Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

The Call For Christians To Radically Love Our Muslim Neighbors

young Arabian family portrait outdoorsEver since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, there has been a growing hostility in America toward our Muslim neighbors. With the daily barrage of crimes against humanity being perpetuated and broadcast over social media by ISIS, that hostility toward Muslims in America– and around the world– is only growing.

While cries by my Christian brethren of persecution is usually just a loss of privilege, Muslims in America face a concerning level of distrust, bigotry, and real persecution– not the imaginary type.

Just recently, we’ve seen an increase in violent threats made against our Muslim neighbors because of the way they are depicted in the film, American Sniper, which has only served to exacerbate the anti-Muslim persecution in America.  Sadly, these “threats” aren’t just threats- our Muslim neighbors are facing real acts of violence. Recently three Muslims in Chapel Hill were executed in cold blood, an act of violence that the media has downplayed as a “parking space” dispute. Last Friday we also saw the Islamic Community and Education Center in Houston burned down in an act of arson while a retired firefighter from the area tweeted “let it burn… block the fire hydrant.” And of course, there’s the man who tried to burn down a mosque after getting drunk and “riled up by Fox News” from their daily anti-Muslim propaganda.

Even in the course of the last few weeks I’ve witnessed in my own social media feeds comments made toward Muslims that would be considered hate speech and threats if such comments were directed at us. Constant fear-baiting by Christian pastors, calling Islam “evil”, saying “Muslims are the enemy of God” and all sorts of other anti-Muslim comments. Strangely enough, it’s not simply enough to vilify our Muslim neighbors and create animosity and mistrust between us, those same voices often paint our president as being a closet Muslim or as one whose sympathies are with Islam instead of Christianity, furthering the us vs. them, “Muslims are our enemy” type mindset.

If this trend does not change, the outcome is potentially bleak. If we’re told over and over again that we are enemies there becomes a distrust and hostility that results in self-fulfilling prophesies– and enemies are born. Continue down that line far enough and our children won’t even know why they are enemies to begin with– they’ll just know to hate and mistrust Muslims, and they will learn the same of us.

Sadly, I’m not seeing religious leaders on the Christian side put forth a Christian narrative for how we are to walk this road in our current culture. In fact, what I too often see Christian leaders doing is pushing a narrative that only serves to inflame and divide us, such as Franklin Graham who teaches that Islam is a “religion of war” and “evil.”

What our culture needs more than ever is people who are modeling their lives after Jesus of Nazareth (peace be upon him) instead of operating under the current narrative of hostility that too many Christian leaders are inviting us into. If the world is going to change, it will only be because you and I chose to act– now.

How do we move forward? Ironically, let’s play their game for a minute and see where it takes us: let’s suppose that Muslims are our enemy and that Islam is evil. How do the people of Jesus respond?

Well, Jesus makes it clear: love and serve your enemies- go the extra mile for them. As far as dealing with evil, the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans that we are not to “overcome evil with evil but evil with good.”

So, fellow Christians in America and around the world, I think we have our roadmap for how we ought to live: we ought to radically love our Muslim neighbors and actively do good towards them. In fact, for those who wish to actually follow Jesus, this is the only roadmap.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to quietly love in our hearts- we are invited to love not with words, but with actions (1 John 3:18). So here’s my challenge fellow Christians:

Changing the world starts with you. This piece is an invitation to begin participating in the “healing of the nations” by taking action, right now. That action? You are hereby challenged to find ways to radically love your Muslim neighbors– indiscriminate, lavish, love. For me, I have an easier head start because I live in a town that has a large Muslim population and most of the kids at my daughter’s school our Muslims, so I have plenty of opportunities. But I’m convinced you’ll find Muslim neighbors to love if you open your eyes and look.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Learn how to greet Muslims in Arabic, and when you pass them on the street smile and say hello with the proper greeting (which actually means “peace be upon you”). There’s plenty of Youtube videos to teach you how, but here’s an easy one.

Find Muslim families in your neighborhood and introduce yourself. Ask if you can do something nice for them, just as neighbors and no strings attached. Help them with a project on their home, help them with yard work, or invite them to dinner (but make sure it’s halal).

Find a Muslim and sit and learn from them. Discover what they truly believe– you might be surprised at all the areas of commonality between Christianity and Islam- two members of the Abrahamic faith.

Is their a Muslim community center in your area? Go by for a visit and ask if there are any areas where you could volunteer and serve the Muslim community.

Financially support a charity geared towards serving the Muslim community. Don’t know of one? I can help: I know a great organization in my own community called The Root Cellar, and they are a community center in an impoverished area serving Muslim refugees. They provide a safe place for kids to go after school, and all sorts of other great stuff. No donation would be too small, and you can make it online, right here.

These are just a few ideas, but be creative- there’s no shortage of ways that you could find to love the Muslim neighbors in your midst.

But let me be clear: the path we are on is not a good one. Terrorism by some extreme Muslims (who are usually political and not actually that religious) is wrongfully causing all Muslims to be feared and mistrusted. This fear and mistrust gives way to real persecution, which will undoubtedly lead to legitimate fear and mistrust in return. The only way out of this cultural mess, is for someone to take responsibility for changing it– and that’s where you and I come in.

We can change the course of history in America by radically loving and serving our Muslim neighbors, and by tearing down the walls of mistrust which separate us.

Will you continue down the same old path? Or, will you choose to radically love?

I’m choosing love, and I hope you’ll join me. If you do, send me stories of your acts of kindness towards Muslims, and I’ll compile them for a future post.

Photo (c) the Dollar Photo Club

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

Join the resistance: Subscribe for posts and updates from BLC!

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  • Of course you are right Ian. Nobody is disputing that Jesus calls us to love the good, the bad, and the ugly (not as in looks). It is a radical call. It is only thru service that they get to know us and see that we are not the enemy either. The people are one thing, their religion is another. We must know what they believe, and what they believe about us. How can we minister to them otherwise?
    Jesus said to his disciples which is as applicable today as it was then:

    “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matt 10:16

  • It feels like most people here are arguing whether or not Islam teaches/is inherently evil, which isn’t germane to Mr. Corey’s blogpost at all. The blogpost was written to remind us of Christ’s call to love and serve people regardless of whether we consider them good or evil, friend or foe. Because through love and service, we begin to understand that our true enemies aren’t other people with other world-views, but the principalities and powers of darkness infecting the world.

    When we have community and relationships with our enemies, we begin to see them less as monsters and more as broken people in need of a savior, the same as us.

  • Hey everyone – I just saw the most amazing film. It fits so well with this topic. And is so touching. The lead actor should get an oscar. It is called My Name is Khan – and I am not a terrorist. This film should help the cause – to love thy neighbour. Made in 2010 – with subtitles. Look for it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqxgYT3TYzY

  • A question – when you say things like:

    “Constant fear-baiting by Christian pastors”

    or

    “In fact, what I too often see Christian leaders doing is
    pushing a narrative that only serves to inflame and divide us”

    is your intent to include Progressive Christians when you say “Christian”?

  • There ARE significant Christian religious leaders putting forth a Biblical Christian narrative for believers. I recently completed the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course, (offered world-wide) and although I never previously saw Muslims as my enemies, I lacked the God-kind of compassion for them. “Perspectives” completely changed my heart toward them, and gave me hope for reconciliation between us through loving and gracious friendship, and hopefully through the Gospel of Jesus. Global Gates, a missions group focused on reaching the unreached internationals within our country, also teaches about building sincere friendships with Muslims. These groups have both opened my eyes to the Muslim culture and people, and I find that I now cringe whenever I hear anyone, especially Christians, speak with hatred, or thoughtlessly of the Muslim people. I don’t currently know anyone Muslim, but I am looking forward to getting to eventually meet and develop friendships with the Muslims who live in my community.

  • While I support an attempt to diffuse some of the rightwing hate rhetoric surrounding Muslims, as a secular feminist I am not going to pretend the dominant problem of violence really lies with this white Christian nationalist mentality.

    As far as I can make out, there have been four murders since 9/11 in which the violence conclusively points to anti-Muslim prejudice as the motive. There are a few other murders that have unknown motives that might be Islamophobic. One of the Islamophobic murders was commited by a Somali ex-Muslim, so not related to the xenophobic white-majority rightwing.

    By contrast at least 58 people have died at the hands of killers who cited their Islamic faith, solidarity, or identity as their motive over the same period. At least 8 of those 58 are so called ‘honor’ murders of women, and 3 ‘honor’ murders of Muslim men.

    I know from personal experience that murder is hardly the only type of hate crime, but it is still a powerful metric as the ultimate crime. Your outreach to Muslims should not pretend that their community does not have serious issues that impact both Muslims and non-Muslims far more than Islamophobia.

  • This. Yes.
    Following the God of Mars (war, hatred, violence) is a human condition, not limited to culture or country.
    As a Christian my commission is to love God and my Neighbors. I will do so unto death.

  • If Muslims want to be regarded in good terms, they need to reform Islam minus the killing, chopping, deceitfulness, stoning, burning…

  • What a lot of Americans don’t seem to understand is a simple little, but still an inconvenient fact:

    Islam DOES have ancient roots right here in this country! It’s true! Muslims were here before the US became a nation! That religion first came here through the men and women captured illegally in chains from the continent of Africa, and forced conversion into Christianity. Something we complain Muslims do to Christians most of the time. Imagine that!

  • And just to be clear, of course none of the Muslim I know support any kind of killing or harming people- just for the record. ALL of us want those bad evil people to stop their heinous acts against humanity… Anyone who is SANE and right minded and really a believer of GOD wants those vile people to stop and knows it isn’t right.. I’ts disgusting, its appalling and I pray every day for the violence to end.. Unless we do as this article suggests and really focus on LOVE then sure enough, the outcome is very bleak for us all 🙁

  • Peace and love upon everyone in the forum. I spent 3 months in Algeria, with my now husband and his family. Never once was I mistreated or threatened. I was loved by his family and people in his city were happy to meet me and ask questions. I’m now married to my Muslim husband and he is a great loving man and has shown me a lot about what Islam REALLY is. Love, peace, charity, being good and doing good… All things that Christianity teaches. Often culture and peoples own agendas get mixed with religion and sends mixed messages. And Muslims also believe in and love Jesus- peace and blessing upon him- and his message of peace and good will. Thank you so much for writing this. No matter what religion we are, we really need to look at our morals and how we treat each other as humans.
    and for all the people saying Muslims are “new to America and don’t belong here”, have a look at this article ‘Muslims of early America’- You will see that indeed, Muslims helped to found America and have been oppressed since the beginning.
    http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2015/02/15/The-Muslims-of-early-America/stories/201502150030

    God willing your thoughtful article can change some people hearts and minds 🙂

  • I am a Christian & I lived with a Muslim, a Kenyan named Murad, for three years while going to college. He quickly became one of my four best friends during my college years. The 1st of those years, we also shared our home with another Muslim, a Tanzanian named Maboob. We knew each other very well throughout the 444 days when the Iranian Islamic rebels took the 52 American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy hostage from Nov. ’79 to Jan. ’81. We discussed current events on a daily basis & even anti-Islamic sentiments held by many Americans back then.

    Our relationship was always very thought-inspiring, kind, empathetic, intelligent, mutually informative and we had a lot of fun together, too. Our faiths were never, ever, a point of contention, but were always treated as an asset, a compliment to each other & an added experience toward understanding the very same God. We are the faith descendants of Isaac & Ishmael. Abraham was our common faith father. We supported each other. We had lived, ate, learned & played together, just like loving brothers do. Ever since that time, The Holy Qur’an has been side by side to The Holy Bible on my desk.

  • I agree with the overall sentiments expressed in this article, although I would take issue with some fine points. As someone who has been of the Christian faith since childbirth, what is being suggested (to “love thine enemy” and for that matter – my friends — of which Muslims can be both..just like anyone else..) does come naturally to a true Christian. It has never occurred to me that I should hate or fear those of the Muslim faith just because they are Muslim, regardless of what Franklin Graham says — because Franklin Graham isn’t Jesus. I do not, however believe it is the author’s place to suggest that what happened in Chapel Hill is being “downplayed” by the media as a parking dispute. There is simply not enough evidence at present to suggest it was more than that for now, yet it is widely reported also that investigations are ongoing. (Does the author resent a fact-based media that doesn’t inflate things unnecessarily?). Nor do I think it is the author’s business to assume what is going on in the hearts of most Christians. Bigotry is offensive no matter which direction it runs.

    As for going out of one’s way to make Muslims feel welcomed and included: While I enjoy community work when I have the chance, I have a difficult time finding time for my own family, much less my neighbors (who come in all different colors, sizes, national origins, etc…not just Muslim…). So my hope for Muslims in my community is that they do not take personally the fact that I don’t show up on their doorstep on a regular basis as some form of discrimination. Sometimes a “win” in modern American society is the simple fact that you are being left to live our own life in peace. Heaven knows, I’d welcome that opportunity myself most days.

  • The discussion of Muslim motivated, whether or not they are evil, and when persecution began is all a side issue. As a Christian, those things make no difference. My actions depend on who I follow, not who you are or what you do. That was what was so radical about His message. Love in exchange for hate. Your neighbor is your hated enemy and you are to love them.

  • I disagree with most of the other who posted. I believe your position is without merit. Muslims have been a threat to the US (not just Christians) since well before 9-11. There has been no increase in crimes against Muslims, possible only an increase in the news outlets you follow. You say ” In fact, what I too often see Christian leaders doing is pushing a narrative that only serves to inflame and divide us” and then go on to give 1 example. That’s not very convincing of the numbers you alluded to. I could go on but this article is poorly thought out and ill prepared.

  • Required reading on this topic is Juan Cole’s Seven Myths on Daesh (a/k/a ISIS). Bottom line is that one should never believe anything anybody says about Muslims ( and particularly American Christofascists who have not read the Qu’ran. Cole is fluent in several Mideastern languages as well. He is my go to guy on things Islam and always a corrective to the paranoid ravings of the Christian Wrong

  • I am completely outraged by Franklin Graham’s demogoguery. He really wants to make Muslims second class citizens and was threatening Duke with financial repercussions if they didn’t tow the line and disallow Muslim prayers in the Duke chapel. As far as I’m concerned he has no credibility and I will certainly never give anything to Samaritan Purse and don’t mind telling people why not

  • I spent six weeks in the Middle East last summer. The Muslim people I met were some of the kindest, most gracious, lavishly loving people I’ve ever met. They told me the point of their faith is to do good to others.
    I love Muslims, and to think that anyone wants to harm them, be it though physical or social-stigma means, breaks my heart (and, yes, it also makes me very angry).

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