I have been working my way through Reading Lolita in Tehran for the past several days and have been intrigued by Azar Nafisi’s life in Iran during the Islamic revolution of the 70s and 80s.

Yesterday, I finally got to the part where she and her academic colleagues were forced out of the university because of their western ideology and refusal to wear the veil while teaching. This was probably some time in the early 80s. On the same day I was reading that chapter, I heard on NPR that Iran’s current hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is doing another wave of cleansing in the universities.

(I guess picking up Lolita in Tehran for historical reference was more on target than I imagined).
Something important caught my attention, though. President Ahmadinejad said he was making changes to the universities because “there has been an effort to promote a secular system and thoughts in society. To change it is difficult.”

If I didn’t know better, I might easily have believed the same statement was part of a sermon in any number of evangelical churches in America on a Sunday morning. In fact, my own pastor has made similar comments. (More precisely, he says we have to beware of “sucking on the gas of secular humanism” as he pantomimes a mask over his face.)

What’s the difference? On a good day, I can articulate the difference clearly. Other days, like today for instance, when I’m tired, and I just got home from a funeral, and work has been frustrating, etc., I have a harder time explaining it.

Maybe I start with these questions: How do I, as a Christian, keep the influence of “the world” from hindering my pursuit of Christ? How do I renew my mind and not conform any longer to the pattern of the world if I don’t limit its influence? And if I do wall myself in, how am I not asking for a revolution all my own?

I don’t have the answers, but I know when they come to me, they’ll center around Jesus and his love and the great respect he paid to those around him, even those most conformed to the world.

For today, maybe that’s enough.