Ahh… So the hate continues to grow and spread. I really, truly thought that we were past the point of stereotyping all people for the actions of a few. Didn’t we leave that behind in the 60s? Aren’t Blacks, Muslims, Native Americans, Baptists, Gays all crying out at the injustice of being branded as those who are violent, extremists, hateful, or vengeful? My fellow Christians of all colors stand with them, loudly protesting the stereotyping, proclaiming for all to hear, “Wait! They’re not all like that!” (Or, in the case of us Baptist Christians, “We’re not all like that!”) Our stomachs turn at the hate that comes at our friends; my Black friend isn’t like Michael Brown. The folks spouting hate from Westboro Baptist don’t speak for all us Baptists, and we are quick to point that out. My sweet, elderly Muslim neighbor isn’t organizing a terrorist cell.
Many of us followed the situation down in Texas this week where 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was taken into custody after his teacher thought his homemade clock was a bomb. Those of us who are paying attention cringe at the transparent dishonesty of the teacher, the school administration, and the police: If the teacher truly thought it was a bomb, then why wasn’t it treated as a bomb? We feel indignant that this child’s constitutional rights were so harshly violated as he was denied his parents and representation by an attorney. We shake our heads as it is glaringly apparent how Ahmed was targeted because of the color of his skin and his chosen religion. That’s simply unjust! Just because he’s a Muslim living in the US doesn’t make him inherently evil.
At the same time that we’re proclaiming this boy’s innocence and protesting the injustices against him, so many Americans are appalled that the US is opening its borders to Syrian refugees, many of whom are Muslim, but not all. Syrian Christians are among those who ISIS has targeted most heavily for persecution, and there are hopefully those in that crowd. People are saying that such actions will permit cells of terrorists into the country. What? Like they’re not here already? All the US is doing is granting displaced Syrians a place of refuge – a place far from their home, their native lands, their families, their friends, all they hold dear. They’re showing videos and pictures of fights among Muslims, trash “supposedly” left by Muslims, basically, everything that makes Muslims look bad – yet, they protest the treatment afforded to Ahmed based on the same standards.
Many people – good Christian people – don’t want these Syrian Muslims coming to our country. Based on what scriptures? In Matthew 25:35, we read Jesus’ words, “I was a stranger, and you took me in.” The Psalmist writes, “The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (Ps. 146:9); I wonder how many of those refugees are widows or orphans? The writer of Hebrews encourages us to welcome strangers, declaring that, in entertaining strangers, some have unknowingly welcomed angels (13:2). In offering gracious hospitality to people who are “not one of us,” we live out our faith and witness, furthering the Kingdom of God on earth. What would have been the fate of the man robbed, beaten, and left for dead had the innkeeper refused to take him in, simply because a Samaritan was paying for his care?
What do we as Christians have to fear? In what do we place our trust? Do we place our trust in our military, our police, our American government? Or do we place our trust in the God who is bigger and tougher than any force our puny little government can offer? We are called to welcome people, to offer them hospitality and care, and we are commanded not to fear. That’s a really liberating thought!