In general I don’t like emails that have been forwarded a dozen times. However, I do usually have a look at what I have been sent unless I have reason to suspicion a virus or such. Why take the time? It gives me a glimpse into how others are thinking about politics, faith, or daily living. Like social media, it is a tiny window into thoughts, ideas, concerns and sometimes prejudices and fears. Unless asked specifically to do so, I rarely answer these forwards. However, recently I received the same message from several different sources. It seems to me that responding publicly might be the best course of action.
The email concerns Sharia law, women in Islam, and the horrible possibilities we all face if something is not done quickly to stop the progression of Islam in America. The question being asked is, “Nell is this true?” Ugh…how to answer without getting myself in trouble with someone somewhere?
There are elements of accuracy in letters like this as there often is. But elements of accuracy do not equal truth. Rather than attempt to answer each point in this particular email, I suggest scrutiny of any such text with these questions in mind:
Does the text generalize and make a blanket statement? If so, I dismiss it. I do not want my Muslim friends to assume certain things about me because they have been fed some generalized hogwash about Christianity or Christians. And make no mistake, it is out there. I would rather they look at me as an individual and come to know me and appreciate me for who I am.
Does the text instigate fear and urge for a reaction? If so, I dismiss it. Fear and reaction solve very little. Seeking understanding and intentional action at least create an opportunity for peace, friendship, and co-existence. Reality is that this world has not been anything like homogeneous since the Garden of Eden. In the past, distance let us ignore the differences. Globalization has seemingly made the world so small, we feel like we are living in a tiny enclosed garden all together…and it does not resemble Eden. We can’t go anywhere or do anything without bumping into something that is in juxtaposition to our theology, ideology, and all the other ‘ologies.’ Being fearful and reacting out of that fear will not help anyone come over to your particular ‘ology.’ Building relationships and increasing understanding will at least help us tend the garden together. I dare say we will all change in some ways, as we do so.
Does the text trash one and lift up another? If so, I dismiss it. Recently I read a quote by Tim Keller. “The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness-not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” We are not going to help anyone anywhere if we are concerned first and foremost of ourselves and our own good. We are global citizens. We must think and act for the global good. There are many things globally that are not right and are tragically unfair. Our reaction should not be, “Just keep it all away from me!” but “What can I do to right the injustice?”
Does the text seem extreme? If so, I dismiss it. Extremism is just that…extreme. It is not the norm. It is not balanced. It does not represent the average. There is extremism in every religion, every political ideology, every value system, etc. And anywhere there is extremism there can be found very bad people who will take it upon themselves to force their extreme ideas on others. We cannot fight extremism with more of the same. As Christians we stand against extreme hatred with extreme love. Or at least I hope we do….
This blog first appeared on the ABPnews blog.