I have to start with a disclaimer:
***I am not a political writer. If you have found this post and like it, great, but don’t come back looking for more. If you find this post and don’t like it, no fear, you won’t see much like this from me. In fact, I don’t think this is a very political post, it’s just a subject I typically steer from because I’d rather write about bread, and motherhood, and running.
Everyone on social media was talking about red cups last week. Specifically, Christians. It was hard to miss. Few, very few, like a super small percentage of those people were Mr. Grumpy Gills about them and the rest, like many, like a huge majority of them were talking about how they really don’t care and were just hoping to that their friends wouldn’t put them in the same category as “those christians making a big fuss about the dang red cups”
In the midst of it all there were obscene terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, and probably other places that I haven’t seen in the media yet (different issue). Sobering, terrifying, absolutely devastating, and maddening. ISIS, a radical Islamic terrorist group with ancient theology and practice, has been deemed responsible for these acts and many others and it’s no surprise. They are a ruthless and unspeakably evil group, committed to destroying anyone who won’t surrender to their power and agree with their ways. Horrible. On the record: I have a huge problem with terrorists. I have a huge problem with ISIS. No words I have about them are suitable for this audience, but hear me well, I want this group to come to and end.
So, now our newsfeed is flooded with posts and hashtags and profile pictures covered with the French flag. Unity. Support. Prayers and well wishes. My dear friend Laura is in France right now, and texted us from hiding out in her hotel room as chaos and fear swept through the beautiful city. I want it all to unhappen, I am scared, and sad, and angry. I bet you are too. Those of us with loved ones directly affected or, worse, killed in such a horrible way are even more so. They have every right to be.
But, want to know where my heart goes? Relentlessly? Now, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but: Christians don’t forget about how the red cups made you feel. Terrorists, ISIS specifically, are monstrous people with evil pulsing through their hearts like tar. They wear the name of Islam. They claim the religion of Islam, but they are selective and use it to back up their own violent motives. I can imagine how muslims around the world and, very specifically, in this country are feeling. It’s something we Christians can relate to on a microscopic-red-cup-scale.
“Hey, WE AREN’T ALL LIKE THAT!”
It’s desperate. It’s causing their voices to quiver in defensiveness. Extreme Jihadist are terrifying and are responsible for so much violence, I can’t begin to imagine the gut wrenching evil they have committed, but they make up a small percentage of the Islamic religion and an even smaller percentage of all people of middle eastern decent. They aren’t all like that. (Please look into Muslims against Terrorism or follow the hashtags #notinmyname #notmyIslam)
In the days, months, and years following 9/11 the world’s heart broke even more as hate crimes against American Muslims filled the news. Tragedy triggered fear, which triggered anger, with fueled hate, which led to more tragedy. And the cycle continued. There is an enemy, but it’s not all muslims everywhere. The Enemy is The Enemy. He’s darkness. It seeps into all of our hearts at one point or another and, if He’s allowed to fester and thrive there, He can take over and have one more soldier in His army of Evil. The only thing that could make all of this worse is more darkness. Hate on hate on hate will just deepen this gaping wound our world has. Let’s direct our unrest at the right enemy.
When you whisper a joke to your friend or family, when you draw conclusions and exclude someone based on their race or presumed religion, when you mistreat, assault or kill someone based on them identifying with a religion you, frankly, don’t understand; when you treat them as anything less than human, I say this as gently and lovingly as I can, you are no better. You are looking at one person’s life as less important than yours. You are looking at someone, and in an instant you are drawing conclusions about their beliefs, actions, and worthiness. You aren’t doing anything to stop terrorism, you are just reenforcing a racially tense and extremely fragile social system and adding to the darkness.
Christians, I know we aren’t all like that. Red cups don’t stir our hearts, people do. Jesus does. Be mindful of how we are treating those that are different than us. They are people. they matter and God’s love is big enough for the Jews, Gentiles, and Muslims.
My heart is with Paris. My heart is with Beirut, my heart is with all of the victims and their families. Also, my heart is breaking in advance for Muslims around the world and in America. Oh, wounded world, how fear triggers hate. Oh, how helplessness triggers blame. We all have some big feelings right now and it’s human for us to feel the need to direct all those feelings somewhere, but it would just be a hypocritical cop-out to direct that hate towards more innocent lives. All ISIS terrorists may identify as Muslims, but not all Muslims are ISIS terrorists. All the red-cup-haters may identify as Christians but not all Christians are red-cup-haters. I know it’s a stretch but do you at least understand what I’m getting at? Can you imaging how desperately defensive our Muslim peers must feel right now? How their cheeks must burn red when they see the judging stares and overhear the comments? How scared they are to send their kids to school because of the hate, discrimination and even danger that could be waiting for them there? Just take a moment. Take a breath. Even pray for a change of heart, if the prejudice is hard for you to let go of.
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Can we change what people think about Christians? Maybe, but only by showing them what drew us to Jesus to begin with; His love. He recklessly loved those the world hated. He loved prostitutes, tax collectors, murderers, slanderers, and all sinners, of whom I am the worst. He reached outside of the social norms and expectations to love the outsiders; the ones nobody wanted to associate with. I want us all to be like that. I want us to take it seriously when Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. I truly think it would change the world if we saw everyone the way God does.