Last week the Western world was rocked by a devastating, well-coordinated terror attack in Paris. Though the death toll continues to grow, more than 130 people died and hundreds more were injured and threatened. The world has cried out in support of the French people, those killed, and the heroes who gave their lives to stop the attacks from spreading.
I am pleased by how much we care. But my pleasure is surpassed by my anger. For every social media post responding to the attacks I agree with, there are three I despise.
Yes, these were terrible attacks, but major terror events occur all the time and are totally ignored. Did you hear about the bombings in Beirut? What about this shooting of 147 in Kenya? Maybe, but I know you didn’t change your Facebook profile picture in support. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, we only really care here in the US when the victims are light skinned and Judeo-Christian.
And the attackers are Muslim extremists.
Now, I don’t want to accuse the right-wing of being Islamophobic and un-Christlike.
But I have to.
If you sort through all the rhetoric and illogical posturing, the general response to these events is this: Muslims cannot be trusted. Spin it how you want, this is what the ‘Christian’ right is saying by attempting to block Syrian refugees from entering the US (and, by the way, all but one suspect from the bombings so far were French citizens, and the only one who was not French is still unidentified. Connecting the attack to Syrian refugees is entirely fear based and fabricated.).
Blaming a vaguely connected people group in the midst of great suffering for the actions of a fringe minority is both immoral and senseless. This is the equivalent of keeping Jews fleeing the Holocaust out of your country because they could potentially be a threat. Oh and by the way, the US actually did that.
Refusing refugees is refusing to take in Jesus when he is needy, hungry, and without a home.
Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t matter how many times I say ISIS isn’t really a true representation of Islam, and it doesn’t matter how many times I repeat that not accepting Syrians in need is the exact opposite of what Jesus would do. I doesn’t matter unless I ‘prove it’ to you.
So, does Islam promote violence? Let’s take a quick look.
Before you read my feeble arguments, watch this video if you haven’t seen it before. Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and political migrant from Iran far more qualified than I am, defends his religion quite eloquently and easily proves Islam is not a violent religion. In summary, he claims that Americans are constantly looking for problems to blame on Islam, when in reality we need to look at regional and cultural issues and not blame them on religion.
I agree. But I also think we can take this train of thought a step further.
Among every people group, ethnicity, and religion, there are splinter groups that want to use violence to get power. It is clear that violence is a human problem, not an Islamic problem. We should not blame a human problem on a religion that has over a billion peaceful followers in addition to a handful of violent ones. In fact, much of the Islamic world has decried ISIS as an embarrassment to their religion and prayed and push for peace. If you are curious about what the Koran actually has to say on the subject of war and violence, here is an Islamic defence of a peaceable lifestyle. If that doesn’t convince you they are not all out to kill you in your sleep, then I suggest you sit down and talk to one of the nearly three million American Muslims that are clearly not trying to kill you.
In addition to the sheer incorrectness of calling Islam violent, by giving in to fear we are buying into the terror that terrorists are trying so hard to spread. If we remain calm, look around, and think logically and unbiasedly, how can we possibly say Islam promotes violence if we are not willing to say that Christianity promotes violence? We have killed far more Muslims than Muslims have killed Christians–just think about the Crusades, the Gulf War(s), and the Colonial Era for starters.
It is with a heavy heart that we must then say that the American Church has gotten it wrong.
Now, maybe I am painting Christians with just as broad of a brush as the US is painting Islam. Many would say I am not representing Christianity fairly. Let’s take a look, then: What are Christians supposed to believe about foreigners and violence? What makes us different from the rest of society?
Ultimately, our uniqueness lies in our belief in Jesus. He told us to not be afraid no matter the circumstances. He told us to bless them that curse us. He told us to forgive everyone over and over no matter how many times they’ve wronged us. He told us to welcome the stranger at any cost.
This is the Jesus I believe in.
As Jesus followers, we are called to love our enemies, not just ‘pray’ for them. As Jesus followers, we are called to feed the hungry, not just tell them to get jobs. As Jesus followers we are called to put ourselves in danger and die, labeled as cowards and outcasts, in order to give others the chance to live.
And if you disagree, read your bible. If you can’t accept, that’s a different issue.
Really, authentic Christianity is one of the most difficult lifestyles there is to live. It’s hard to actually follow the teachings of a homeless socialist Rabbi who lived 2000 years ago. And if you are not willing to take the life-shattering steps he wants you to, I do not fault you at all.
But if you are going to be afraid and embrace your fear, if you are going to hate other people groups and religions, and if you are going to hold money as more important than people, then stop doing it in the name of my Jesus. Stop doing it in the name of someone whose teachings you do not believe in.
Frankly, I’m just as disappointed in my Christian brothers and sisters as my Syrian brothers and sisters are in the members of ISIS. Both are tarnishing the religion they claim to be perfecting. The world needs authentic faith and authentic followers from across the board. Muslims who have a complete faith will not take up the spear against fellow humans, and Christians who have a holistic view of Jesus will likewise refuse.
So. Back to Paris. What is the gut response? Be afraid. But what is the Christlike response? Love everyone, especially the foreigner who needs a home.
This week, while you are praying for Paris, pray for the rest of France. And Beirut. And ISIS. And your Christian brothers and sisters. And the Syrian refugees who are being turned away due to our own cowardice.
Maybe, just pray for humanity. We need all the help we can get.
Caleb Schrock-Hurst is a Sophomore at Hesston College where he works as a Writing Assistant, Ministry Assistant, and Horizon contributor. He would like to study everything, but when forced to choose selected English, History, and Music. Outside of academics his main interests are tennis, Bernie Sanders’ political campaign, the global church, and Arsenal Football Club. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com or find him on campus if you wish to exchange verbal or physical blows. (Editor’s note: Caleb Schrock-Hurst’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Horizon staff or Hesston College.)