Deacon Ian Punnett –
By the time you read this, Ramadan, the month of scorching, will almost be over. In Arizona, of course, where every month during the monsoon could be considered “scorching,” Ramadan may seem interminable, but there is an end in sight to the fasting and purification. As a Christian, the closest I come to Ramadan is Lent, also a period of prayer, penitence, alms giving and self-denial. The hardest thing about Lent for me is the last few days of the 46-day cycle. At around day 42, I always have to fight the feeling that “I’m so close to the end that it’s OK to give in to temptation.” I know myself well enough to anticipate that if I were practicing Ramadan, come 3 p.m. every day I would be looking at the clock hungrily and saying, “Well, it’s almost sundown…”
But almost sundown is really the whole point, isn’t it? The hardest part of starting anything worthwhile is finishing it with integrity, and not compromising it by quitting early because something got too hard. As human beings, whenever we strive toward something greater than ourselves, we’re in a perpetual state of almost sundown not long after the beginning.
I was reminded of this recently during the run of nation-changing decisions that came in the second week of Ramadan 2015:
Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, started in June of 2013 when a legally married gay couple wanted their spousal rights honored in a state that only recognized heterosexual marriage.
King v. Burwell has settled the legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act (for the time being, anyway), an effort to make healthcare available to more Americans that started after President Obama was elected in 2008.
Although due to a tragedy and not a court ruling, the movement to delegitimize the Confederate Flag as a symbol of honor finally achieved a tipping point during Ramadan 2015, five decades after the fight for Civil Rights inspired segregationists to fly the Rebel flag over southern state capitols.
In another aspect of my life, I continue to protest through an administrative process the inappropriate behavior of an established authority figure who abused a privilege at the cost of others. Several times during the course of the conflict, I had to decide whether I was going to finish this worthwhile fight with integrity or quit early because it got too hard. It would be so easy to give in to temptation in this case, to reimagine that 3 p.m. is close enough to sundown to call it a day.
But it’s not. Almost sundown is never good enough when we’re striving for something greater than ourselves.