There has been a rather alarming meme I have seen floating around since the Syrian refugee crisis:
(This is not the exact meme, but my concern is not with the picture, but the text content)
There are an infinite number of reasons I find this meme and the attitudes of Christians in the refugee crisis alarming, but I will only share a few of them here.
1) Jesus calls us to love our enemies
I do not see how perpetuating a meme with a particular stereotype about a whole religion (Islam) is loving towards our enemies. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus teaches,
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a, HCSB).
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What a powerful, under-practiced commandment which we Christians have been given. I love the reason Jesus gives in verse 45. Loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors allows us the same title and quality as our Father in heaven, making us look more like His sons and daughters and less like His enemies. We tell ourselves to be different from the world and don’t drink alcohol, smoke any kind of drug, or get tattoos, but we will strongly hate and persecute our enemies (Want proof? Try looking at a short history of the relationship between Christians and Jews or a little skirmish called the Crusades. There were twelve of them.).
So, instead of being different from the world through something which Jesus explicitly commands and loving our enemies despite their persecution of us, we hate them back. We fight fire with fire. This should not be. One cannot claim to be a Christian and ignore one of the greatest qualities which affords you the title of “Child of God,” that is, the quality which allowed God to love you, His enemy, and redeem you back as His beloved child (Romans 5:6-11).
This same principle can be applied in the caring for the refugees. I have seen many who consider themselves Christians who find the refugees offensive. Instead of finding them repulsive and unworthy of our aid, could we not care for them as Jesus did for Judas during their time together? Was Judas not included in the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000? Or did Jesus decide that because Judas would be his betrayer, Judas would simply have to go hungry as punishment? No! Jesus cared for, taught, loved, and disciple Judas just as he did the other eleven. There was no malice seen towards Judas from Jesus even at the point of actual betrayal! How could we reject the refugees and claim to follow this Christ who did not turn his back on the very one who made him crucified?
2) It promotes a spirit of ignorance
This meme promotes an ideal of ignorance. It promotes not learning about the culture in which Islam developed and the texts themselves and the beliefs of different Muslim groups. While we will explain to the T about our Christian beliefs and how they might differ from the Catholic church or the Methodists or Baptists or Lutherans or Mormons, we will not expect the same difference of opinion within Islamic groups, and cluster them together in one giant group which we stamp as terrorists, fear-mongers, and war criminals. This is not helpful for a hospitable, loving, or Christian nation. How could we claim to be a Christian nation seeking religious freedom when we will not allow other religions to freely practice their religions as well? This is the greatest hypocrisy ever perpetrated by the American people I have seen. We are all religiously tolerant until we see someone who does not fit our code. Then, they have to go. Do not be ignorant. But learn about everything you possibly can so that you do not create gigantic groups for sweeping generalizations, but you learn to take things on a case-by-case basis. This is real intelligence.
3) The same ignorant things can be said about Christians and Americans alike
There is an interesting phenomenon which appears consistently in history when it comes to colonization, and the formation of religions. Many religions (especially the three Abrahamic traditions) have gone through violent phases. Christians had the Crusades and the persecution of Jews (which started around 400 AD and continued into the 1900s until the end of World War II). Judaism had the many wars, slaughters, and conflicts within the Old Testament (led by God or not, they were pretty bloody and unpleasant encounters). Whether you believe what I believe about the Old Testament (which is that God led the Jewish people to do these things for reasons we will not understand until heaven), you cannot ignore the Crusades and the fact that the Old Testament stories are filled with bloodshed and destruction of entire civilizations.
The same stupid things which we say and hear every day about Islam can also be said about Christianity and Judaism. All three have had violent pasts, and all three can be ignorant of each other and hateful towards each other until the day Jesus shows up. But this will only create more conflict, more bloodshed, and more misunderstanding and ignorance. How do you minister to a person’s needs without learning about them first? Would you offer a conservative Muslim or a Jew a pork sandwich during a crisis? Would you offer a conservative Christian a bottle of beer to take the edge off during a crisis? As long as we are ignorant of each other, we will never learn to live in the same vicinity. We will never be able to love our enemies if we don’t even know what our enemy is about. In order to serve someone, you have to know what it is you must do in order for them to feel served.
All of this has been said so that hopefully this ignorance will not appear anymore (at least on my Facebook feed). If you’ve stuck this whole post out, then thank you. If you didn’t, then you aren’t reading this, so I should not be writing to you.
Love your enemy. Love your neighbor. Be Christ-like. Follow His example. Do good.