Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who do you pray for?

It probably shouldn't come as too much of a shock that there are a lot of things that I just was not expecting when Luke floated the idea of escaping cubicleland for Uganda. I didn't realize that I would quickly come to love and crave Indian food. No idea that I would re-enter the world of Mexican soap operas with a vengeance, only unlike in Argentina, even a lot of men here follow Salvador's murder, reincarnation and resulting love triangles with a passion. Also unlike Argentina, here they're dubbed in English. Never dreamed I'd eat an entire plate of bugs.


We may have mentioned this already, but it's very common around these parts to ask people you've just met what religion they are. Like maybe the fourth thing to ask, after where are you from, what are you doing here and how do you find Uganda. Needless to say, people are generally on the conservative side and some flavor of Christian.

Now Luke and I, for those who don't know, weren't exactly raised in a devout household. There have been some big time spiritual re-awakenings in the already complicated world of Philips religious identifications since we all left for college, but let's leave it that as kids we didn't get to church too often. And the broader religious identity of our family is, most simply, complex.

Initially, we would respond to people here that "Oh, we don't really pray that often. There are a lot of people like that in America." Which met with absolute shock and disbelief. That apparently is just something that either isn't done around here, or something that people just don't own up to. In any case, they would look at us like we just told them we have a pet dog that can ride a bike, then set in with the questioning.

These days, we typically respond that "oh, we're Jews," which meets with one of a few reactions. Most often, it's a sort of impressed amusement. Like, whoa, a Jew. Who would have thought. There is apparently a small Ugandan Jewish community somewhere near Mbale, or so the story goes. This is the easiest to deal with, because we don't have to explain too much. One guy even started calling us "Children of Abraham," which we nodded along with sagely.



Another group of reactions falls into the "Jewish. Is that like Presbyterian?" category. This one is fun, because we explain that that no, in fact being Jewish isn't like being a presbyterian, or even Born-Again. In fact, Jews don't even dig on the New Testament, we stick with the original, first-edition stories (we have also become experts on Jewish theology). And don't ask about the whole Jesus thing, though did you know that he was a Jew too? And get this, we pray on Friday nights. Crazy! I know! Quite often, this conversation ends with "Jewish, huh? That's interesting. I think we should get you baptized. Jesus died for your sins, you know."

So yeah. How do you like that, Dad? Even Luke is quick to tell people that we're Jews now. All it took was a trip to East Africa. On a related note, there is a bakery here in town that makes really good Challah. You can bet we've been eating a lot of that, too.

(Break Bread)

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