My dear friend Clint is like a lot of us . . . he's watching the scary stuff happening in the world today and looking for ways to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. He's a very smart guy and so he understands things like nuance and probability and holding things in tension and avoiding polarizing over-simplification. He's also a compassionate guy and aligns his life with the teachings of Jesus, including "Love your enemy" and "Treat others like you want to be treated." So last week he sent a message to a local imam; Clint shared this with me because this is part of an ongoing conversation we are having about how to live as Christians in the wider world and I asked him to let me share it here because it shows one example of the kinds of conversations that are possible. I'm inspired by Clint's action and I'm adding my voice to his, partly by sharing it here:
I have been watching the news for the last few weeks and have found myself, as a Christian American, with a sense of guilt-by-association. The hate and vitriol being poured out against Islam in recent days is unprecedented. As a Christian, I am not looked upon with suspicion just because someone who associates himself with my religion performs a terrible act of violence and I am sorry that you, as a follower of Islam, can’t enjoy the same level of grace. I reject the negative stereotypes of Muslims that are portrayed by the media, politicians, and even those around me in everyday life, many of whom claim Christianity as their faith. Please know that these people do not speak for all Christians.
My best to you and to those with whom you worship,
(my friend's full name)
Clint said, "The imam's response was one of the most gracious things I've ever read." Here it is:
Thank you ever so much for reaching out to us and for being so supportive. We have always been certain that most Christians and Americans are not filled with hate, prejudice, or bigotry, and messages from incredible people like yourself only reaffirm that belief.
Please do not feel guilty, by association or otherwise, because you are following the true message of love and harmony as preached by our beloved Prophet Isa (Jesus) (peace be upon him).
Lastly, thank you for understanding that the actions of a handful of people should never, ever be representative of a faith which has over 1.6 billion adherents.
You are more than welcome to visit us any time to get to know us and to allow us the pleasure to get to know you. Thanks again!