God Don’t Hate the Muslims

God Don’t Hate the Muslims

July 6, 2014
Stina Pope


I read, all the time. I read books, I read articles, I have been reading rather incessantly since I was about 5 years old. We all get our information one way or another. I get a lot of mine from reading. Another reason for my reading is inspiration. One of the things I read for inspiration is the email from the Sojourners group. Another is a small snippet that comes in the email from the brothers at the Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE).

The article from Sojourners this week talked about the terrible thing that happened down at the southern California town of Marietta, where busses full of small children and some mothers were forced back by angry people telling them they were not wanted. Jim Wallis put it into perspective. These people are afraid of the children. They are afraid of what these children represent. The white people who think they are in control are afraid they are being overrun by a multi-racial society. They are correct, and they are wrong. That is, their assessment that America is not-so-slowly changing the color of its face is correct, and their response to that is utterly appalling.

One SSJE comment this week was helpful in lifting up the problem, it asks: “What is a mature Christian understanding of national identity? Or, for that matter, what is a mature Christian understanding of any number of ways we identify ourselves? As we fish of every kind are gathered into the Kingdom, how do we understand the particularities of our individual identities—whether they be national or otherwise?”

One of the things we do as humans is to name things, including ourselves. Some of that naming is helpful, some is not so much! I name myself woman, daughter, sister, mother, white, but then there are other namings that say much more about who and what I am, spiritual, healer, smart, artistic, clever, caring, and so on. On top of that gets layered the names that others have given me that may or may not “fit” from my internal perspective. How do you name yourself? Do you like your names? Are they helpful to you? What would happen if you put some away?

I am an American, which is very clear to me when I go to other countries, for different reasons. When I went to Thailand and Burma, I was very aware of my white face. I was also aware that being American in Thailand was a good thing, while in Burma, not so much!

But when I went to Germany, I could pass. I look like other Germans, I can speak German, not very well, but my accent is good enough that it takes a while then people decide that I must have been born in Germany but have lived in America long enough that I have forgotten things. So I can fit in easily – but I don’t. Certain things that make sense to Germans don’t make sense to me at all as an American, and it is in that trying to make sense of the world and how it functions, or at least how I think it should function that I realize that yes, I really am American.

And I was just in NYC, right in downtown Manhattan, and then in the South for the Wild Goose Festival, and it was painfully clear to me, again, that I am a Westerner. We, as a group, think differently here than they do, as a group, and I am much more comfortable here with the current influence of the Pacific Rim, and the history of the frontier.

And what about being named Christian? I have to tell you, right now, I am not very comfortable with that label! Yes, I am a priest in the Christian Church, but what is being done in this country right now in the name of Christianity is basically appalling to me. I read an interesting piece just last night where a group in Minneapolis talks about following the Way of Jesus Monday through Saturday, and then they meet together to talk about it on Sunday. That’s a very different way of talking about being Christian than saying that my “Christian” morals don’t allow my company to offer full health care coverage to women.

What would happen if we talked that way? If we said we were followers of the Way of Jesus Monday through Saturday. What would that mean? What difference does it make in our lives if we label ourselves that way? How would anyone know?

Here we come to the concept of practice, and it was highlighted in several of the workshops I went to at Wild Goose. It is not enough to say we believe something, even if we believe it sincerely. We need to have a practice that both shows our belief, and that reinforces our belief.

We can see this easily enough with the practice of yoga. I may believe that it is extremely important to have a strong and balanced and flexible body, and I may believe that yoga is the way I do that. I can say it over and over. However, if I do not engage in regular yoga practice, it does not mean a thing. Believing it and saying it will not get me the flexible body. Practice will.

So what is our belief, and what is our practice?

At the Goose, there is a lot of music, from a lot of different genres. One old bearded blues singer sang this song, and it has stuck with me. It starts out with a foot stomp.

God don’t hate the Muslims, God don’t hate the Jews,

God don’t hate the Christians, but we all give God the blues.

God don’t hate the atheists, the Buddhists, or Hindus,

God loves everybody, but we all give God the blues.

What is our practice? If we believe that God loves everybody, do we practice that? How?

Another snippet from SSJE: We are about communion not conversion. Eating together, sharing life and fellowship together, this is the place where we are inspired by Christ and fed by him to go out and do his work in the world.

This was part of a conversation about what we do as Christians. It’s not about trying to make other people think like we do. Rather, we invite people to eat with us, to share our lives in this place where we hear about Christ and are fed by him to go out and do his work in the world. Is this easy? No, not at all.

The Gospel lesson shows us that Jesus got rather exasperated about his critics. Nothing was ever good enough for them. John the Baptist was too intense, too ascetic. People couldn’t follow someone who lived in the desert eating off the land. Jesus comes along and he eats and drinks and they call him a glutton and a drunkard – mostly because he was eating and drinking with the “wrong” people! There is no way to win – if you play their game. It is time to opt out, he said. Their rules about who is in and who is out are simply wrong, There is no one who is out, no one.

A final article, this time from Spirituality & Health talking about how to have a mindful divorce. The example was of a man named Joe whose wife had an affair with another married man, and she decided to leave her husband. This man was someone Joe knew socially, so he saw him occasionally, and each time, his anger grew. The initial agreement between Joe and his now-ex-wife was that they would have 50-50 custody. When she came back and asked for full custody, Joe lost it. He was lost in his anger. He read a book about stepping back and really seeing, taking a breath, opening yourself to new options, and he went and saw the other man. What he said changed the world. Joe apologized to the other man for wrongly focusing his anger on him instead of his wife, and instead of looking at what he, Joe, had done to contribute to the situation. This allowed the other man to open up about what was going on with him. The result was stunning, for both men, and both went away healed.

Jesus offers us this different way of being as well. He walks into the room and offers us the option of seeing clearly. Take a breath, he says, now, look again. You are my child, and this one over here is also my child. That means you are brother and sister. Do not kill each other, even with a look. When you don’t know what to do, look at me again, ask me for help, breathe, and choose to act the way I taught you. Love each other the way I love you, which is to say, without limits. We can’t do that, we protest! Of course, he says, but try, just try.

That is our practice.