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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Long? The Choice Conservative Christians Must Make.

In the Hebrew Scriptures is a concept known as "strengthening the hands of the wicked."

The idea is that our actions, wicked themselves, serve to embolden and empower others who are wicked.

Six men are dead in Quebec City, Quebec and while you nor I pulled the trigger, I feel some of us may have strengthened the hands of the man who did, holding them steady as he aimed his weapon at the backs of a crowd of men gathered to pray.

Since 2001 and the September terrorist attacks, the conversation about Islam among political conservatives has been dominated by negativity, if not prejudice.

Taking real concerns posed by aggressive forms of Islam and projecting them upon innocent Islāmic Americans who simply wish to live their lives has created a power keg of tension to the extent that when the word "Islam" is uttered, some people automatically hear "terrorism" and act accordingly.

Take, for example, the enduring lie that our President is secretly Muslim, a lie used to explain his supposed softness on terrorism.

Or take the spectacular opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque", in reality an Islāmic Cultural center blocks away from site of the fallen Twin Towers, a twisted irony from folks priding themselves on "religious freedom."

And, most recently, President Trump, who as a candidate for president vowed to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States “until we can figure out what’s going on”, whatever that meant.

No matter whether he would fulfill that promise (he did not), by making it in the first place, he did that much more to brand Muslims and Islam as enemies of the United States and to stoke the hornet’s nest of prejudice in the US and in the Middle East.

I understand this latest attack did not take place by an American on American soil.

Indeed, Canada, while also a relatively diverse country, leans more to the left than this nation.

Yet, this brand of bigotry has no borders and early reporting is already drawing the connections between the murderous gunman, right-wing politics, and president Trump.

So what’s my point?

I have no dog in the political fight.

In fact, every time I open my Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube accounts, the seething hatred in my heart for the entire rancid political system in this country and abroad only intensifies.

I don’t care what Republican Party or conservatives do with one important caveat: to the extent that Christians, followers of Christ, have made themselves participants in their dangerous foolishness, they have betrayed Christ.

People like Franklin Graham who proclaimed that "Islam has declared war on the world, and it's high time we acknowledge it and respond decisively."

Or Christian apologist Robert Morey suggested we could end terrorism by nuking the Kaaba.

Even more common are the unsubstantiated reports from "Christian" news sites of horrible things Muslims have supposedly done. 

Jesus refused to slander his accusers or bring a charge against them as they hurled lies at him, spit on him, beat him, mocked him, tortured him, and finally nailed him to a cross and watched him die.

And yet some Christians cannot afford to trouble themselves to even get to know the very people they are sure want to harm them.

Everyone not blinded by their own ideology understands that inside Islam exists violent factions and that even among moderate Muslims are religious doctrines and political opinions that do not cohere with what we have come to appreciate as Western values.

These are honest and legitimate conversations we can have.

But the shameless fear mongering, sharing of misinformation about the Islāmic religion, name-calling, and general lack of charity is simply unacceptable.

I say this not sitting in some ivory tower in Boston or San Diego; I have lived my life in the Midwest.

I am intimately acquainted with the convergence of Christianity and conservatism, from within and without, both in its best and worst forms.

This is not a pot-shot from the outside.

Conservatism seems to have hitched its wagon to the horses of populism and nativist nationalism and it is time for Christians to come out and be separate.

Indeed, what we are seeing is simply the fruit of politics: hateful division.

Politics forces us to take sides, create enemies, and consolidate power.

It can accomplish good, often in spite of itself, but it is inherently contradictory to the standards of God’s Kingdom built on service, patience, charity, and truth.

Understanding this, here is my plea: stop dragging the name of Christ through the mud by linking arms with those who do not care about Christ’s life and teachings.

And if a plea will not work, here is my warning: to the extent that you bear false witness against your neighbor, spread hate and fear, refuse to submit to Jesus’ Kingdom authority, and continue to strengthen the hands of the wicked, know your actions will not escape the eyes of God.

Care enough about your neighbor to care less about your politics and perhaps we can truly witness for Christ.

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