I tend to try to stay away from overtly political postings, but I am deeply concerned by what I am seeing in the news and in many Facebook posts recently.
I have no problem with friends (and others) having differing political opinions from mine. None of us has a perfect perspective, and it’s when we bounce ideas off of each other–and listen to each other–that we can come to something better than we might have created or developed on our own. I may not always agree with someone else–and sometimes I may think that a specific idea doesn’t make sense. But unless I think it is dangerous, I will usually let it go.
But I can’t now.
I belong to a faith tradition that honors the worth of all people. Not just those who believe the same way I do…or who live in the same country I do. ALL people.
I belong to a faith tradition that believes in unity in diversity. That’s a challenge, I know. But again, if I believe that none of us has a lock on understanding God…or life…then I am called to listen to those I may disagree with, and find areas we can work together in.
I belong to a faith tradition that is called to work toward peace. True peace…not just the absence of war. And peace for all of creation (human, animal, and environmental).
But what I am hearing scares me.
There are valid reasons for concern. There are extremists who seem to want only to destroy what they don’t understand or believe. But they are found all across the faith spectrum–and we seem far too willing to demonize only one faith.
When I hear a candidate for president of the United States say that he would be willing to kill men, women, and children in order to defeat Islamic extremists, I am appalled. When I hear that same candidate propose that all members of a particular faith tradition be forbidden to enter my country–even those who are seeking to escape the ravages of war and violence and who want nothing more than a better life for their children…even those who are seeking ways to bring peace…then I wonder if he remembers that my country was built by many who came here as refugees seeking the same thing.
The kind of language I am hearing creates divisions between us. It causes us to look at those who may look different from us…who may worship differently…who may speak different languages…in fear–the kind of fear that feeds on itself. Instead of taking the time to learn about each other, we build walls. We “protect” ourselves by insisting that the police be called because someone “looks” dangerous…
We’ve been down that road before–and it led to the internment of an entire community based on nothing more than their appearance and their national background. The Japanese internment camps were a disgrace to the values we say we believe in. Do we really want to go down that road again?
Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps, is perhaps best known for a poem that is an adaptation of his postwar lectures. I think it is relevant for us today in what is rapidly becoming a toxic political environment. I believe that those of us who claim to be followers of the One we call Christ have to stand in defense of the vulnerable and denounce the hatred and venom we hear far too often.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I believe–along with many other members of my faith tradition–that God views all people as having worth…that God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships. And I believe that I am called to challenge unjust systems (and language) that diminish human worth.