The problem with qualification

Once again an act of violence has been perpetrated in the United States. This time it was by two brothers who had ties with radical Islamic philosophy. Once again, people have responded rapidly with hate toward anyone either Muslim or of the nationality of the two young men who were responsible.

It actually doesn’t even matter if you are the same nationality. If you are of a ethnicity that even sounds like Chechen you are targeted. I was told that social media was filled with derogatory comments about Czechs and even some suggestions that the horrific explosion in West, Texas was somehow poetic justice since West is made up of Czech immigrants.  

New Picture (1)It seems the knee-jerk response for some is too often to find a group to hate and then to move against that group. After the 9-11 terrorist attack several Mosques and people who had Middle-Eastern features were targeted, persecuted, and attacked.

This kind of perpetuation of violence turns victims into perpetrators who become no better than those who were originally involved in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Boston.

But more to the point.

I have read articles admirably calling Christians to love their neighbors, especially their Muslim neighbors, realizing that radical extremists have infiltrated all religions over the years and most devout followers of the respective world religions are not violent nor are they terrorists. Naturally, the response to such comments has been overwhelmingly positive.

Then comes the inevitable qualifier: True, but moderate Muslims would have more credibility if they would speak out against extremists.

There are some obvious problems with this qualifier. One problem is the inconsistency. How often have we Christians spoken out as representatives of Christianity against groups cloaking themselves with the Bible? Recently there have been many Christian leaders condemning the hateful actions of groups like Westwood Baptist Church (although, I have to ask how much of our outcry is due to our Christianity or to our sense of patriotism). This is good. But it does not seem to represent the norm throughout our history.

Throughout the years how often has the entire Christian community stood up in outrage and spoke out with a unified voice against groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or the IRA? It is one thing to look at the past and apologize for the complicity of our ancestors and forebears—it is quite another thing to stand up in the moment and denounce the evil demonstrated by those who say they are aligned with us. How often, in our past have we done this?

In the deep South during the 60s, how many white Christians and white Christian leaders stood up against the racial hatred and segregation that was justified by misuse of Christian scripture? How many of us stood up enough to invite those of color into our homes and into our houses of worship and into our neighborhoods?

Glass houses are indeed fragile.

Secondly, the qualification isn’t true. Soon after the Boston bombing pictures from sympathetic Muslims were posted wishing condolences. And as columnist and playwright Wajahat Ali said in an article for Salon,

The Tsarnaev brothers’ criminal and perverse actions do not speak for me or the overwhelming majority of Muslims. I am not compelled to apologize for them or explain their actions. Muslims are not a monolithic, Borg-like collective, who possess a shared consciousness, specializing in counterterrorism knowledge with a telepathic understanding of the perverse mind-set of radicals in their ‘community.’ This is like asking Republican Christians to apologize for Timothy McVeigh or expecting young white males to explain why individuals like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and James Holmes used assault rifles to unleash terror on innocent civilians.[1]

Wajahat goes on to list and document the assistance American Muslims have given investigators to help foil terrorist plots in America.

[Forty] percent of all extremist plots in America were thwarted as a result of Muslim American help. Also, Muslim Americans continue to aid law enforcement, are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and overwhelmingly renounce the extremist ideologies of al-Qaida. A Muslim American community in Virginia proactively tipped off the FBI and turned in five radicalized youths. A Senegalese Muslim vendor was the first to mention the burning car bomb in New York’s Times Square incompetently engineered by Faisal Shahzad.

There is another fundamental problem with the qualifier: the point isn’t how moderate Muslims act, react, or fail to act. The point is how Christians are to respond. It seems to me Jesus was much more intent on the actions of his followers than he was upon the actions and reactions of those who were not.

The command to love our neighbors has no qualification attached. In fact, Jesus takes it further to say we are to love our enemies. The apostle Paul urges Christians to return a curse with a blessing and to feed your enemy when he is hungry, give him drink when he is thirsty, and when possible to live at peace with all people (Romans 12:14-21).

Jesus does not say, “Love your neighbors when they stand up against those who attack you.” He says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

There will always be those who seek to justify their failure to love. After Jesus’ admonition to love one’s neighbor, a religious scholar sought to justify himself by retorting, “Who is my neighbor?” Appropriately, Jesus tells a story where the one who proved to be a neighbor was not a religious scholar but someone of a despised heritage and ethnicity.

It seems there will always be those who wish to justify their lack of love. That’s the problem with qualifications. Those who tend to ask for them are not so much interested in clarity as they are seeking justification for their own intolerance and inaction.

Just something to think about…

[1] Wajahat Ali, “I am not the Tsarnaevs,” Salon, April 22, 2013,


About Darryl Willis

Darryl has been working for non-profits for over 36 years. His current work takes him to Ukraine several times a year. He has fallen in love with the country and the people. Darryl writes poetry and his work has appeared in several online and print journals.
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