When Jerry Falwell agrees with Donald Trump it should make everyone uncomfortable. You can certainly argue that their recent statements regarding Muslims were not connected beyond their reaction to the San Bernardino shootings that preceded them. Trump, now quite infamously, has called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants to the U.S. and Falwell was quoted in a speech at Liberty University saying “we could end those Muslims”. Trump and Falwell in many ways could not be more different which makes their recent confluence even more remarkable.
Trump & Terrorists
Trump continues to run his presidential campaign much like his recently cancelled reality show. He parades out his bigger than life personality making brash, unfiltered and often unsubstantiated statements simply because he’s “The Donald”. In June NBC announced it was cutting ties with Trump primarily because of his derogatory comments regarding Mexican immigrants. Does this sound remotely familiar to anyone? Fast forward five months and Trump is making headlines for his comments on Muslim immigrants – entirely inappropriate but probably completely predictable.
Trump has mastered the age old political strategy speaking generally of us and them. While more savvy and nuanced candidates may camouflage who “them” refers to Trump has unapologetically pointed at any group that can garner an “us” that dislikes them. The reason this us/them rhetoric is so prevalent is that it works. And it works because our natural mindset is to blame someone for our unhappiness. In other words, one of the virtually universal responses to problems in the world is to point to a them and not to an us. Have you noticed that the titles and classifications are all interchangeable? If you’re liberal the problem is the conservatives. If you’re poor the problem is the rich. It doesn’t matter who the “us” is the problem is always a “them”.
Jerry & Jesus
When Jerry Falwell joins the us versus them bandwagon it is particularly troubling for at least three reasons. One, he is supposed to represent and “us” that includes me! I have written a previous post on why this makes me uncomfortable in general (see War Room and why the enemy is me) so this doesn’t help. Two, it never works. I should interject here that I am not saying people shouldn’t be able to defend themselves or that gun legislation isn’t part of the equation. I am saying that the strategy of simply eliminating whatever “them” seems to be standing between you and your happiness has never worked. Three, certainly most important for me, “end those Muslims” seems so completely opposite of the way Jesus envisioned his followers would expand His Kingdom.
I think about the persecution of the early church and how Stephen’s death was not a call to arms but a pattern of leadership. According to the book of Acts Saul of Tarsus was a leader in the killing or professing Christians and instead of a plan to assassinate him God enacted a plan to transform him. Saul becomes Paul after a life changing encounter with the Lord. To be fair, we are called as Christ followers to seek justice and mercy. The two are not mutually exclusive. We should stop injustice whenever possible but also recognize that even if all those bad people were gone there would still be bad people around, because I am a bad person.
Not in our stars
“The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars” is the famous quote from Shakespeare highlighting the age old nature of placing blame. Cassius goes on in the next line to explain to Brutus “But in ourselves” is where the problem lies. This is not an easy pill to swallow when it is so much easier to find a guilty “them” to blame. Banning Muslims or getting rid of “them” (in whatever ludicrous definition of them you construct) will not solve our problems when the key to the problem is dividing us from them in the first place.
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