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Rev. Nelson is a life coach and ordained minister. She can be reached by e-mail at RevJillNelson --at-- aol.com or through her website at StepBeyondCoach.com. Don Ross is the Queen Bee of Heresy, webmaster of his interfaith NichirensCoffeehouse.net and GayWineCountry.com, a GLBT business directory . You can email Don at Don --at-- classes.bz. Both serve on the Board of Directors at the A. Austin Amerine Retreat Center in Lake County. To learn more about AAARC, subscribe to our newsletter On Board the AAARC (join below).

Re: the Names of God -- Praise Allah!

Copyright by the Rev. Jill Nelson and Don Ross of the Amerine Retreat Center, October 2007.
This article was written for GaySonoma.com's Spirituality column.

Eavesdrop on a conversation between Don (neo-pagan Buddhist) and Jill (progressive Christian) as they chat about Queer Spirituality. Both are Board Members of the A. Austin Amerine Retreat Center in Lake County.

AMSTERDAM - A Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understanding, stoking an already heated debate on religious tolerance in a country with one million Muslims.

Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday, August 13, that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

* * * * * * *

[Don erupts] Praise Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate!

[Jill] Allah is a beautiful name, as is Pele, Isis, and Jehovah. Why ever stick to one? And does it really foster understanding if you do not understand the faith behind the name? Just curious….

[Don] Allah is the name I prefer to use to refer to the monotheistic God of the three great western religions, because it shakes people to the core in our society. In this time of war between Christianity and Islam (call it what you will) praising Allah challenges the heart of the spirituality of our nationalism. I immensely enjoy doing that (as you well know). That Christians and Jews and Muslims might take offence at my usurpation of Allah to praise a God I do not necessarily believe, is not a problem for me. That officials in the Roman Catholic Church in Islamic areas have similar views gives me pause, but upon reflection, perhaps it is not such bad company to keep after all.

Praise be to Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate! Arch-type of Avalokiteshvara (Kwan-yin) S/he Who Responds to the Suffering of the World! Maybe that is why I like Allah. He is the underdog God in our culture; plus I see the function of Kwan Yin clearly reflected in His face. And yes, Jill, why indeed stick to just one God/dess? We don't.

[Jill] Amen to that! I find that naming God/dess is more for me and the answers I am seeking in my journey than about who/what God is in all God’s wild and broad wonder. Of course, even in the attributes of God, I look for that which challenges and contradicts gender role stereotypes and the patriarchal desire to separate the feminine from its power in creating and destroying. Perhaps that is what I like about Pele’ and the Shekeniah of Jewish tradition. They are for me life breathing and fire consuming forces which give birth and rebirth to the world.

May we each find in our naming of God that which challenges us and moves us deeper into wonder.

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