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Fear and hate are not American or Christian values

November 16, 2015

In 1972 I was driving a group of actors from Berea College through Alabama. We were touring a production of James Baldwin’s “Amen Corner” to Talledega College. All the actors were black. We were in a loaned white limo. George Wallace was running for president on a segregationist platform. At one long stop, due to construction delays, two men with flattop haircuts were putting “Wallace for President” stickers on passing cars. When all the tinted windows rolled down and they saw a limo full of black people, they played up the process and it inspired David and Francis to get out of the car and confront them. In 1972, if you were openly gay, you were quite flamboyant and these guys were truly actors to the core. They pranced around these men, who could snap them easily, talking a mile a minute until I got out and threatened to leave them. I was a bit nervous but I quickly noticed that the two men were seriously scared. Not only had two black men invaded their personal space, but two gay black men. Fear is the harbinger of hate.
It is sad that some Americans are willing to turn their backs on our values out of fear. Many of these governors, preachers and social media posters claim to be Christians. If Christ and all the early Christians had let fear cower them into a corner like our Texas governor is doing, Christianity would not be a choice we have. They welcomed the immigrant and spread their beliefs to the Romans. And doing so was not safe.
Values are something you don’t just have when it is convenient. Our country has always welcomed the refugee that is fleeing political turmoil. It is even more important for us to welcome people fleeing conditions when we share in the blame.
From before the time that the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossaddegh and installed the brutal Shah Pahlavi as dictator in 1953, until now as we try and finish a war against our previous favorite despot, Saddam Hussein, the west has exported war and suppression to the middle east and supplied billions of dollars of weapons that are being used by all sides of each conflict. The fact that most of the young people in the area know more about war than they know about peace is partially a product of our creation.
Of course, we need to know the refugees. Nothing connects most of these Syrian refugees to ISIS except that they are fleeing ISIS. I, too, would flee. Most of the ISIS fighters are not Syrian and many of them are from western countries. Should we now ban Belgium citizens from Texas after they were connected to the Paris attacks?
The desire to keep muslim refugees from entering the US is about hate and fear.
I have many casual acquaintances who are muslim. They shop at my market. I have taught a seminar at an Islamic school to attentive, intelligent children. Immigrants add vitality to our economy and fit in easily in a town like Houston.
My values have not changed due to these unpleasant realities. I grew up with Christian values of love and compassion and they are too engrained in me to resort to hate.
ISIS must be stopped, but hate will not do the job, it will only generate more radicals.
I truly do not understand people who want to punish those who are fleeing these brutal terrorists. One thing for sure–the Americans that harbor this hate of Islam do not hold Christian or American values.
It is anger and disenfranchisement that are leading these young people to terrorism. Religion is only a crutch, where they cherry pick a bit here and a bit there, the way some Christians do, to validate their actions.
It might be best that our response is measured and well thought out. Not an angry attempt to disenfranchise more of them.

Now, as Christmas is approaching, let us remember that Mary and Joseph were Middle Eastern refugees.

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