Paying Attention

Today, I’d planned to engage in my every-once-in-a-while practice of playing ostrich—sticking my head in the sand, pretending everything is just fine, and writing about something light and fluffy and fun.

But then, quite out of nowhere, it dawned on me that my cousin and her husband are Muslim.

I confess that I don’t know E— well; I was an Air Force brat, moved around all the time, and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in the same room with her. (One of those times was actually in a tent camper in our grandparents’ backyard, playing a double-deck game of War that lasted for hours. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.) I’ve never met her husband in person, and I’ve only seen pictures of their impossibly cute kindergartner. None of that matters though; they are family, they are Muslim, and I’m afraid for them.

E— confirmed my concern when I contacted her tonight. She said she had been considering wearing the hijab, but “it’s too dangerous.” She said they’ve taught their daughter not to say Islamic words aloud.

Did you catch that? Ours is a country founded on religious freedom, and these family members of mine are afraid to freely practice their religion.

Moments after my conversation with my cousin, I read a Facebook update from a high school friend. She’s a teacher, and today a student asked if she’s Muslim (she wears a scarf). When she said, “Yes,” that student and two others began saying hateful (and inaccurate) things about Islam. They wouldn’t stop, and she had to call for administrative support. As she described to the counselor who came to her aid what happened, she broke down. Reading her story, I did, too. I just keep thinking, “How can she go back to her classroom tomorrow?”

So, instead of burying my head in the sand and pretending everything is good and right and wonderful, I’m going to say some bold things.

If we who call ourselves Christ-followers are not outraged at how our Muslim brothers and sisters are being treated, particularly in our own country, we are not paying attention.

If we who call ourselves Christ-followers are not weeping for our Muslim family, friends, teachers, neighbors, physicians, bank tellers, librarians, cashiers, managers, firefighters, and baristas, we are not paying attention. 

By the way, this isn’t even about “loving our enemies.” Hear this: E—, G—, M— and J— are not our enemies, and neither are the Muslims in your neighborhood and community.

STOP. I know what some of you are thinking:

“Kelley, you don’t know that. That couple in San Bernardino—they were the enemy. How do you know the Muslims I know aren’t just like them?”

I don’t. I don’t know that.

But here’s what I do know: If we’re walking around making suspected enemies out of everyone who looks, dresses, speaks, or practices religion differently than we do, we are not paying attention to the Gospel we profess. There should be no but or unless or except at the tail end of any statement that includes the word love, and if we who call ourselves Christ-followers withhold love, compassion, and concern “just in case,” we are not paying attention. 

Ugh.

If I’m sounding all arrogant and “I’m super-Christian and you suck,” I don’t mean that at all. I’m just sad and angry and horrified and embarrassed and trying to be hopeful but losing ground quickly.

Here’s the bottom line: My cousin and her husband are Muslim. My friend is Muslim. They are afraid.

And they now have my full attention.

3 Comments

  1. Peg Alpin   •  

    GREAT job, Kelley. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Liz   •  

    Thank you for this Kelly. G is one of the most loving, caring man I could’ve ever hoped for for E.

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