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.