An Open Letter to Other Christians: Let’s Show Muslims Some Love (COMMENTARY)

IMG_3025Dear fellow American Christians:

Each of us lives out our faith in a particular era, in a unique time and place. We encounter challenges which are specific to our context. Our calling as followers of Christ is to face these challenges with grace and love. We cannot avoid these confrontations; they are ours, and we must engage them. Furthermore, we must consider whether we have been placed here “for just such a time as this.”

In the year 2015 in Dallas, Texas, we find ourselves facing a challenge which I think most of us would rather not confront. In our day and time, there is significant persecution, opposition, and outright hatred, of Muslims and of the practice of Islam. This was on full display a few weeks ago in Garland, outside of a convention center where Muslims were gathering with the purpose of denouncing terrorism and hate, and instead were met with protestors demanding them to “go back home and take Obama with you.” Then again last week, on Texas Muslim Day in Austin, one angry protestor grabbed a microphone from a Muslim speaker and loudly proclaimed that “Islam will never dominate in the United States, and by the grace of God it will not dominate Texas!” Furthermore, that same day, Texas legislator Molly White instructed her aides to ask any Muslim visitors to her office to recite the pledge of allegiance before speaking with them.

Now, fellow Christians, let’s set aside the theological questions for the moment. Let’s not argue over whether Muslims are going to heaven or hell, whether Muhammad can be considered a prophet, or even the merits of Islam itself. I want us to instead focus on our own behavior, on our own treatment of the stranger.

The fact is that Muslims live in America, approximately 7 million of them, which accounts for just over 2% of the population. This is not an especially big number, as you can see. More importantly, however, these Muslims are Americans. They are citizens. They work in all the sorts of jobs that we work. They serve in the military, own small businesses, play professional sports, study in universities, and even hold political office. They are, you see, our neighbors. I don’t think I need to remind you what Jesus said about our neighbors.

The fact is that the one thing that might distinguish a Muslim from one of us is, obviously, her faith. We practice different religions. This means that we hold different conceptions about God, God’s interaction with the world, God’s revelation to humans, and the prophets or messengers chosen by God. We also may have differing views about proper behavior or lifestyle. The same is true, incidentally, for the followers of Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Wiccan, or atheism.

What is the proper way for us to interact with these practitioners of other religions? What does our religious tradition teach us to do?

Again, regardless of whether we think they are “wrong” or “right,” the fundamental baseline behavior that Jesus asks us to follow is neatly summed up in this way: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I guess that we would want the freedom to practice our religion and follow our God the way we feel called to do. I suppose that we also would not like to be criticized, yelled at, condemned, or persecuted.

Because you are my fellow Christians, I also want to propose that you consider the meaning of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:24-30. In this story, a farmer sows a field with wheat, but at night, an enemy comes and sows weeds alongside the wheat. As the plants begin to appear, it’s obvious that somebody has sabotaged the harvest. The farmer’s hired hands ask, “Should we go and pick the weeds and dispose of them?” The farmer replied, “No, because, while gathering the weeds, you might accidentally uproot some of the good wheat. Just let them both grow now until it is harvest time, and then I will have the reapers separate the weed from the wheat.”

I understand the point of this story to be very simple: it is not our place, nor is it the time, to be deciding who is in or who is out. It is not our role to judge who is right or who is wrong — that is clearly God’s task alone. Our job is not to identify the “infidels” and remove them from our sight. We’re likely to get that wrong anyway, and remove those who turn out to be God’s most faithful servants. This is a parable, primarily, about the patience and tolerance of God. We ought to be far more concerned about the question of whether our own lives are “wheat” or “weed.”

Finally, you may be concerned about the supposed link between Islam and terrorism. It is true that, at this moment in history, there are a number of terror groups that claim to be acting in the name of Islam, or in the interest of a unified Islamic state or “caliphate,” including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram. At other periods in history, terror groups were linked to Christian churches or sects, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Serbian nationalists, and the IRA (Ireland). During these times, however, people did not question Christianity as being a violent religion, in and of itself. We must not allow ourselves to do the same with Islam.

Like Christianity, Islam is not monolithic. There is not only one head of Islam, no one person or one group which speaks for all of Islam. There is no one interpretation of the Koran which everyone subscribes to.

Like Christianity, Islam contains different “denominations” or expressions of faith, including Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and Ahmadiyya, to name a few. Each of these differ in doctrine, ritual, and behavior.

As with the Bible, the Koran can be read or interpreted selectively, to seem to imply that violence against unbelievers is encouraged. Before we rush to conclusions about what Muslims believe, however, we must come to terms with the violence contained in our own scriptures. Consider, for example, the 850 prophets of Baal and Ashram slaughtered by Elijah on Mount Carmel in I Kings 18:19-40, or the Lord’s command to Saul to attack the city of Amalek, sparing nobody, but “kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Samuel 15:2-3).

If nothing else, we must remain humble about our own faith and admit that violence has been done in the name of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in the name of the Christian church.

Islam springs from the same Biblical fountain as Judaism and Christianity, and is only a few hundred years younger than Christianity. For thirteen hundred years, it has functioned as a civilizing and healing force in many countries. It has a long history of scientific, mathematic, artistic, and spiritual achievement. In every sense of the words, it has been one of the world’s great religions.

Thus, we must recognize that the terror practiced by Islamic extremist groups is an anomaly in view of this long history. And it represents only the tiniest of fractions of actual, real-life, practicing Muslims worldwide.

Muslims are human, meaning that they suffer from the same temptations, tests, trials, and tendencies as we do. One should not be surprised that a large organization made up of humans suffers from divisions, strife, jealousies, and even hatred, which hardens and sometimes manifests as splinter groups which commit acts of terror. The same happens in Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, and Hindu temples. We are all subject to human passions and fears.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please listen to me: the time has come for us to stand up as people of one faith to defend people of another faith. In our day, the demand of the gospel is that we stand in solidarity with people for their right to follow their own conscience and practice their faith in freedom. It doesn’t matter whether we believe them to be right or wrong, Muslims deserve our support, as human beings, as neighbors, and particularly as people of faith. The time may come when we will need their support. Indeed, already in other places in the world, Muslims have been standing up to defend the rights of minority Christians in such places as Egypt, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

For the sake of Jesus, who extended fellowship to a Samaritan woman (considered a heretic by fellow Jews), as well as Gentile demoniacs, Roman centurions, and traitorous tax collectors, can we please, please, stop the anti-Islam madness?

Sincerely,
Rev. Wes Magruder

 

Wes Magruder is senior pastor of Kessler Park UMC; United Methodist pastor since 1996. Former missionary to Cameroon, West Africa. Founded Daraja, a ministry to resettled refugees in Dallas. Calls himself a “shalom activist.” Blogger, writer, speaker; loves Radiohead, U2, Wilco; has a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters!

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32 Comments on "An Open Letter to Other Christians: Let’s Show Muslims Some Love (COMMENTARY)"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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George Nixon Shuler
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The same thing happened in the reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Enlightenment, the various “great Awakenings, and the fonding of Pentecostalism and fundamentalism in he late 19th and early twentieth centuries. So it goes. One pair of sociologists said religious movements are at best useful for a maximum of four generations, by which time the leaders mold it to suit their agendas.

TD
Guest

How true as liberals try to mold Christianity to fit their agendas, as liberals try to mold the United Methodist Church to fit their agendas.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Just as our nright-wing would if they had the power to do so. You miss the point – the gospels are written records of Jesus’ ministry written decades later, and Paul – well one observer of most influential leaders in history ranked him at #2, behind Mohammed and above Jesus because Christianity as practiced tends to be more correctly a Paulism than a following of Jesus’ ideals.

Wes Andrews
Guest
TD, of course the Liberal Wing of the UMC (and most other mainlines) is leading the march, because they control the power of our Educational Institutions, Agencies, the Council of Bishops and most Conference Staff. Progressive ideology is almost exclusively taught and indoctrinated. Magruder’s ideas are the norm, not so much in the local church in which there is more balance and sanity due to Biblical teaching, but in the every growing devolving delegations of those who will attend General Conference. It’s just a matter of time and I really do think that 2016 is the year. The Progressives always… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

One could just as correctly say the right-wing does those things and is “all about control.” If you don’t believe in same sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex. Problem solved.

james
Guest
Wes, the progressives have been in control of public education for more than several decades–no news to you I am sure. That all started “way back when” Weekly Reader became a staple in the classrooms of elementary kids–that is the time in education when ideas contrary to the Founding Fathers are more easily seeped into young minds. You have more confidence in the local church than I do–but–small congregations most probably are much more conservative than the larger ones. I pray that you are correct in regard to 2016. Thanks, by the way, for directing me to the Wesleyan Church… Read more »
Wes Andrews
Guest

I’m a Jesus follower and I’m against false narratives.
Wes

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

All narratives are both false and true, depending upon who tells the story. One need only look at the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke for a great example.

Paul W.
Guest

Your perceptions are correct. Wes Magruder is one of the UMC pastors who made headlines a few years back when he participated in the Ramadan fast in solidarity with his Muslim friends. If you browse his websites, you will find that he advocates inter-religious ecumenical cooperation. From his writings, it would appear that he believes there are many paths to salvation. As an example, here is a list of his top ten non-Christian saints: http://forthecommongreat.com/2013/11/an-argument-for-all-non-christian-saints-day/

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I read that and he doesn’t discuss salvation. Try again.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Or perhaps the opposite is true. Such uncharitable speculation is most unfortunate.

Ben Mitchell
Guest

Thank you for writing this story. If you find yourself trying to justify hate and fear with the bible, you have missed the point and your soul is in danger.

Kevin
Guest

You can be a peace loving individual by following the Gospel. You can be a peace loving Muslim by disobeying the Koran. Islam does not promote innovation or advancement. Only one Muslim has ever been awarded a Nobel prize in science or math. This despite the fact that Muslims make up about 17% of the world’s population.

Kevin
Guest

Islam is heavily influenced by the Whahabbists of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ruling family provides money and protection in return for which they are given claim to legitimacy. The innovative thinking of these Whahabbists led to authorization of paper money in the 1950’s, permitted women to attend school in the 1960’s although they still cannot drive, permitted television in 1965, outlawed slavery in 1962. Real outside the box advance thinking there. Like I said before I am struggling to think of any significant Muslim contributions within recent history, say within the past 500 years.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
By this measure, SubSaharan African civilizations and First Nations societies in the Americans were equally unenlightened and the disdain Western imperialists felt for them was reflected in their atrocities toward them. The bulk of Islamic civilizations escaped much of this until Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt and the dismantling of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Saudi Arabia was an isolated desert kingdom with undefined borders until oil developers found there was money to be made there. Yet some Arab scientists and Mathematicians were innovative while Europe was under the thrall of the papacy and their enlightenment preceded ours, as… Read more »
Richard Hicks
Guest
There are two “Mohameds” in my life. As a money manager I pay attention to the wisdom of Mohamed El Arian who is one of the few sane voice in financial media. The other is my glaucoma doc Mahmoud Khaimi. The doc could blind me in at least one eye in my every four month office visit. I have no fear of either man. Neither has lived a life of violence. I do fear those who are publicly out to harm others and me. Those women and men need to be stopped by any means necessary. Whom the violent ones… Read more »
Cully
Guest
one reads the article and wonders if the Triune God would really like for His children to sit down and do nothing and expose their very soft under-belly to those who are radical. one reads the Holy Writ and discovers that Father/Son/Holy Spirit drove the infractors of the Law with a whip out of His Temple. one must imagine that the Words Father/Son/Holy Spirit used during this action were less than soft and gentle. one believes that gentle words most often will defray and bring about a quiet-peaceful-gratifying conclusion to any tense situation. one knows–however–that fighting for what one believes… Read more »
Paul W.
Guest
Also, I have to correct the author’s somewhat flawed understanding of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. It doesn’t matter what the author thinks it means, Christ provided the interpretation Himself several verses later in : ‘Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares… Read more »
Wes Andrews
Guest

This is just the same tired, old progressive rhetoric. “If you don’t agree with us you are “phobic.” If you don’t agree with us you are a hate monger. If you don’t agree with us you should be silenced and ridiculed.”

Not all Germans were Nazis, but the Nazis should have been defeated before they murdered millions. Not all muslims are terrorists, but some of them are and they should be defeated and destroyed, before they continue to murder innocents. That is NOT fear, that is a desire to protect.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Wes’s second paragraph is without a flaw, and a cogent argument for the course of western foreign policy with which I agree. With our technology, Navy Seal raids upon the ISIS clubhouse are an insufficient tactical response. Massive air strikes are certainly justified. At the same time, we should recognize Palestine as a full nation and geld the corrupt Likud regime in our erstwhile ally Israel.

Paul W.
Guest
Who is this opinion piece aimed at? There is nothing new here and it repeats the same tired (and false) left-wing misrepresentations about Islam not requiring jihad. The basic fact is: Read the Koran for yourself, then try to tell us how you came away with the “interpretation” that jihad is not a requirement, Also, the picture associated with the article automatically turns off anyone who already doesn’t agree with the author of this article. “Islamophobia” is a FAKE made-up agitprop word that anyone looking for truth should avoid at all costs: Phobia means “irrational fear”, so fake words based… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

It’s not the view, it’s the actions. They are real. If calling bad behavior for what it is “shuts down debate,” then it deserves to be shut down, because there is no excuse for many well-documented reprehensible acts.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
My dear friend Russ addresses me “George you are so correct” but his comments which follow appear to be quite non-revealatory about what he thinks I am correct about. He then says “. Since Obama finds himself governing a bunch of people who are NOT exceptional, what can you expect.” I have no idea what that means. I suppose it is an allusion to the President’s characterization of the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” which one finds often in christofascistic rhetoric that he believes in it in the same sense the British and Greeks believe in it for them. Of course,… Read more »
Mark
Guest
As with so many self-styled enlightened commentators on this issue, Margruder is guilty of contructing false equivalences. No one endorses the rude behavior in the incidents he cites, but implying that that is any way equivalent to the persecution that Christians face today (news flash: the Crusades are over) at the hands of Muslims is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. And I don’t think Magruder is an expert in Koranic interpretation, to include Sharia law, so he can spare us the nonsense about there being equivalence between the Christian Bible and the Koran in terms of advocating violence. He seems… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

Well said. I am trying to remember some Muslim contributions to math and science and can’t come up with any. Within the past 400 years or so. Someone help me out.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

You realize your post there contained an Arabic numeral, right?

Mohamed
Guest

Thanks Kevin , here you go a list of muslims scientists
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim_scientists

George Williamson
Guest

The Wikipedia article you are referencing contains the message “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.” Not a strong source.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Actually, there is evidence some certainly do endorse the so called “rude instances” however much you wish to minimize it. Molly White, for instance, is an elected official, whose reprehensible behavior certainly meets the approval of her constituency. Many instances of islamophobic behavior have been documented. I know of one town where a white competitor of an Islamic family’s convenience store spread the vicious false rumor they endorsed the 9-11 attacks. Other instances have been documented, including of Islamic female store clerks having their hijabs ripped off by hostile customers. These show a pattern of despicable behavior by so-called “Christians”… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Right. Islamic clerks having their headgear pulled off by hostile customers. Just like what happens to Christians in some Muslim areas, but with one exception: their heads are still in their hats.

George Williamson
Guest

Mark: “Islamic clerks having their headgear pulled off by hostile customers. Just like what happens to Christians in some Muslim areas, but with one exception: their (I assume “their” is referring to Muslims) heads are still in their hats”. A very important point!

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
This is arguing in bad faith. To ISIS, reporters and military of other countries like the Jordanian pilot they killed are the enemy in a serious war. Islamic-American storekeepers are not the enemy, unless in rare cases it’s proven they are. Interestingly, there’s a lawsuit in progress against the Saudi Royal Family by a group of families of victims of 9-11 which recently released evidence of some Saudi royals funding Al Queda. One of the funders mentioned in news reports was Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. at the time of 9-11, was was considered such a close… Read more »
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