One of my bad habits: checking my phone and opening my email as soon as I wake up, before I’ve even got a start on the day. This morning, already annoyed that I was wide awake at 6:00 on a Saturday—on a holiday weekend, no less—I opened my inbox to find a forwarded message from a friend describing Syrian refugees in Germany as “animals.”
The message was hateful, anonymous and, supposedly, “patriotic.” It urged me to blame the federal government for allowing these “animals” to come to our shores, for allowing it to “happen here.”
When I saw who in my friend group had originated the message, I felt sick. Each of these women is a church lady, a patriotic American and a committed Christian and this kind of thing is deeply unworthy of them. And yet, they read this and hit “forward” to share it with their friends who (I guess) they assume are likeminded.
I understand how we can express real concerns about immigration. I understand fears about terrorism. I understand skepticism about the policies of the federal government. I understand how we can vehemently disagree with each other about these things. There are days I even disagree with myself about them.
I don’t understand how followers of Jesus can refer to other image-bearers of God as animals. I don’t understand how we can forget how unbearably awful things happen when we demonize and dehumanize groups of people. I don’t understand patriotism that is defined less by the values we cherish and more by the people we hate.
This is dangerous stuff. It’s dangerous to friendships and it’s dangerous to our faith and it’s dangerous to our country. And just in case you were going to forward me an email like that? Don’t.