A number of years ago, I met a young Christian couple who was passionate about Loving others and had some questions about our Muslim neighbors. As we chatted, the husband shared that a few weeks before, he had purchased a Quran and had been reading it in hopes of better understanding those who follow Islam.
When his wife heard this, she was shocked, her face was suddenly covered with fear. She asked when he brought it into their home and upon hearing the date, she said she had felt something was wrong in their house (spiritually) and was now convinced of the reason why – there was a Quran in their house.
This is one of many stories I have heard where our irrational fears hold us captive, often overwhelming our desire to Love others. She was utterly terrified of this book. Can you image her reaction if her husband had invited a Muslim neighbor over for dinner?
For many people, the desire to Love others is paramount in their life. And for Christians, or those trying to follow the way of Jesus, it is a mantra, a mandate that has been made a priority by Jesus. Unfortunately, especially in American Christianity, this desire is often being crushed by the constant influx of fear-based propaganda directed at our Muslim neighbors.
For example, have you seen (or even yourself shared) the Facebook posts that try to point to verses in the Quran that suggest a Muslim should be violent toward a Christian? Have you seen the (mostly bogus) articles that claim increased violence or rape in countries that have welcomed Muslim refugees?
Have you seen the more mild innuendos that suggest we should Love our Muslim neighbors BUT we also need to protect our families, our countries, etc., implying there is an inherent risk of violence that somehow always accompanies Muslims?
Each of the points above can be easily clarified to reflect a more accurate reality or can be debunked altogether. I’m not going to do that here, instead I want to ask you a question: Even if you believe all of this stuff to be true, what do you think sharing this kind of information accomplishes? Is it motivating us toward Loving others or does it produce an increased fear toward our Muslim neighbors?
Clearly it is the latter.
I am not suggesting or calling American Christians to stop this practice and start promoting the religion of Islam. I understand that would be contrary to Christian beliefs. I am however suggesting that we must be very careful not to hinder our desire to Love others by spreading messages with almost no other purpose than to spread fear, resulting in unhelpful and unnecessary division.
For example, start with your Facebook page. What articles, videos, or comments that you share are pointing readers toward feeling afraid of something about our Muslim neighbors? When we do this, what are we really hoping to gain? In fact, there are somepeople who have committed their entire lives to building bridges between Muslims and American Christians and fall victim to this practice as well.
Instead, let’s consider what would happen if we shared information that highlighted the humanity of our Muslim neighbors. By no means would this absolve Islam of some of its challenges (although many of those issues are strikingly similar to Christianity) but consider the impact this could have on our society and for those who desire to Love others.
By shifting our focus away from fear-based content, towards humanizing content, we help make the idea of Loving each other as neighbors more accessible. We reduce the likelihood of increasing fears, like the woman in my story had, and replace it with helpful, factual, information that can assist with building those critically important bridges.
Why I hope this matters to you, is because these fear-based influences can have serious consequences. Not only can they easily diminish our desires to Love others, but they can lead to extremely radical policies like the Muslim Ban carried out by the Executive Order last week (I will be writing more about this in a future blog)
So I ask each of you to consider all of this when discussing our Muslim neighbors. And maybe pause the next time you are about to share something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and ask yourself, does this content increase our desire to Love others or is it really just going to increase our fears?