August 24, 2016
By Kristen Johnson
There’s a little town outside Atlanta with a big problem. A local Islamic congregation wants to build a Mosque and a Muslim cemetery in the town. Oh the horror – Muslims in America, right?
The whole town is in a huff. Questions like “will this bring in more refugees to our community” and “will it bring crowds” to “let’s not let anyone build anything at all for a while” are coming up. It’s pretty interesting to think about in a country whose Constitution provides religious freedom without interference from the government:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Amendment 1.)
Sounds a lot like xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism……and just plain fear and hate to me.
When faced with situations like these, I always like to think about how I would feel about it if someone tried to infringe on my rights as a White Protestant. How would I feel about it if a town meeting turned into a shouting, hating match if I asked to build a new Methodist Church in town? I’m thinking it would feel like my rights under Amendment 1 were being infringed upon,including my rights to freedom of assembly, and my right to equal protection under the law (thank you Amendment 14.)
Mark 12:31 (NRSV): 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Matthew 7:12 (NRSV): 12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
1 John 4:21 (NRSV): 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters[a] also.
I could post many, many, other verses about loving our neighbors, but I think we all get the point. Is it loving to refuse to allow someone to build a house of worship, even though it is different from our own? No, of course, it isn’t.
It isn’t acceptable to allow fear to conquer over love.
John 14:27 (NRSV: 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Quit fear. Quit hate. Only love.
Serve all with love.