By Shayne Looper
27 August, 2012
In March, a California mother-of-five was murdered in her home. It was later reported that a note lay near her body: “Go back to your own country, you’re a terrorist.”
The victim, an American woman of Iraqi origin, was a Muslim.
Last week, pieces of uncooked bacon were found scattered on a field in Staten Island, where 1,500 Muslims were gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Bacon is not “halal” — a food that is permissible for Muslims to eat. It could potentially defile the site.
In both cases, officials were quick to use the term “hate crime” to describe their investigation. The bacon, it seems, may not have been a hate crime at all. After the story appeared in the local paper, an anonymous caller told The Staten Island Advance that he put the spoiled meat out for raccoons and seagulls and other scavengers.
“It was not any ... anti-Muslim act,” he claimed. “I didn’t want to offend anybody.”
The fact that officials were so quick to label this a “hate crime” says more about the current cultural climate than it does about the particular act.
Hatred produces insults and acts of violence the way a cold front produces lightning and rain, and a cold front of hatred seems to have stalled out over America.
Some acts of hatred are coming from an unexpected source: Christians — or at least people who think of themselves as Christians. Peter Beinart reported in the latest Newsweek that in the past month:
• Teenagers pelted a mosque with fruit in Hayward, Calif.
• A mosque was burned down in Joplin, Mo.
• Two women threw pieces of pork at the site of a proposed Islamic Center in Ontario, Calif.
• A homemade bomb was thrown at an Islamic school in Lombard, Ill.
• Paintball guns were fired at a mosque in Oklahoma City.
Other incidents took place within the same time period.
Do the people who perpetrated these crimes think of themselves as Christians? If they do, they should know that such acts are totally inconsistent with faith in Jesus. Do they think of Muslims as enemies? Even if they do, Jesus told Christians: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
On another occasion he said, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” He even told his followers: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Early Christians followed Jesus’ lead. St. Paul instructed believers to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” St. Peter likewise wrote, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing.” Even if some Muslims — a tiny minority — hate and persecute Christians, Christians are ordered to love them in return.
Jesus modeled this behavior. During his time on earth, the Jewish people treated Samaritans with hatred and suspicion. There existed (as with Christians and Muslims) a long history of violence. Jewish people burned a Samaritan temple to the ground. The Samaritans defiled the Jewish temple in retaliation. Yet Jesus went out of his way to speak well of Samaritans. He never said a disrespectful word about them.
Jesus used a Samaritan for the hero in the famous story we call “The Good Samaritan.” He made a point of visiting a Samaritan village and spent some time there. He was open about his disagreement with their religious views, but he clearly valued them as people. When two of his disciples threatened retribution against some Samaritans, Jesus promptly rebuked them: “You don’t know of what spirit you are.”
Can anyone imagine Jesus paintballing the local mosque — or ordering his followers to do so? Those who think they can do not know of what spirit they are. But one thing is for sure: it is not the spirit of Jesus.
Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Michigan.