When Patricia Raybon’s youngest daughter went off to college, she watched her wrestle with some of the racial and religious questions she struggled with as an African American during the Black Power era decades before.
“Generationally, we were at very different places. I didn’t have patience for her struggle,” Patricia said. “I felt that the Lord had answered the questions I had. How could she still have the same questions?”
Patricia’s questioning ultimately led her to become more rooted in the gospel of Jesus. But her daughter Alana found answers elsewhere.
First, Alana looked to the Nation of Islam, a religious group that combines Muslim beliefs with efforts to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic conditions of African Americans. But she had reservations about the Nation, concluding that members propagated “a lot of racism themselves.” (Critics call it a hate group, claiming it practices racism and anti-Semitism; the organization officially denies these charges.) So Alana left for orthodox Islam, becoming a Muslim.
Patricia learned the news during a call home from Alana, then attending Fordham University in New York. That was in 2001, and their relationship hasn’t been the same since.
An evangelical author and lifelong churchgoer, Patricia was heartbroken by her daughter’s decision to not just leave Christianity, but to commit herself to a different faith. “I really felt like I had failed as a mother and a Christian and church member and the daughter of my parents,” Patricia said, “failed by not passing onto her what I call a saving knowledge of who Jesus is.”
Alana found Islam connected to her to God in a way that filled a lingering emptiness and ultimately transformed her life; her conversion happened as she turned away from a career in dance to become an elementary school teacher. It frustrated her that her sincere efforts to “live a pious life” were labeled a failure by her mother.
Alana is now 34, married to a fellow convert, and the mother of three children. While she initially focused on defending her decision, she said, “It took me a while to say to myself, ‘Wow, my mother is really hurting.’”
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SOURCE: Christianity Today