This morning I met with an old friend, the one I mentioned a couple of days ago in Practicing the Preaching, to talk more about what my posture is towards Muslims in our communities, the work that I do with CP, and why I believe and act the way that I do. After a couple of hours, we decided we had talked enough and headed out into the bitter cold to part ways. In what has now become a theme for the month of February, I turned the key and nothing happened. My car was dead, and at this point my friend had already pulled away. Since I knew he was heading for an appointment, I decided to just go back inside and seek assistance (sound familiar?).
A man with a badge and a computer was sitting in the shop doing work, so I approached him in hopes that his badge would force him to obey his civic duty and help me. I said, “Excuse me, I am so sorry to interrupt you, but my car is dead. I think you’re parked next to me, could you help me out?” He barked back at me, “Only if you have cables.” I said that I did, but I noticed that this man was clearly agitated about something and not too keen on helping me. I didn’t question it, but simply told him that I wasn’t in a rush so he could take his time. He responded by saying he didn’t have the time to waste, and asked the shopkeeper to watch his computer for a second.
When we got outside, he told me he overheard my conversation with my friend. He said, “You weren’t talking kindly about Islam in there were you?” I said that I was, and he said that he wouldn’t help me in that case since Islam is an evil religion and what those people are doing is nothing but evil, and no one should ever defend them. Despite telling me that he wouldn’t help me, he proceeded to start working on getting his car’s hood open in order to jump my battery. He kept ranting angrily about how his Grandfather died in WWII fighting the Nazis and that the Muslims are no different than the Nazis. He told me that he was in the military before and the things he saw left him no reason to have compassion on those people. He even told me he was attacked by six Muslims while trying to get on a bus in Minneapolis last year.
On and on and on.
I interrupted him only to tell him that the cables weren’t long enough, and asked if he would be willing to pull his car closer to mine, understanding that, at this point, he saw no reason to help me. But he did anyway. He kept ranting on Muslims the whole time, and I just kept listening, wondering if it was worth saying anything at all, knowing that I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to be a true friend to my Muslim friends.
He told me that, in all honesty, he is fearful of Islam. “Do you know what fear causes?” he asked. I said, “Hatred”. He agreed. I said that hatred doesn’t solve any of the world’s problems. He said that he hasn’t been given any reason not to hate Muslims.
He continued, talking about birth rates and why we should all be afraid of Muslims taking over the majority in our country. He told me that he is a Christian, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t see a reason why Muslims should be treated kindly or lovingly. He told me about four Muslim men that he had eaten with and worked with in Chicago, who celebrated the 9/11 attack, and one who said, “Now you Americans can understand what Muslims are talking about”. He told me he punched him square in the face, and that all four had returned to ‘the mother-land’ to fight a few weeks later.
I interjected that I understood where he is coming from, and that I don’t share the same life experiences that he does. I then said that I have been given no option other than to love Muslims because I am supposed to love my neighbors, strangers, and enemies, and to hope that through that love the world will be transformed. I told him how important it is for us to have actual friends that are Muslims so that we can put a face on Islam, instead of demonizing a whole group of people. He admitted again to his fear and hatred, that hatred will not solve anything, and that he doesn’t believe love will either.
He asked me if his life is being threatened, if he is on his knees, if he should pull out his cross necklace and declare to his potential killers that he loves them in the name of Christ and expect that it will save his life. I told him that I don’t think that love is intended to be a literal defense strategy, but a way of life. We shook hands and he told me he would buy me lunch in a year if my love strategy turns out to be working.
The irony in all of this, to me, is that Chet hated me for loving Muslims, but still chose to help me. Why could he not do the same for Muslims?
I’m more convinced than ever, after talking (mostly listening) to Chet, that love is the only option we have as followers of Jesus. Not only enemy love, but neighborly love that is willing to call out anti-Christ behaviors and attitudes in our fellow Christians. This is the only hope in the world.