As a child, stories of the Holocaust, slavery and lynchings, stories of the genocide of Native Americans saddened and perplexed me. I felt deeply the wrongness of treating human beings in these ways. At the same time, I couldn’t understand how it could happen. My juvenile brain cried out, “Why didn’t someone stop them?”
As I grew older, my horror of such cruel hatred turned inward somewhat. I began to contemplate what I would have done if I had grown up as a Gentile, German male in the early 20th century, or a white male in the South in the 19th century, or a white male, European immigrant to North America in the 18th century. Of course, my knee-jerk reaction was always that I would have been one of the heroes who stood up and fought against evil and fought for those who were being unjustly murdered. But, in all honesty, I also feared that I would have merely gone along with the crowd.
Well, for any of us who have ever troubled over where we would have stood in such horrific situations we now, sadly, are being presented with the circumstances in which to find out. As Rachel Held Evans, in her insightfully prophetic way has pointed out in two recent Facebook posts (Sunday, Dec. 6 & Monday, Dec. 7), the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Donald Trump, Jerry Falwell Jr., and numerous others, is exactly the type of de-humanizing fear-mongering that prepares the way for genocide. As a society, we have still not even faced up to the horrors we have already committed against Native-Americans and African-Americans; for the love of God, let us at least stand up to those who would perpetuate the same gross destruction of human lives on an entirely new people group. Now is the time for those of us who see the prejudice, ignorance, fear and evil for what it is to challenge every wrongful act of word and deed we witness.
As a follower of Christ, I most specifically cannot abide the grotesque distortion of discipleship to Jesus that was recently vomited from the mouth of Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the misnamed “Liberty” University. Representing the leadership of a school that claims to represent the teachings of Jesus Christ, Falwell proclaimed to the entire student body, as reported by the Washington Post:
I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,’ he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, ‘and killed them.’
‘I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,’ he said. ‘Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.’
There is absolutely no way at all to claim that such malicious, hateful language in any way represents Jesus Christ or the rightful beliefs of someone trying to follow the way of Christ. It is impossible to reconcile with any integrity at all the words of Falwell with the words of Jesus himself:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
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, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’ (as recorded by Matthew, Ch.5:38-39, 43-45)
Or how about the following:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ (as recorded by Luke, Ch.10:25-29)
If this conversation took place in the U.S. today, I believe that for far too many people the question would be, “Who is it okay to shoot?” Jesus sees the attempt by the man to disqualify some people from being considered “neighbors.” So Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, which in our current circumstances could easily be retitled, the Good Muslim. By the end of the story, Jesus has essentially condemned the whole concept of trying to discriminate who is a neighbor and, instead, has made the point that the right thing to do is care for anyone we can.
I am quite aware that Facebook posts and internet blogs generally have very little impact on changing the behavior or thoughts of those who disagree with the premise in the first place. Still, it is at least one way to proclaim your beliefs. And I will not stand by and allow the lies, misrepresentations and hate-filled, violent rhetoric I am hearing and reading in this country go unchallenged. Genocide can happen again. In our country. In our time. Now is the time to stand up for what is right and true.