The Great Divides

On Friday, as I walked a community college campus with two YWAM students, we met a woman in her late thirties or so and asked if we could give her a holiday blessing. In broken English, she explained that she doesn’t observe the holidays because she is a Muslim from Mali. She apologized for her poor English and asked if we speak French. Corey, one of the YWAM students, speaks a little, and they had a short conversation. We asked whether she was experiencing any anti-Muslim sentiment here in America, and she said she was. We told her that we are Christians and tried to apologize for any mistreatment, but she didn’t seem to hear. She was a little emotional at this point, and began to tell us as best she could how concerned and embarrassed she is over the bad name Islam is getting because of the Islamic extremists. She talked at length, apologizing, and becoming more animated and upset. I didn’t understand a lot of what she was saying, but I did understand, “This is not Islam!” We all told her that we know that is not Islam. We spoke blessings of protection and for her to be heard and understood, and told her that we personally welcome her and Muslims like her in America. She understood, and thanked us. I’m not sure she was comforted much.

There has been an awful lot of Facebook posting since San Bernardino that is anti-Muslim. It is not helpful, and it is not right. The woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, told us that Christians and Muslims used to live in peace with each other in Mali, but that was not so true anymore. Christians only make up about five percent of the population there. In Kenya, the Christians compose about eighty percent of the population. Salome, my friend from Kenya, has told me that Christians and Muslims have always lived in peace and even intermarry without serious reprisals. There are Muslims and Imams within her traditionally Christian family.

Recent events seem to suggest that extremism is the biggest threat to extremism. Non-extremist Muslims are beginning to stand up to it, having been left by the extremists with nothing left to lose. I have seen and experienced this myself on a far, far milder level. I and other Christians like me have in recent years tended to distance ourselves from “extremist” Christianity by changing our designation to “Jesus followers”, or some other nomenclature. Churches are a little emptier because of this shift, which has as much to do with the fact that institutional Christianity does not represent what many of many of us believe. Of course, a corollary between this and what is happening in Islam is ludicrous, but the shift has been quite significant and I wonder if there will be a significant shift in the Muslim world as well?

The real point I want to make is that this world is impossibly divided (to borrow my friend Phil Wyman‘s use of the word impossible) along a lot of different lines. The divide is increasing daily and fear and territorialism are the main fuels. It’s time for people to think. And to let Love lead, instead of fear and selfishness. In spite of my use of the word “impossible”, the divides, I believe, can be removed. Whether they will be is the question.

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