A couple of years ago, I remember speaking to a middle-schooler about his worries of the world. During our conversation, he told me one of his biggest fears centered around Muslims. When I asked why Muslims generated so much fear in him, he said they were scary and are out to hurt people.
"Look at 9/11," he said. "Terrorists may take over the U.S. and then the world."
Around the same time I heard similar concerns from a 10-year old in my Sunday School class who joked about the terrors of Islam and how Muslims were going to take over the world. Again, I asked him where he received these ideas, to which he responded, “from my church back in Southern California.”
Both times, I had to remind my students that sometimes churches get it wrong. All people are created in the image of God. Every person is a child of God. God’s love brings understanding, reconciliation, and peace among one another. God’s love casts out all fear.
I reminded them of Ishmael—Abraham’s son. I reminded them that historically, Christians and Muslims are blood-related. My students had no idea.
So where is all this fear coming from?
These conversations came to mind after reading a disturbing article about Jerry Boykin on the God’s Politics blog. It shocked me because he is a figure known for perpetuating these fears.
The views my Sunday School students hold show that the influence of preachers, and figures like Boykin, are powerful. When they speak, people listen. They can either choose to use the language of love, peace, and inclusivity, or language that hurts our communities and our love for others—especially the “strangers.” It is heartbreaking to know that many people believe such lies, even adults.
God gives peace and joy in life, not fear. Even among terrible times or situations, God gives us all hope to pull through—that’s the gospel we need to preach! As 1 John 4:18 tells us, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
So, playing on language typically used by fear mongers, “Because the Bible says it… we believe it.”
Jessie Choi is the advertising assistant at Sojourners.
Sunday School image, joyart / Shutterstock.com