By Roy Oksnevad
This cycle of the Presidential race has reached new lows through name calling and demonizing each other. The media has picked up on words used to describe President-elect Trump that range from xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, racist, and misogynist to name a few. President-elect Trump made many public statements during the year-long presidential campaign that played upon the public’s fear during these uncertain times which covered immigration (build a wall), terrorism (stop immigration of Muslims), second amendment rights (protect gun laws), urban crime (security), and job insecurity through outsourcing jobs overseas.
It seems that everyone has weighed in on what the future might look like. Election results are being contested, people taking to the streets to protest the result of the election, and even social media has become a source of news. In my opinion, this has been a perfect storm that plays upon the underlying fears and insecurities everyone has.
The Muslim population which already is on edge in response to the high profile terrorist attacks on Western soil. The increase of “lone wolf” attacks inspired by ISIS has left Muslim families of the attackers shocked. The Muslim community desperately seeking to distance themselves from these atrocities through increased interfaith and public open houses to build public trust. The F.B.I. reported that attacks against American Muslims surged last year, driving an overall increase in hate crime against all groups. Blacks were the most frequent victims of hate crimes based on race, while Jews were the most frequent victims based on religion, according to the F.B.I. data. But the increases in attacks on these groups were smaller than the rise in attacks against Muslims and transgender people. 1
How should we as Christians respond?
First, we as Christians must come to grips with our own response to an uncertain future. The Bible is very clear that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20-21) and until that time when we will unite with Christ in heaven, we will always be foreigners and strangers on this earth. When we lose sight that the kingdom of God is here (in the church) but not yet (we are still living in a fallen world), we will become anxious about those in power and authorities in our nation. Second, the Bible admonishes us to be subject to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1-5) and to pray for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (I Tim 2:1-4). Remember, God can steer the heart of the king (President) as he pleases. We need to intercede for President-elect Trump that God will direct him. Third, for those of us who have lived overseas and ministered in countries that were worse than the United States, we need to remember that our focus is not politics but being faithful to the calling God has committed to us, which is the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor 5:19-20) so that all may be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim 2:4).
How should we respond to the Muslim community?
This is the time when we as evangelical Christians can stand in the gap and show the love of Christ. I am not talking about a response with no message other than a generic love and acceptance of Muslims as a carte blanche. No, I am talking about being the presence of Christ who was gracious but unyielding as to the truth of God’s Kingdom. After the election of Trump for President, an evangelical Chinese church decided to reach out beyond their ethnic community by sending cards to a local mosque to let them know that they are valued and loved. My colleague has developed a relationship with a young imam at a local mosque. He has developed such a relationship of trust that the imam wanted to speak in the khutbah sermon on Friday but the idea was turned down by the older elders of the mosque. However, the imam took his youth group to visit my colleague’s church for a Sunday service because he is curious as to how Christians worship and believe. Afterwards, one young person commented to the imam that she would like to go to church every week. The imam was impressed with how Christians are engaged with the sermon, something he has not witnessed before.
What would happen if every imam of every mosque in North America were to have an evangelical Christian as a friend and confidant? I have developed a good relationship with an Islamic teacher and leader and we get together to discuss whatever he has on his heart. For example, after Obama’s executive order to provide gender neutral bathrooms, he asked me for the Christian response. He recognized that Christians have lived with secularism much longer than Muslims and we have learned to live out our faith in this environment. My friend recognized that his Muslim community has no history of dealing or living in a modern secular society and reached out to an evangelical Christian for a faith-based response. He knew he would not get a good response from a liberal Christian. I sent him documents I have been putting together to help our church deal with this new reality from a legal standpoint. The documents were written for a Bibleteaching church on a biblical response on gender issues, jammed packed with Bible verses and teaching. He and I will be getting together to discuss his and his community’s fear about the implications of a Trump presidency. Our response to the Trump presidency is being watched by the Muslim community. If they only hear what the media finds expedient to increase or sustain their readership, they will be disappointed. However, if we develop these on-going personal relationships in which we share our concerns and responses founded upon the correct Biblical response, we can positively influence the mosques and Muslims.
Immigration, mass movements of people, and refugees fleeing tyrannical political despots, natural disasters, and war are all part of the world’s history from the beginning of time. Abraham immigrated, and the Bible records the mass movement of people including all the deportations of Israel and Judea. The major and minor prophets gives us insight into God’s watchful sovereign eye in the movement of peoples. The Bible reveals God’s concern for widow, orphans, the stranger and foreigners. The Apostle Paul picks up on this Biblical theme in Acts 17:26-28 by recognizing that God has appointed both the times and places where people are to live; so refugees and asylum seekers are a part of God orchestrating the events of history for his purposes. These events displacing people are: “so that they will seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” It is through these tragic events that God is growing and renewing his church. The church’s response is to be at the border. “We must determine whether the place we choose to stand in the national debate will be based on the Word of God or whether we will ignore its teaching and defend our opinion on other grounds. This border, in other words, confronts us as a crossroads of faith and conviction.” Instead of 2 responding in fear during these times of uncertainty, may we go forth with boldness and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims, By Eric Lichtblau, Nov. 14, 2016 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/fbi-hate-crimes-muslims.html?_r=2 (Accessed 11/14/16).