Many people remember the classic Prince song, "When Doves Cry." It is a song talking about a relationship that seems to be passionate as well as volatile. The parties involved love each other, but things have come up and they are at an impasse and now the one thing that symbolizes peace, the dove, seems to be sad or crying.
This, I believe, is where we, too, find ourselves. As we look at the national and international political landscape and we find it being played out in the microcosm of Newton County.
We have the relationship of those who find their religious origins in the same place -- representatives from two of the three Abrahamic religions. They are people who worship the same God, by a different name, but the same nonetheless.
Now as a result of the actions of a minority in distant lands, we hold the majority responsible everywhere and find ourselves at impasses on every front. If we take an honest and critical look at the issue, is this not the exact same approach we see in other headlines? When we saw that police officers were shooting unarmed African-Americans, did we not argue that we can't hold every police officer responsible for the actions of a few bad cops? Is this not the same side of a different coin?
So here we have people who only wish to serve God and live in peace and community with their neighbors. What is the reason for the fear and opposition?
There is a very famous passage of scripture in Hosea 4 that summarizes how people are destroyed because of their ignorance. The interesting thing about that scripture is the context. The scripture talks about willful ignorance or the idea of not wanting to know. Willful ignorance causes unnecessary casualties. In the Book of Proverbs, we are admonished to seek wisdom and in all of our getting to get an understanding. My grandfather before he passed always told me that an understanding prevents a misunderstanding. Honesty says that most of Christians' hesitation and fear of the Islamic or Muslim community is at its core because of ignorance or lack of knowledge or understanding. Ignorance is the bedrock of intolerance, indecision, and injustice.
This is one thing that makes God cry. God is the beacon of peace, knowledge and understanding. Many people who espouse God’s name don't exude the character associated with it. We would rather be without knowledge and allow for unnecessary casualties to take place. No, they're not physical warring casualties, but a casualty does take place when injustice takes place, when people feel left out, when they feel marginalized, when people's names are slandered. It breaks God's heart when we are comfortable allowing those things to happen. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a native of Georgia, said, "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Just to bring the issue home to Newton County, we have a Muslim community that has experienced some casualties because many of us who espouse the religion of Christianity are ignorant of the Islamic faith and don't want to allow them to purchase property for a mosque, burial site and school.
Not only are we ignorant of the faith, but we don't wish to understand it and as a result, by human nature we demonize what we don't understand. We've ascribed negative attributes to people who worship the same God as we do. Many Christians don't know that the vast majority of Muslims have condemned the actions of the group that many fear.
We must know fear is not the agency of the divine. It is an implementation of evil. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Are we operating in the Spirit of God or are we being influenced by evil?”
It is my prayer that we as a community can come together and live in harmony with one another, especially in a country that prides itself on religious freedom. And I believe as we come together and live in community, when can make God smile. Remember Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay In Love With God.
Rev. E. Chip Owens is a graduate of the Gammon Theological Seminary on the Historic Campus of the Interdenominational Theological Center. He has served as a Senior Pastor in the Covington Area. He is a well sought after preacher and Author that has had the pleasure of sharing the gospel nationwide.