Dear friends at the Al-Farooq Islamic Center,
I’m sorry that I’ve been slow in responding to the recent destructive spewing of hate at your building this week, but my family is struggling the the impending death of a loved one and finding time to write has been hard. And yet, as a person who proclaims to be a follower of Jesus, AND as one who serves in leadership at a local Christian congregation, it is important that I respond to this act which is seemingly the act of others who misuse the symbols of our faith for their own ends.
Your attack follows on a pair of inflammatory stories on a local television station which use a propaganda video by a supposed Christian group as the basis for proclaiming an sleepy Islamic community in Stewart County as a terrorist training camp. While the reporters of these stories would suggest that they attempted balance, that they are only reporting the accusations of others, and that their story ultimately suggests that the accusations are false, all of the advertising and packaging of these stories serve to suggest that the accusations were valid and deserving of serious consideration. These stories only inflamed the hate of those in our community who have no little respect for others, who who allow hate to rule their lives. Unfortunately for those of us in the Christian community, a prominent Christian pastor gave these accusations credence, and portrayed all Christians as enemies of Islam.
There is no doubt that we differ in our belief about God’s revelation to the world, lifting up different holy books, and utilizing different sources for our traditions. But you are not my enemy, and will never be so for you are created in the image of God just as I am. In fact, if we go back to the earliest roots of our respective faith understandings, we are kin — wacky cousins who have different ways of understanding the world, but who are connected by our great grandpappy Abraham — and isn’t blood thicker than about anything else?
I wish I could explain the hatred of those who chose to express their fear through spray paint this week, as well as those who prey on the fears of others through all sorts of means (including videos). Many of these proclaim Christ as their savior, but seem to ignore Christ’s commands to love our neighbors, and the belief that love and fear are not compatible. These are self-proclaimed “people of the book,” but far too often they mold that book to support triumphalism and misuse the words to support acts of hate. Frankly, they aren’t that different from those in your tradition who do similar things. Our task, together, is to stand in the face of that hatred to proclaim that love and peace are the ways of God.
What I can say without hesitation is that many in the Christian tradition are deeply grieved by these acts, and stand with you, doing what we can do say that these actions aren’t consistent with what we understand Jesus to be about. I have traded e-mails with pastors down here in South Nashville who are horrified by what has happened, and who want you to know that we reject any who would suggest that you are not valuable members of our community.
The good news in our tradition is that God often brings good out of tragedy, that God redeems that which is broken. My hope and prayer is that this recent spewing of hate will lead to a new life together in which we are able to treat one another with mutual respect, and where you are able to proclaim without hesitation that Nashville is a place of peace, that Nashville is a place of respect, and that Nashville is home.
May the blessings of God be upon you.