My recent sidewalk discussion with a couple of JW's has gotten me in the mood to say more when appropriate.
So the wife and I were riding in the car and Cat Stevens comes on. I mentioned to her that Cat Stevens left music when he was still popular and converted to Islam back in the 1970's- how he was told that his music would have to be morally acceptable and he found it easier to just abandon making new music for at least 20 years.
So I didn't really remember all the details and I figured the conversation would die. But my wife compared it to Janet Jackson's ending her tour and converting to Islam for her Billionaire husband who wanted her to give him an heir. I said "Whatever happened there? I remember she was pregnant. Was it a boy?"
My wife apparently was updated at the hair salon. She said that Janet had a boy and separated from the billionaire shortly afterward, stating that she was severely verbally abused by the husband, and is now in a custody battle. So I decided to see where I could take this conversation.
OTWO: What do you think about what Janet said?
Mrs. OTWO: Well, I was very surprised that Janet would convert to Islam and have a baby at near 50 years old. She had to stay on bed rest to do so.
OTWO: What about the Muslim lifestyle? Did she cover her hair?
Mrs. OTWO: She said she loved having a private life- remember that she had a previous marriage for years that nobody knew about. Supposedly, she liked the idea of Islam and living a quiet life. I heard that she totally converted, but I never saw photos of her in Muslim garb.
(WRONG, Apparently, pregnant Janet DID release photos in full hijab, and may not have actually converted to Islam, but possibly only accepted the lifestyle, but not important to my discussion with my wife.)
Mrs. OTWO: Her family gave her the strength to get away from her husband with her son. She is still fighting for custody and is supposed to start touring again.
OTWO: So I imagine her family helped her to de-convert from Islam.
Mrs. OTWO: Why? I mean, she converted and her son may very well be raised Muslim.
OTWO: Because she was treated like dirt by her own husband. Because she probably realized how common that is within Islam. Because she was able to see the truth of it. I think it's wonderful that her family didn't give up on her and were ready to help break her free from an oppressive religious life.
(I don't know if my wife picked up any vibe of a slight dig at 'oppressive religious life' or not, but at least I got to say how family was ready to break her free from it.)
So that could have been the end of our discussion, but we later were driving after having visited a Chinese friend who was helping his nephew from China to get through school in the United States. The nephew is still in high school and attends a Lutheran Christian school. The nephew stated how the school claims wrongly that in China, much religion is suppressed. He feels that religion is given freedom in China. That led to a discussion about whether that was true or not. His uncle said that many religions in China are underground religions that the government doesn't approve of because they may be places where people discuss and plan anti-government movements. I said I had directly heard the same thing about Cuba- that they banned churches for a long time because that was where people gathered to plan anti-communism things.
So back to the car. My wife asked what side of the issue I was on about whether the nephew was right or the Lutheran school was right. I said that the nephew lived in a small town in China where people may have been a bit more open about their beliefs than in heavily populated areas. But I decided to go further with this discussion since we had gotten pretty far earlier about Islam.
OTWO: Just as Janet Jackson might have been getting information on Islam just from her fiancee at the time and not really seeing that the lifestyle was harsh on women because he treated her well before marriage, the nephew probably hasn't seen the real oppression of religion in China. Even his uncle admitted to underground religions existing, but seemed to be of the opinion that it was only because they were anti-government. Without knowing more, I would have to lean toward agreeing with the Lutheran school.
Mrs. OTWO: Yeah, but they don't know from any personal experience. The uncle and the nephew lived there and have a different opinion. Doesn't their personal experience outweigh opinions?
OTWO: Possibly. I think the uncle tended to agree that religion wasn't free but was hesitant to say any more that might sway his nephew whose family all still live in China. And further, the nephew is just 17 and had been in China all his life until less than 2 years ago. Don't you think that he needs exposure to outside information before he could be sure that his personal experience allows him a proper viewpoint?
Mrs. OTWO: Yes, I suppose so.
(Okay, I opened a door. Now, rather than let it go, I decided to connect the dots to be sure she got the point.)
OTWO: So you can agree it's a good thing for the nephew to be exposed to outside information?
Mrs. OTWO: Yes.
OTWO: And do you agree that in a case like Janet Jackson's, information about the beliefs wasn't enough? She had to see how the teachings were manipulated by her husband to allow such treatment of women.
Mrs. OTWO: Yes, I guess so.
OTWO: So maybe you understand your husband a little better. I gathered information only from the religion I converted to, not checking with outsiders with another point of view. I had to be fully immersed in the lifestyle before I could see how the teaching were manipulated to control members.
Mrs. OTWO: That's not the same at all.
OTWO: Just tell me what the differences are then. The Lutheran school could be wrong, but you admit the nephew needs to be exposed to outside information. People might misunderstand a lifestyle based on a completely different set of beliefs, but you admit that Janet benefited from seeing the lifestyle. A huge difference for someone like you would be not knowing any other lifestyle to compare it to, but Janet did and this nephew is learning about different lifestyles.
Well, that shut Mrs. OTWO down on that conversation. But not so hard as it did in the past. She stopped talking about the thing triggering discomfort, but we continued talking about unrelated things. In the past, she would have to go to full silence.