Courtesy of The Pastor Rudy Experience
My encounters with racism and intolerance came early in life. When I wanted barbecue, I would have to go to the widow at the rear of John Davis’ Barbecue on Shepherd Drive in my hometown Houston, Texas to place my order because the dining room was reserved for “whites only” (did I mention John Davis was African American?). When I wanted to drink from a public water fountain I would have to choose the fountain marked “colored.” When we traveled by car, my father would have to carefully choose the places we stopped because of the prospect for mistreatment in unfamiliar towns. When I was 7 years old I attempted to use the rest room at a W.T. Grants Department Store. The “colored toilet” had a coin-operated device on the door requiring a dime in order to gain access. I used the free “whites only” toilet nearby only to be confronted by a white customer who yelled and challenged my using that restroom. When I was 9 years old, my aunt and I were refused service at Wolf’s Drug Store on Washington Ave. in my old neighborhood in Houston, Texas because we sat at the wrong end of the soda fountain counter reserved for “whites only.” I understand fear. I have experienced fear. I have been paralyzed by fear and I know today that racism and intolerance which originate in fear are limiting, paradoxical, self-negating forces designed to keep the human family suspicious of one another and apart from one another.
America has always been a land prone to fear. From a time prior to its inception as an organized union of states, the driving force behind development has been a form of fear. Whether it was the fear of losing power, the fear of being overcome by another people group, or the fear of dying at the hands of others there has been a consistent theme of fear permeating both politics and policy for centuries. So maybe we do have a phobia. The word phobia originates from the Greek word phobos which simply means “fear.” In psychiatric terms phobia is defined as an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object. There are approximately 530 known phobias making fear an inclusive experience. There is one phobia Americans don’t have in large numbers and that’s Chrometophobia. Its is an exaggerated or irrational fear of money where sufferers experience undue anxiety that they might mismanage money or that money might live up to its reputation as “the root of all evil.” (A Thought: What would happen if we began to fear the misuse of money as much as we fear each other?)
Is America Islamophobic? In the September 2, 2011 Issue of the New York Times, Eliyahu Stern offered a perspective on the recent controversy surrounding the outlawing of certain aspects of Shariah law entitled “Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.” The passing of a prohibition concerning Shariah law could drastically interfere in Muslims ability to navigate cultural necessities such as dietary laws and marriage. More than a dozen states in the U.S. are considering following the state of Tennessee, which recently drove another wedge in inter-religious relations in the U.S. and created another level of fear and suspicion. On the eve of the commemoration of the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the signs of harmony are not looking good as a recent Gallup poll reported only 56% of Protestants polled think Muslims are loyal Americans.
Stern states in the article, “America’s exceptionalism has always been its ability to transform itself — economically, culturally and religiously. In the 20th century, we thrived by promoting a Judeo-Christian ethic, respecting differences and accentuating commonalities among Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Today, we need an Abrahamic ethic that welcomes Islam into the religious tapestry of American life.” The “9/11 Memorial” located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan will be dedicated on September 11, 2011 the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in a ceremony for victims’ families.
I have often wondered since becoming a Christian whether or not the people who advocated for separate water fountains, rest rooms, and entrances during my childhood were Christians and what were they afraid of? I have also wondered how Christian devotees could know the effects of religious oppression and the suppression of religious freedom, yet advocate for the suppression of rights for Muslims or any other faith practitioner who desires to worship freely? Regardless to how this matter ultimately plays out in media, I believe the people who consider themselves Christians must defend the rights of others to worship in freedom. Walter Wink puts it this way; “When the church refuses to live out the costly identification with the oppressed it is like saying to the lion and the lamb, “let us mediate your differences,” and the Lion replies, “sure you can mediate my differences with the lamb after I finish my lunch.”
How would Jesus respond to Islamophobia? Don’t ask someone for the answer to the question; look into your own heart and respond accordingly.
Pastor Rudy is a man who once hung in the streets, then transformed his life to become a Pastor whose primary mission is to touch and heal harts.He is the author of a book entitled “Touch: The Power of Touch in Transforming Lives” which profiles his unique brand of faith sharing and radical hospitality and a music project (the book’s sound track) entitled “Touch: The Pastor Rudy Experience” on Spirit Rising Music (2006). Visit him on Twitter