempt this whole #Christians4Ramadan thing and I thought it would be weird for me to show up and WATCH him drink a beer.

So…cheers.

As my friend Annie often says “Barbara can justify anything…” and so, even as I sat sipping my way through #RamadanFail, I constructed a theological justification rooted in my Christian Heritage. It starts with Friar Tuck.

The icon of the drunken monk emerged historically because religious orders would have fasting days. The loop hole was that (unlike Ramadan) you can usually drink during most Christian fasts. So some monk somewhere along the way realized water was MUCH more satisfying when it had, say, BARLEY soaking in it. And hey, if it sat around a bit, started to ferment…all the better.

And so we have devout monks (and #Christians4Ramadan) wobbling their way through their meditations.

Pretty good, right?

Pretty bad.

Right.

It got me to thinking, though, how much easier is to struggle together. To be able to turn to the person next you and say “Is that a beluga whale in your belly or are you just happy it’s Ramadan?”

There becomes this communal support (or pressure) to make it through #thestruggle.  Friends of mine who did a teacher exchange program in Morocco a few summers ago were struck by how hard it was to find LUNCH (let alone beer) in a Muslim country during Ramadan. They weren’t expected to fast, but the social infrastructure was built to help them drop 10 pounds accidentally.

Cultural expectations are remarkable at priming us for success or setting us up for failure. Try giving up meat in Middle America and see what happens.

Breaking my fast at Bengies Drive in. Onion rings are Halal, right?
Breaking my fast at Bengies Drive in. Onion rings are Halal, right?

I became a Vegetarian for a week in the 7th grade. We were driving to church and we passed a truck full of chickens.

“Aww! Chickens! They’re so cute!” I exclaimed.

“They’re so delicious,” was my Fathers rejoinder.

Cue moral indignation. I don’t know why it had never hit me before this moment that creatures with which I could so easily empathize I could just as easily eat. I declared myself a vegetarian. This lasted all of a week until a church canoeing trip where all there was to eat was Turkey sandwiches.

Sigh. My moral imperative so quickly adrift down the stream of my good intentions. (wo)Man cannot live on Doritos and Wonderbread alone.

What I DIDN’T know was that all I had to do was wait for college where EVERYONE becomes a vegetarian…for at least a hot minute. Garbanzo bean salads! Tofu Burgers! Almond milk smoothies! Even our Rugby bagged lunches included hummus and carrots for Vegans. You can fall into Vegetarianism in Academia just as easily as you fall OUT of it when you return to the real world of American Carnivores.

I fell off the wagon and I fell hard. Maryland Blue Crabs were partly to blame. My Mother-in-law with her seafood bisque was not a huge help either. There was also a 50 mile hike in the Canadian Rockies (pursued by Grizzlies) that had me reasserting my claim at the top of the food chain with an Outback Steak House bacon burger.

 “If you become a Vegetarian but the only thing you have to eat is apples, you’ll be back to meat in a week.”

I explored this idea of the “Circumstantial You” during Lent this year. Some of us our born into faiths that are a good fit for our souls. Others are born into a faith too tight, too loose, too loud, too quiet. Some of us are surrounded by cultures that affirm our dispositions, others have landed in societies that seem only to offer constant critique.

Had I been born Iraq, would I have been a “good” Muslim woman? Would I have spent hours cooking the culinary delights that would reward my family members for their devotion to God and Family? Or would I have joined a diaspora who have pursued other horizons where there is more latitude to twirl?

For this Ramadan season, I will move through spaces who question my fast, others that would question my beer. I know myself well enough to know that when I choose to make compromises it will likely be an attempt to ensure my moral imperatives (or random spiritual impulses) don’t infringe on those of others.

I’d be a better #Chrisian4Ramadan in Morocco. A better #Vegetarian4Chickens in Mumbai.

But I am a decent #Human4Humans in Baltimore. I’ll do what I can in the circumstances I’ve been gifted.

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