Hate crimes in the US that specifically target Muslims have increased 67% since the presidential election. The hateful rhetoric employed by certain candidates has galvanized people and has created a fear for those outside the WASP community. There is a moral obligation to address that rhetoric and those actions taken up because of that rhetoric.
As Christians, we are called to follow the teachings of Jesus, even when it is hard or dangerous. When it comes to our Islamic siblings, we seem to have forgotten a lesson or two.
The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus’ “Great Commission” of the disciples to go out into the world and teach. In that Gospel, it is the first time anyone but Jesus is given teaching authority. Up until then, they had only been learning. I wonder if we have learned his lessons well enough to enact them in our lives now. We certainly have forgotten the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus teaches that a man is robbed and left for dead on the roadside. He is passed over and over again by fellow members of his faith, indeed leaders in that faith. Instead, an outsider, an “other”, someone of a differing faith and ethnicity, rescues this man and goes above and beyond even putting the man up until he has healed. Perhaps the Samaritan was teaching us who he truly is and what his faith means.
In my hometown of Kansas City, there is a group called the Crescent Peace Society who is speaking out about the truth of the Islamic faith as one of Peace. Kareen Talib, a founding member realized that the over 30,000 Muslims in Kansas City had a calling to teach about their faith: “We realized that we had not done our part…We came to this country and we started working very hard. We were living our lives, and we were taking care of our kids. We didn’t have time to think about it. Then we realized that one element was forgotten, and that was educating others about who we are.”
My seminary education, my church life, indeed even bartending has taught me that we have a call to listen to those who are being accused even oppressed because of their faith, skin, sexuality, etc. Why?
Because as a Christian, I know that Jesus was a man who spoke up for those accused of being outside the norm. He was a threat to the Roman empire’s standard not because of his violence but because he called out against the oppression of people. He was deemed “enemy combatant” and was executed because he defended the rights of a religious group. Our Muslim siblings are being painted as “enemy combatants” when those who truly practice their faith are peaceful. It is up to us to learn the difference rather than paint with broad brush strokes of hatred based in fear.
Our Great Commission is to learn and to teach. It’s time we relearn some forgotten lessons.