Christians Standing With Muslims

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    It was a Sunday afternoon on February 19, 20017, and I had the opportunity to stand with Muslims and non-Muslims in Times Square at a rally for religious freedom, equality f purpose of  speaking against the poison of Islamophobia. This rally was not an Islamic agenda being pushed, but simply a cry for acceptance and refuge of a particular people group. Ever since I went to this rally, I have had several calls and comments from Christian friends asking “How can I be a Christian and stand for Islam?” My simple reply is “ I don’t stand for Islam. I stand for people. I stand with Muslims.”
     I think it is important to know the difference between standing with Muslims and standing for Islam. Because of the many comments and push-backs, I felt it was appropriate to explain myself in a more thorough way. 

     As a Christian, I stand for and with all people. As a Christian, I do not follow all religions. I follow Christianity and I stand for the teachings of Jesus. However, I do not follow every Christian's perspective on God and I do not follow every theology in Christianity (as there are many). I stand for the equality of the human race. I stand for the refuge of those seeking safety. I stand for religious freedom in America and the right for people worship or not to worship. 

     Now, I don’t try to pretend that I know everything there is to know about everything, but I think our values for human life are starting to become thinner and thinner. I don’t understand all of the complexities about policy and immigration (I understand these systems are important), but I am simply discussing the value of life and the way we treat people, especially how Christians treat others of a different faith. 

     It is true that there are violent teachings in the Qur'an. However, most American Muslims (Americans who are Muslim or Muslims who moved to America) and even Muslims as a whole reject these violent teachings. Kind of like how us Christians don't agree with the destruction of cities and the killing of people groups found in our very own sacred text. There are even divides in the Muslim faith just like there are divides in the Christian faith. There are also radical Muslims and radical Christians.  

     According to Pew Research, there are around 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, which is about 23% of the world’s population, and about 1% of them are actually in America. Research continues to show that most Muslims are against ISIS and the violent teachings of the Qur'an (more information here). This is deeply connected to why Muslims are fleeing their countries.

     Many Muslims around the world, including those coming to America, are seeking peace, stability, and to be understood. As a Christian, I do not follow the religion of Islam. However, I do agree with allowing Muslims to live in our country and to worship Allah freely. I believe in standing up for the equality of other religious beliefs, because as a Christian I want my beliefs protected as well. America was discovered by people seeking religious freedom and trying to escape persecution. So, I believe America can be a great opportunity for Muslims to have liberation and even change the stigma that comes with their name. 

     Now, I know many Christians might say, “Muslims don’t need the 'right' to worship Allah, they need Jesus.” 

     As a follower of Jesus, I think it is great when a Muslim decides to become a Christian. In America, they have the space to make this decision freely. However, if they do not choose this path they are still children of God and made in THE image (Genesis 1:26). God’s image is not solely white and evangelical. God is every color, gender, and ethnicity.

     Opening our gates is biblical and Christlike. We should be willing to care for the life of a Muslim even if they never choose to become a Christian. Showing them Christ is to love them and embrace them anyway. Showing them Christ is keeping a seat open for them at the table. For Christians to make a difference in the world, this is a step in the right direction. 

      Outside of religion, most humans can find common ground on many things. Humans need food and water. Humans desire safety. Humans are all trying to survive on this planet (some greater than others). As a Christian and a human, I can find common ground with a Muslim because they are my family. I am my brother and my brother is me. I am my sister and my sister is me. Every human being is a relative. We are all family. We are all shades of color with different eyes. Now don’t be mad at me for quoting this, but the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of another country, we have to become one with him. To do so is dangerous–we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don’t do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides…” I am sure many of you are skeptical of me as you read this post now, but I truly believe in this.  

      To follow my own Christian values, it is clear to me when Leviticus 19:33-34 says, "When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” 

      I also love Deuteronomy 10:18-19 when it says, "who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

     "Do to others as you would have them to do you." quotes Jesus. 

      I believe there should be no sides when it comes to taking care of one another. We are either for all people or not. As a Christian standing with Muslims, I would love for them to know my God, but I cannot force them to believe or impose my doctrine on them. They simply want me to know their God. And I believe in a God who does not force His devotion on His children. As a Christian, I know my first step must be to love others, welcome them, and maybe just that alone. Author and theologian Henri Nouwen writes, “Just as we cannot force a plant to grow but can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development, so we cannot force anyone to such a personal and intimate change of heart, but we can offer the space where such a change can take place.” By standing with Muslims, we are creating a space for them to be, to live, or to even possibly change. 

      This is not some liberal ideology. I like to see myself somewhere in the middle trying to get radical lefts and radical rights to find common ground and learn to love each other. I have said this before, but everyone is fighting for equality but will refuse to sit at the table with Muslims, or conservatives, or liberals, or someone who is gay, or someone who is very very different from them. 

     Standing with Muslims is not standing for Islam. Muslims are not terrorists. There are terrorists that are Muslim. There are terrorists that are Christian. We often label Christian terrorists as psychologically unstable instead of calling them terrorists, because for some reason that name has been reserved for Muslims. This is just wrong. During times like this, I can’t help but always remember Jesus’ teaching on the Good Samaritan. Please take some time and meditate on this Holy Text (Luke 10:25-37). 

     Jesus calls for the reconciliation of all people. Reconciliation is a daily process, not just a one time event. As Christians we need to be proactive in knocking down the walls we have built between us and the rest of the world.  

    Jesus told us to love our neighbor. Our neighbor is everyone. Our neighbors are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, liberals, conservatives, African Americans, Trump, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, poor, homeless, homosexuals, queer, lesbians, transgender people, handicap, the mentally ill, and everyone else I did not mention.  

    I follow Jesus Christ. I stand for equality and religious freedom in America. I stand with all people. 

    I am a Christian and I stand with Muslims.

Will Retherford