This piece was originally posted on God’s Politics. Read the full post here.
The reprimand that came out of the Vatican last month has familiar echoes.
The statement addressing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 80 percent of nuns in the United States, accuses the organization of “serious doctrinal problems” regarding the focus of religious practice, among them, a concern that the Catholic Sisters are too focused on social justice and not enough on voicing the Church’s views on homosexuality or abortion.
For me, the reprimand carries reverberations of similar friction from my undergrad…
The Kony 2012 video has now amassed more than 83 million views on YouTube and triggered a response with which Invisible Children can’t keep up. To make things worse, this viral phenomenon has triggered assertions that have called the non-profit’s integrity into question on multiple levels. It sounds like a mess. But at least a significantly larger portion of the world’s population knows something about the horrors taking place in Uganda, right?
While millions are getting behind the Kony 2012 movement, it has also garnered its fair share of critics. Included are those who have something to add to the discussion on western mentality in response to global crises. I’m referring to the superiority complex that tempts the well-resourced to see themselves as the rescuers of the under-resourced, saviors of the helpless, deliverers of the oppressed.
This mentality has been criticized — as it should — and this criticism often accompanies insults hurled at the sort of folks who use their celebrity to attract attention to humanitarian issues around the world, folks like Bono of U2 or innumerable Hollywood stars, including George Clooney. Clooney was arrested Friday outside of the Sudanese embassy in D.C. while trying to attract attention to another humanitarian crisis: the suffering of the Sudanese people living in the Nuba Mountains.
In some ways, when it comes to responding to humanitarian issues, ignorance and arrogance are the Scylla and Charybdis through which we must navigate. Some stick their heads in the sand while accusations of self-righteousness are dealt all too readily on those taking action to raise awareness, especially if it makes them look good in the process. If there is an approach immune to ridicule, it’s a delicate one.
But of all things, I think George Clooney might be on to something slightly more than commendable.
I can’t quite tell if Linsanity is dying down yet, but one way or another, I’ve wanted to ask a question ever since the NBA’s latest star surfaced: What if Jeremy Lin wasn’t a Christian?
Would he still be the no-name basketball player who was waived from two teams before stepping into a moment of opportunity and leading the team on a seven-game winning streak, producing the kind of stats and hype that landed him the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks in a row? Would he still be the undrafted 2010 rookie who was repeatedly sent to the NBA Development League during his first season? Would we still emphasize that he’s the first Harvard graduate in the NBA since 1954? Would he still be the first Chinese- or Taiwanese-American ever to play in the NBA? Would we be talking about his faith in the same way?
But in addition to adding my voice to the many who are affirming dissapointment in Lowe’s, I wanted to look at the situation from a different angle – one most appropriate for commentary from an evangelical.
Yet I struggle to find how bigotry reflects biblical values. So I’d like to reflect on a few thoughts that occurred to me as I learned about the Florida Family Association’s statements that triggered the Lowe’s controversy. Here we go:
1. These Christians don’t know Muslims
I too am opposed to extremism. But as a Christian I believe that fighting extremism requires cooperation, not marginalization. If the Christians leading the FFA knew the Muslims in their community, I am convinced that they would be compelled to work together to address concerns about the threat of extremism in America. It has been well-voiced by the Muslim community – particularly during the past decade – that Islamic extremists do not represent the Islamic tradition. Take Eboo Patel as an example, who says that extremists “don’t deserve the title Muslim” in an interview on ABC (embedded at the end of this post).
2. These Christians aren’t just opposed to extremism, they’re also opposed to Muslims.
While the FFA cites concern that All-American Muslim is propaganda designed to counter concerns about Islamic fundamentalism, I don’t buy the premise that the world is undereducated about the existence of extremists. In fact, the problem is exactly the opposite: the general public is so familiar with images of burning effigies and burning buildings – and so undereducated about the existence of moderate Muslims – that they believe extremists like al-Qaeda to represent all Muslims. The actions of the FFA only make sense to me if the organization is set on opposing Islam – not just Islamic extremists.
3. These Christians are out of touch with our diverse reality.
This controversy has led me to reflect on how I learned the valuable lesson not to assume one individual is an accurate representation of a whole group. I also got to thinking about the reason why I believe most Muslim communities to be not only peaceful and anti-extremism, but also intelligent, inspiring, and pro-active in meeting the needs of their communities.
I owe the credit for learning these lessons to interfaith dialogue.
It’s time for Christian communities of all styles to consider what kind of a world we want to live in. Do we want a world where harsh and ignorant statements trigger controversy that is continually traced back to so-called followers of Christ? Or do we want a world where we can sit together, serve together, and learn from one another without blurring the lines between our traditions but still getting to know one another?
It’s only through this coming together that Christians have the opportunity to show people of other faith traditions what following Jesus is really about – including what it means to live with biblical values. I just pray that the Florida Family Association learns this lesson before stirring up another embarrassing controversy that reflects poorly on those who are striving to follow the simple command to love one another.