Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WWJD- One Christian's Response to Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the United States

Early Christians were seen as outlaws, punishable by law and thus sought to worship in the safety of closed community and hidden worship. But, as is so often the case, the oppressed, upon receiving power, quickly become the oppressor. Throughout history Christians have, in the name of Jesus and of God, pillaged, killed, tortured, and oppressed many people from many places of many different faiths.
Today, we stand at a juncture—a volatile time of huge social change with massive implications. In the United States anti-Muslim sentiments coupled with the tragic events of nine years ago are giving way to mass hysteria. It is creating a mob culture against an entire group of people . For those who say that Muslims are misunderstood I would debate that. To be misunderstood people must first have taken the time and effort to TRY to understand. This is not the case in the United States. People are creating fact out of fiction. Those trying to burn the Koran admit to having never read it. This is ignorance and ignorance breeds hatred of the worst kind.
It is in instances of social and structural oppression and when the masses have managed to dehumanize their “enemy” that history has had some of its darkest hours. If something is not done, if people do not object to this ignorant hatred and stand beside our Muslim brothers and sisters the dark plumes that blocked out the sun on that horrifying day in September of 2001 will be stoked into a cloud that is so dark that no sunlight will ever break through.
The acts committed by the men on that fateful day in September were horrific and inhumane. But if we allow ourselves to blindly label them as acts of faith then we have already succumbed. Just because a handful of leaders and a group of followers bastardize a religion and drive it to its most violent and destructive edge we must not let uninformed judgment lead to the communal hatred of a people. The men who hijacked the planes on September 11th were not living out the words of the Koran or the teachings of Muhammad. They were deeply troubled individuals who read and heard and spoke words that did not exist and did it in the name of a religion.
Today, a community of peaceful followers wish to build a community center that will foster the sort of dialogue that is critical to calming the waters of this growing storm. Yes, there is a place for prayer, a space for Muslims to openly and freely worship the God they love. And why not? How is this a defamation or a dishonoring of holy ground? It was not Islam or followers of Islam that committed the acts of 9/11—it was headstrong, zealot, bigoted and ignorant people who took the lives of the innocent that day. WE have labeled them Muslims. The atrocities that were committed were not acts of faith, at least not to the God that Muhammad worshiped.
Nowhere in the bible is there a list, a hierarchy of sins, a log of which sin is worse than another. There is, however, a very clear statement by Jesus of what is most important in our lives. “’Love the Lord your God with all your heath, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.’”
This brings me to my title—the very common acronym for “What Would Jesus Do?”. I have two suggestions, surrounding this topic, of how we might change this acronym: “Where Would Jesus Dig?” and “Who Would Jesus Despise?”. To me, the answers are clear. He would dig the foundations of a building focused on peace, reconciliation and dialogue at the junction of war, hatred and suffering and he would despise only those without love.


  1. I have to admit that your blog has surprised me in the content.. in a pleasant way. I think you've been able to highlight some very important points that I think we, as people, (specifically Americans), overlook. I agree with you on the 9.11 thing.

    All the ten commandments can be summarized into two statements, as you said. Love God, Love Others. The first four deal with loving God, the last 6 deal with loving others.

    Thank you for your insight here Jim. I really want to hear about your spiritual journey there.... in more detail. :)

  2. Wow! Powerful words, many of which sound like very like me. Others will, no doubt, find them challenging, and maybe even offensive, but the dialogue MUST continue.

  3. To wit:

    "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him." - Romans 10:12 (ESV)

    Jennifer's predecessor at DPC had a powerful idea for dealing with the youth who would make fun at others. When she heard youth insulting or laughing at someone, she would simply say, "Child of God." We would all benefit from having a voice in the back of our minds repeating those words when we insult or shun others simply for being different than us.

    Glad you are well Jim. Speak to you soon.

  4. I find it interesting to see what a small group of radicals can do to the entire image of the larger group. Both with the Muslim radicals in 2001 as well as the Christian radicals most recently. I find it crazy that people make the jump so quickly from saying that 3 individuals hijacking a plane or 30 people burning the Koran embodies the ideals and teaching of Islam or Christianity. I feel that our society is so drawn and fascinated by radical behavior that we forget the truth behind their practices. Those actions done out of hate to not in any way embody the faith of the religion.

    This blog post was wonderfully written, and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. I have been thinking about this a lot too as I see different people around New Orleans trying put others down for their actions in the name of God. To see sign that say 'God hates you because you are gay' is heartbreaking. I have to remind myself that whatever God they are worshiping is not the God that I go to in prayer.

  5. Great post rich with insight! I wholeheartedly agree. It is horrifying to watch the hatred and ignorance of our world, but it is comforting to recognize that by having open discussions like this our generation can spark positive change for the future. Keep sharing!

  6. Not living state side allows me to look in and see things from afar. The reaction to the baptist minister here was overwhelmingly one of shock! Nobody i spoke to agreed with him, thankfully.
    Keep your thoughts coming as it is important thatwe are made to think and challenge our ideas and opinions

  7. It is pleasing to see that you have a view, Jim. Remember my friend Yehezkel? He knows Imam Feisal and his wife Daisy, the principals of the Mosque. I've met them. They are really beautiful well-meaning people. In any case, may I suggest that its best to be a bit more careful not to mirror the very thing that you are criticizing. Saying "the masses have managed to dehumanize the 'enemy'" suggests (even though it wasn't your intention) that people can be lumped into large undifferentiated catagories -- which is one of the things you seem to be upset about ... well you get the point. I hope its ok to comment here.

  8. 20/20 on ABC did a great show on the lack of understanding of Muslims/Islam last night (Friday, Oct. 1). It saddens me to imagine all Christians being associated with Pastor Terry Jones, Adolph Hitler, Hutaree militia group, et. al.

    German Pastor Martin Niemoeller said, “It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of his enemies. When God hates all the same people that you hate, you can be absolutely certain that you have created him in your own image.”

    Peace be with you Jim.