For many Americans, the idea of a Muslim registry not only seems like a good idea, but one that must be implemented if we want to keep America safe. This perspective is fueled by terrorist attacks carried out around the world, including here in the United States, in the name of the Islamic State. The thinking is that anyone who might be inclined to have sympathy for ISIS should be watched.
Recently, pop icon Katy Perry funded a PSA campaign to show how a Muslim registry would actually be incredibly harmful to people. The PSA highlights the similar idea behind the Japanese-American registry that happened during World War II.
It is sad when Christians who may support the Muslim registry need to be reminded about the love of Christ from people who do not claim to be Christian. Even sadder still is when we fail to listen.
Scripture points to how we should stand on this issue. Over and over again, the Bible highlights how we as Christians should treat the immigrant (by striving to love them and treating them as our neighbor). We could talk about how singling out a group of people based on religion only gives precedence for this to happen to Christians, too (something supporters of the Muslim registry would strongly decry). We could talk about generally how this type of segregation only ever hurts people and creates more frustration, fear and suffering.
But the real issue here is our fear.
When we fear for our safety and security, we type-cast large groups of people. When we become so afraid that our “way of life” or our opportunities are threatened, we demonize the other. In our sinfulness, we prioritize our concern for ourselves and our families and friends over anything else. Even Christ’s imperative to love.
The idea of a Muslim registry is born out of this fear. Every time we turn on the TV there is another shooting, another violent act, another threat and it is usually underpinned by a discussion about the perpetrator’s identity. We have been trained to villainize a group of people that numbers more than 1.6 billion.
A Muslim registry only further encourages our fear and suspicion of a group of people based on their religion. It only works to further divide people, not bring us together. We keep living in fear when we fail to get to know the other deeply, to know the stories of people behind the moniker of “Muslim” that we use as an excuse to exclude.
In John 14, Jesus is asked this interesting question by Judas (the one who didn’t betray him). Judas asks Jesus essentially (and highly paraphrased), “We know you can show the whole world who you are, why don’t you?”
Jesus’ reply? “Follow my commands, and when you follow my commands (to love others, to take care of the poor, the widow, the outside and immigrant, when you live a life like me), then you will have a peace that surpasses all understanding.”
Out of fear, we try to create our own peace, the peace Jesus call, “the peace of this world” from our own safety, security, financial wealth. That peace is often independent from God, created by ourselves.
The peace that Jesus speaks about is the peace that makes no sense. It is the peace that says we are going to love the other, the Muslim, the outsider, the one unlike us, without reservation. It is the peace the follows God’s command without exceptions.
We are only going to have peace when we follow what Jesus tells us to do. Does that mean we still may have fear? Of course. But the peace of Christ should take us beyond fear. Only when we are willing to love like Christ, even to the point of death, will we begin to really follow Jesus’ command.
After all, we are called to love and serve those who are different, even if that might means we cannot manufacture our own peace and safety.