Getting to Know You

If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate. 
                                                                              —Elbert Hubbard


Articles in last week’s Time magazine and the August 23rd edition of the Washington Post hint at a growing anti-Muslim sentiment among Americans.  Or maybe I should say “anti-Muslims” sentiment—plural—because that’s part of the problem.  When you lump people together you tend to stereotype, and judge the whole group on the behavior of a few. 

It’s happened to me. 

Three decades ago a Southern Baptist evangelist named Bailey Smith said publicly, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”  He claimed that he said it “with all due respect to those dear people,” but last Sunday afternoon I was invited to an open house at a local synagogue where I got the feeling that some of those dear people had not forgotten what he said.  They greeted me warmly, thinking I might be a prospect, but when I introduced myself as pastor of First Baptist Church there was a brief  pause and then the question: “Are you…Southern Baptist?”

This kind of thing happens to me often, and not only in Jewish synagogues.  Because some Baptists have done or said offensive things, many people assume that all Baptists are like that.  I encourage them to get to know some Baptists, because no two of us are exactly alike.  Billy Graham is a Baptist, but so is Bill Clinton.  Jesse Helms was a Baptist, but so is Jesse Jackson.  Lottie Moon was a Baptist, but so is Britney Spears.

See what I mean? 

I would guess that the same is true for Muslims, that if we would take the time to get to know some of them we would find that they are like people everywhere: concerned for the health and well-being of their families, for their children’s education, and for the freedom to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life, like a picnic lunch on the Fourth of July.  And in the same way I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me on the basis of the worst they have ever heard about Baptists, I wouldn’t want to judge an entire religion or its 1.5 billion adherents on the basis of what some Muslims have done, would you?

So, get to know your new Muslim neighbor.  You may find that he has as much in common with Osama bin Laden as I have in common with Britney Spears, which is to say…not much.

BONUS: Here’s a song that will have you humming the rest of the day.

7 thoughts on “Getting to Know You

  1. Jim – thanks for the perspective. I was given an education earlier this year while accompanying a Cub Scout group to the local Islamic Center for a couple hours. Imam Ammar Amonette gave the 9-year olds (and me) a great overview and we returned the favor by spending an hour cleaning up their grounds.

  2. I feel that I should respond that the same is true for Christian Americans. We are labelled “Crusaders”, and are expected to act the same way as those medieval soldiers. Apparently it is irrelevant that the Crusades took place nearly a thousand years ago, or that as Protestants, we broke away from the Catholic Church that launched those attacks, and whose soldiers carried out those abuses.

    In contrast, it is present-day Muslim women who are being stoned to death for adultery and several other “victimless” crimes, and it is the legal system of most (if not all) modern Islamic countries that relegate females to a second-class existence (whether it is property or voting rights, dress codes, education, & etc.) and apply the death penalty to those who dare convert to Christianity.

    I agree that you can’t say that all 1.5+ billion people who currently practice the Muslim faith/political system are going to respond identically – that would be foolish. At the same time, I thing it is ill-advised to think that when the anti-Christian policies of their political leaders are clearly published, and in the past have they have carried out these policies, that they are going to suddenly reverse them and encourage/allow the following of the ways of Christ (which they consider to be apostasy).

  3. Psst – Jim! I believe that’s Deborah Kerr in the clip from “The King and I,” with Marni Nixon’s voice dubbed in.

  4. Sermon on last sunday makes me think back and forth about my personal giving habit and sharing God grace to the people like you mentioned. i read the blog and i thought may be if we were to invite men standing in the board and blvd street and happen to be a muslim. Probably, he would wonder about Jesus if he walks by the first baptist church. for example, recently i became christian from hindu because i trusted Christ and the church. so, it can be same thing with buddhist or muslim brother and sister. i like your perspective and here is a simple thing in my mind that i want to write, i totally agree with pastor Jim we have a problem and it’s global problem “ANTI” it might be religion, people, race, color and altogether (CHRIST). God has given us a choice, it is always distructive to disrespect the source of freedom which is from God. i deserve that freedom and we should defend that of others. I might not be politically correct but ANTI- God, culture, life, morality, and anti-American sentiment is what drags our nation to destruction? not only muslim there are all kinds of victim out there innocent life are killed every day. is someone out there to say NO, NO? with due respect should i believe Government and politician for protection of this nation??Yes i should but, i believe church still has significant role which include getting to know GOd and each other like pastor Jim mentioned. I know God, i should fear him who protects me and not the evil. I pray that the day will not come when my pastor and his rights to preach are taken away from pulpit because of his believe in biblical truth or the only option would be contradict the LAW of GOD and move on? its true there is fear out there and probably among christian, non-christian and INNOCENT muslim, when so called bridge builder and leader of the nation are insensitive to gain their political benefit in the issue of freedom, family, value of life, religion, relationship and so on….if we are christian nation or at least civilized nation and meanwhile victim of it , what about innocent people around the world. i think its time to stand up and with LOVE…………….pastor Jim thanks for such a nice post and vedio

  5. Love your insightful posts, especially the latest on Koran burning. Just one pesky theatre note…that’s Deborah Kerr performing from the “King and I’ not Julie ANdrews. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks, Ralph. Whoever posted that YouTube video called it Julie Andrews. Is that her voice behind Deborah Kerr’s face?

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