In the words of the great anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out; because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” Today, they are coming again… for Muslim Americans… and for Jewish Americans… and others who are deemed as “they” not “us.”
Over the weekend of March 4-5, a bomb threat was made at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. On January 3, a swastika was painted on the sign in front of the Hebrew Union College. Given these acts and the rise of such acts across our country, we the board of Faith Alliance are compelled to raise our voice in support of our friends in the Muslim and Jewish communities. These, our neighbors, have long stood with us serving the community as part of our food drives and in numerous other initiatives where they have freely and graciously participated. So, these acts of hatred and bigotry demand our response lest our apathy be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims.
Unless your folk were there to greet the Mayflower we all came from somewhere else. Even still you can say that this nation was settled in no small part as a result of an outflow born of religious persecution in Europe for certain religious groups. And if that is not persuasive, then let’s see what The One True God of all would have to say. Yes, what would Jesus do? The Bible speaks on the topic of immigration and immigrants over one hundred times and not one of them speaks of fear, mistrust or doubt. As with all things, the driving principle is loving care. It is pretty overwhelmingly clear. Here are just a few of them.
“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB). And then there is this: “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT).
And if that isn’t enough just look to Leviticus 19:33-34, Exodus 12:49, Zechariah 7:10, Psalm 146:9, Ezekiel 22:4, 7, Malachi 3:5, Jeremiah 7:5-7 1984, Jeremiah 22:3, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Deuteronomy 26:12, Matthew 25:35-40, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 2:11 … And finally, let’s add one more because it sums all the rest up nicely: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34).
It is natural to be concerned – even fearful at times. God knows this can be a very scary world we live in… But when we address our fear with hate we are the ones diminished. We are the victims. Such behaviors are opposite the word of God and the Teachings of Christ… and it diminishes us all. We cannot let our fears weaken our values and the moral ethic that make us who we are; a nation founded by pilgrims seeking freedom from fear and hatred… seeking only a better life where they could be free to worship as they saw fit. It is our duty as faith leaders and Americans to stand with those who seek no more than our forefathers when they first arrived on these shores.
This is by no means intended as a political statement. It is not of any partisan origin. It is neither progressive or conservative; right or left; republican or democrat. It is founded on the word of God and intended to call on us all a Christian community to decry such intolerant and intolerable acts. As people of faith — children of the Lord High God — being bound by His words we are called to a higher moral conscience; one that demands that we stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters… And our Jewish Brothers and Sisters… and all who are oppressed for their faith. It is His direction and His authority that calls us to speak up when they are maligned… and to support them with our voices and our actions.
The evening before Christ was put to death on the cross, he gathered his friends together, washed their feet and fed them. Then he spoke to them… And this was his final message – Love each other. Take care of each other. There can be no doubt. Yes, there are scary people in this world. And yes, evil is real. But by His word, love conquers all.