Who is my neighbor?

Last week we talked about the civil rights movement and how books like The Help compel us to ask, Would we have done the right thing then, and are we doing the right thing now? I asked if you could think of any present-day situations that call for the same kind of action but that might be difficult to speak out about in the current cultural climate.

The most commonly mentioned issue was gay rights (and also how evangelicals treat the GLBT community), and I wholeheartedly agree that this meets the criteria, demanding our attention, our voices, and our love. 

But when this clip from The Daily Show started circulating around the internet, I was reminded of another group that consistently faces oppression and hate in the U.S.—Muslim Americans

On the show, Stewart featured the controversy surrounding plans to build a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which is just a short drive from Dayton. If you have time to check out the ABC News report, please do…but be prepared for a shock. Even as a Tennessee resident, I was completely taken aback that over 600 citizens would pack out a county commission to protest against their neighbors worshipping freely.

The footage is heartbreaking.  “I don’t want them in my neighborhood,” one man said. “We are fighting these people,” said another. “They are against everything we believe in,” said several. A local builder even encouraged contractors to boycott the project!

But what brought me to tears was the fact that, according to the report, there were “no public comments in favor of the mosque.” 

None. 

No one spoke up for their neighbors. 

No one stood up for the oppressed. 

No one was willing to face the inevitable disdain that would have followed had they done the right thing

Now,I don’t want to downplay how tough it is to be gay in America, but when our county commission voted to make homosexuality illegal—(I know; crazy, right?)—they at least faced some pretty major backlash from the community.  We protested. We got the motion rescinded. We voted most of the participants out of office in the next election. There is of course much to be done on behalf of the GLBT community, but I get the sense that we are headed in the right direction and that the network of support is growing stronger. 

The Muslim community, however, often suffers in silence.  And around here, I get the sense that the hatred runs deep. It amazes me that the same folks who so loudly champion their rights to guns and free speech guaranteed by the constitution seem to think freedom of religion is negotiable. 

As Christians, we must speak up, for it is no coincidence that when Jesus was asked, Who is my neighbor? he chose the most hated religious-ethnic group of the day—Samaritans—to tell his story

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What can be done about this? How can we support our Muslim neighbors?  Do you think that this kind of blatant prejudice is a geographic thing, limited to places like rural Tennessee? Was I naive to be so shocked by it?

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