Reactions to Terrorism

I wish I wasn’t writing about this. Under different circumstances, I would use this month’s blog post to share the best Christmas songs, show the heart of charity, or talk about anything related to Christmas, really. But in the last month alone, we’ve seen death and bigotry more than we’d like to (if at all), and I believe it’s time for me to share my take on the issue of terrorism…or at least the way a lot of us choose to deal with it.

A month ago, Paris suffered a massive attack that left everyone around the world shocked, afraid, and angry. A couple of weeks ago, we saw another taste of it in California. But I’m not here to address terrorism itself. I’m here to discuss the way we’re reacting to it—more specifically, the people suffering because of our reacting to it. The Muslims.

If the only person I’m writing to was Donald Trump (should he bother to read anything that doesn’t favorably compare him to a deity), my message would be short and full of expletives. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Politicians are talking about shutting down borders to Muslims. Across the world, women wearing headscarves are harassed, mosques are vandalized, and anyone born and raised Muslim (even US citizens) are being told to “go away and don’t come back.” Even a college president advised his students to carry guns to, and I quote, “end those Muslims.”

Looking at it from a biblical perspective, I can’t think of a single verse that would condone such disgusting behavior. We’re called to speak with both truth and love to everyone, regardless of who they are and/or what they believe. Truth without love is callous, love without truth is vulnerable. In bigotry, there is neither truth nor love. Bigotry dehumanizes. Bigotry feeds on fear, anger, and pride. Bigotry turns people against each other. Ecclesiastes 7:7 says “oppression drives the wise into madness.” When we choose to act on such senseless hate, we prove that we’re no better than the people responsible for the numerous deaths we’ve seen in the last year.

But that’s not what’s so scary about the situation. What’s so scary about it is that everyone in some way, shape, or form is guilty of bigotry. It can be so subtle that we don’t notice it unless we’re watchful enough. And “watchful” doesn’t exactly describe the entire human race. As a result, I’m guilty of bigotry. My friends are guilty of it. My family is guilty of it. Countless people who’ve lived and died in this world since biblical times were guilty of it. And in some way, you’re guilty of it too.

I know we’re all scared. Everyone has a right to be in times like this. People at my workplace and in my Facebook feed talk about a coming war, and though I hope it’s not the case I suspect it will be. In the Old Testament, God wanted Israel to be a beacon of light that would show, rather than tell, of God’s power and love. The New Testament explained how Christians can be that beacon of light to people. 1 Peter 2:1 tells us to “put away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.” How are Christians supposed to do that by treating people in a way that dehumanizes them simply because we think they’re coldhearted tyrants? Taking a pile of manure to the Smithsonian and calling it an original Van Gogh painting has more class and productivity. Don’t get me wrong, caution is important. But attacking people isn’t an example of caution so much as setting everyone up for disaster. And if Muslims do end up wiping us out after everything we’ve done to them, I won’t be surprised.

Though the religion we grow up with plays a part in who we are, it doesn’t ultimately define us. The choices made and the motivations behind them are what define us. If you find yourself tempted to say anything like “this person is such and such, therefore he/she must be one of the worst people in the world,” there’s a few steps you should take. One, shut up. Two, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think how you’d feel if someone said that about you. And three, ask yourself if what you’re thinking is motivated by love or truth in regard for the other person. Because at the end of the day, if you want to show that not every American is an arrogant asshole, you can start by at least acknowledging that not every Muslim is a terrorist.

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