Let’s Face It. We Are All Afraid.

Victor Chininin Buele

Let’s face it.  We are all afraid.
To different degrees.  In different ways.  About different things.
Will we be forever afraid?  Will we let people profit from our fears–economically or politically?

The honorable senator from Vermont and hero of many in our United States just subjected a nominee to a deputy government office to a religious test.  And I feel the weight of what just happened.  And I believe that the reaction that is expected of someone like me is absolute silence.  Either that or conversion.

It can cost too much–trashing my reputation, the loss of employment, unnecessary disagreements, misunderstandings, hurt feelings.

But I fear this one the most: That people won’t actually think about what just happened because emotions and overgeneralizations satisfy our pre-existing bias.  Please don’t stop reading.  You can call me whatever name you want by the end of this article.  I welcome that.  But our love for our neighbors demands that we be serious about this.  I am your neighbor.  I may be your friend.  And I write because I love you.

Silence does two things: (1) silence concedes the point, i.e., that religious tests are valid, and (2) that a Christian can’t and shouldn’t share the good news of Jesus’s gospel, something that is to be heralded — the best news we can give anyone.  News requires an open mouth.  Not a closed one.

Let’s clear the cloud before we begin.  This whole idea of the president’s travel ban has most of us in this country concerned.  These executive orders can certainly be interpreted as a ban that excludes people who are Muslims in a disproportionate way to others.  I can’t obviously comment on whether that is the intent of it or not, since my name is not Donald J. Trump, but we wouldn’t be talking about that if it didn’t quack like a duck.  The argument made in the public square and in the courts has been a simple one–no person should be subjected to a religious test to enter these United States.

Exactly.  And I affirm that.

Stepping into somebody else’s world always demands at minimum a momentary suspension of belief in our ruling assumptions.  I know it’s scary.  And we can’t always do it wholeheartedly.  It’s scary to go down the thinking path of people you disagree with. It’s a running joke that people may not really be able to tell what I believe in by looking at my library because there are just as many works on what I believe as on what I don’t believe.  It is just good epistemology to know both sides of a story.  It is good reasoning not to fight only with straw opponents but to truly get to know your neighbor and their thinking.  It’s all part of that Golden Rule that people like to quote, secularist or not.

The nominee had written something that the distinguished senator did not like.  That should be totally fine.  This country affords its citizens free speech.

It is also perfectly fine for the senator to disagree with that statement.  The senator has the right to think his own mind.

Tolerance means they both get to sit in the same room in Congress.  Both of them get to serve the people of these United States.  One asking questions and the other trying to answer them.  That’s a beautiful thing.  I love that about our country.  Don’t you?

But that’s where the wheels came off the bus.  It seemed like the only valid answer that the senator would accept is, “I don’t know what I was thinking, senator, I must have been insane.  I recant that statement.  Nobody stands condemned.  Ever.  Anywhere.  Let’s scrap the word condemnation from the dictionary.”  Perhaps that’s too much. But you get the point.

Here is the thing.  I believe what this man believes.

And I love Muslims.  A LOT.  Words fail me to describe the depth of my affections to you.

It is certainly possible, regardless of what you may have been told, to love a Muslim and to believe that their theology is deficient.  To love a Muslim and agonize with every fiber of your being for them to come to know Jesus and finally know love and peace.  Forever.  Joy everlasting.

And let’s face it.  You may believe my theology is deficient.  The senator most definitely believes my theology is deficient.

God has made my life cross paths with a very lovable Muslim.  He is so intelligent and creative, brilliant, hard-working, lovable and loving, generous and compassionate, the kind of guy you would want to be your next door neighbor.  When he was in the hospital, people traveled from afar and many, many people stormed that hospital with manifestations of affection and care.  When I come visit, he overflows the table with abundant generosity of delicious foods.  He loves my children.  My children love him and really enjoy when he plays with them and holds them.  No matter how fast I think I am in order to pay the check for our food, it is always paid for by the time I get to it.  I love this man.  My family loves this man.  We earnestly desire God’s best for him.  I love that he is a man of conviction, even though I disagree with the contents of such a conviction.  He is a man that stands for something.  I not only respect that but thank God every day for making our paths cross.  This is NOT Islamophobia.

The fact that I need to justify myself should speak volumes of the horrible cultural climate we have all created today.

I was highly amazed by the degree of respect and composure and submission shown by the nominee when facing the senator’s questions.  His last attempt to answer the question went like this, “Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals.”  He was not allowed to finish.  I think he was trying to make the following argument before he was interrupted:

All individuals are made in the image of God
As bearers of the image of God, ALL people are worthy of dignity and respect
REGARDLESS of whether you are a secularist, a Muslim, a Christian
Christians love and respect ALL individuals regardless of their beliefs
Yet, Christians agonize for their neighbors who don’t believe in Jesus

Because if we are right, our neighbors are perishing.  Every day closer and closer to eternal condemnation.

You may not like that, but we would do anything to keep you from facing that future. Love demands we do the most loving thing for you.  To share with you the gift of eternal joy.

Even the notable atheist and gifted man Penn Jillette says, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” as he refuses to hear this himself.  But he acknowledges that for a Christian not to share the message is inconsistent with the storyline of Christianity.

Christianity is exclusive.  There is only one way to God through Jesus Christ.  Period.

So is Islam.  There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is God’s prophet.

So is Secularism.  If you don’t think the way the senator likes, then in the words of the respectable senator, you are not respectful of others, or worse, you are “really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

Those are all exclusive beliefs.  

But only one thing can break the barrier–true love.

Christianity is all about love.  You may have been told otherwise by proponents of modern-day ideologies.  God is a Trinitarian being–in perfect community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from before all time until now and on to eternity.  A perfect fellowship of loving beings who are Love that overflows in the creation of all things.

The Christian, as I have argued in other places, will always, as an overflow of this Trinitarian love, both welcome the Muslim neighbor and be called to go to the Muslim world.  We do have the only news that will bring everlasting joy to them after all.  And this is a scary thing to do.  But it is done out of love.  A Christian does not fear a Muslim.

America is all supposed to be about tolerance and respect.  Neighbors living together for the common good.  Not shoving their beliefs down each other’s throats.  A Christian can’t convert anyone.  We don’t seek the “Godification” of the U.S. legal code.  We can’t make anyone listen. Christianity is not arrogant.  But it is exclusive.  And that is not a contradiction.

You think I’m wrong.  Great! Let’s talk about it.
I think you are wrong.  Let me grill you a steak.  We don’t even have to talk about it.
When somebody you love dies, I will be by your side.
When somebody uses a vehicle to run over our neighbors going to work, I will stand by your side.
As you face the consequences of your actions, I will bring you encouragement.
As you see me lose my livelihood for standing up for others, I pray you are there with me.
As others try to force me to believe in things I don’t, I pray you speak up for me.
As I stand for the life of the unborn, even if you hate what I do, I pray you understand my love for those children and their mothers.

We are all worshipers: the senator, the nominee, my Muslim friend, and I.

We all live in these United States of America.

I shouldn’t be afraid to be a Christian.
You shouldn’t be afraid to be a Muslim.
You shouldn’t be afraid of being a secularist.

Nobody should be afraid of punishment, violence, or retaliation in these United States for being a Christian, a Muslim, or a secularist.

We are all worshipers.  And since we worship contradicting gods, we must all be intellectually honest and sincere in understanding that disagreement will exist. Disagreement is not, however, an excuse for punishing others, being violent towards them, or for being disrespectful to others.  We are not God.  And the federal government is not God either.

Please stop believing the lie that I hate you, that I’m afraid of you, and that I don’t have the right to share good news with you.  You don’t have to hear.  You may even tell me not to speak to you.  That’s all good.  We are free.

People have died for us to be free.  We must be free to persuade others.  Or not.  We must be free to have our beliefs challenged.  Constructive criticism demands this high form of respect that has always been a part of America.

Let’s not throw it all in the trash requiring Muslims to jump through a religious test to come into this country and asking Christians to recant their faith to be appointed to a sub-cabinet position in our beloved capital.

“With liberty and justice for all.”  So help us, God.

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