The Common Good

'Love Your Neighbor' Wasn't Just a Suggestion

Sojomail - September 27, 2012

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

'Love Your Neighbor' Wasn't Just a Suggestion

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support
Sojourners

The most recent discussions of U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East once again say more about politics during an election year than they do about the fundamental issues we must confront if we want to see substantial change.

So let’s look at the basic issues and fundamental choices we need to make.

Today the Middle East — where about 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25 — is a region dominated by humiliation and anger.

Failure + rage + the folly of youth = an incendiary mix.

The roots of anti-American hostilities in the Middle East run deep (literally and figuratively). We can start with the fact that our oil (and its economy) lies beneath their sands. Couple that with U.S. support of repressive and backward regimes, the continual presence of foreign troops on their land and near their holy places, and the endless wars waged there, ultimately fueled by the geopolitics of energy.

Add to that incendiary cocktail the unresolved Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which continues to drive the deepest emotions of mutual frustration, fear, and retaliation throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Injustices and violence caused by the oil economy have sparked a reaction from dangerous religious fundamentalists in the Islamic world. Fundamentalism — in all our faith traditions — is both volatile and hard to contain once it has been unleashed, and it becomes hard to reverse its essentially reactive and predictably downward cycle.

Here are three principles that may us navigate a path out of this mess:

First, religious extremism will not be defeated by a primarily military response to it. Ample evidence proves such a strategy does not work and often makes things worse. Religious and political zealots prefer huge military responses to the threats created by Islamic extremism.

Ironically, this holds true on both sides of the conflict: the fundamentalist zealots also prefer the simplistic military approach, because they are often able to use it effectively. The shock-and-awe strategy of military might simply has not worked. Fundamentalists actually flourish and win the most new recruits amidst overly aggressive military campaigns against them.

Second, religious extremism is best undermined from the inside, rather than smashed from the outside.The answer to bad religion is not secularism, as all the “new atheists” like to say; rather, it is better religion. And the best antidote to religious fundamentalism of all stripes is — in every case — the genuine faith tradition that is alive and well in most world religions.

For example, the best thing that moderate and progressive Christians can do in the struggle against fundamentalism in other faith traditions is to make powerful alliances with the moderate and progressive leaders in those other faith communities. The antidote to fundamentalist religion is prophetic religion, and a new alliance between prophetic religious leaders, across our many faith traditions, is the best way to defeat the threats of modern fundamentalism.

Third, while the use of force to protect security and bring perpetrators to justice is justifiable, the defeat of the mindset and motives of terrorism will come through much broader and more creative strategies. This third principle goes back to Paul’s strategy of feeding your enemies if they are hungry to “heap burning coals on their heads.” What the modern Muslim world most needs today is education (especially of its young women), the building of technology and infrastructure, and a principal focus on economic development.

It is precisely that kind of assistance the Middle East needs most from the West, not more weapons and money poured into the coffers of corrupt regimes. The West has not been on the side of democracy or, for the most part, development in the Middle East, and that fundamentally must change. Altering policies in the West will help alter destructive patterns in the Middle East.

But the change most needed in this volatile region must come from within — with the right kind of support from without.

Recently in Joplin, Mo., Sojourners worked with local interfaith communities to put up billboards that read “Love Your Muslim Neighbors” just blocks from where a mosque had been burned to the ground a few weeks earlier. Sojourners erected another billboard in Oak Creek, Wis., to support the Sikh community with the same message after the deadly shootings at its gurudwara in August. And a third sign went up in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to show our solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters there embroiled in an ongoing controversy about a local mosque.

This week, ugly anti-Islam ads — implying that Muslims are uncivilized "savages" — began appearing in New York City subways. Many people of good faith from across the nation are speaking out against the ads, which NYC  transit officials labeled as hate speech and tried to block before a federal judge ruled the ads are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Sojourners now plans to bring a message of love — a light in the darkness — to counter the hate by launching a new "Love Your Muslim Neighbor" ad campaign in the NYC subway system. If you'd like to be a part of spreading this message, you can pitch in by clicking HERE.

What we are finding is that such simple and positive peacemaking messages (especially in situations of religious conflict) strike deep and responsive chords in many people — religious and nonreligious alike.

Changing the policy. Changing the message. Both are essential if lasting change is to come to the Middle East.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

E-mailE-mail this article to friends
FacebookShare this article on Facebook
CommentComment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


 ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

What Shane Claiborne (and Mother Teresa) Got Wrong About the Body of Christ
by Ellen Painter Dollar

Listening to Shane Claiborne speak back in April about justice and love and how our stories illuminate God's kingdom, I felt at home. Here was the kind of guy I used to worship with in my earnest urban-dwelling days. His message, his words, and his stories felt intimate, familiar, and inspiring. That is, except for this one story.
+ Click to continue

Poverty's Annoying Persistence
by Janelle Tupper

It's annoying, isn't it, how American political debate ignores the pressing issues and instead focuses on the trivial? I'm talking about pressing issues like the recently released poverty numbers — nearly 1 in 6 Americans lives in poverty, and the child poverty rate is even higher. That's 46.2 million people living on less than $23,021 a year for a family of four.  
+ Click to continue

Here We Go Again?
by Brian McLaren

In my new book, "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?," I explore the religious roots of hostility and violence. I reference a brilliant TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie, where she quotes Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti: If you want to dispossess a people, she explained, all you need to do is tell their story, but start with "secondly."

 
+ Click to continue

Is the Kingdom of God Made of Vegetables?
by Jeremy John

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." ~ Arundhati Roy

Vegetables. Who could have imagined an economy in which gentle vegetables were subversive? But this is our world. A world where a vegetable, whose growth is imperceptible to the naked eye, can spider a crack into the concrete of our industrial food system.
 
+ Click to continue

Obama Speaks Out Against Modern Slavery
by God's Politics

At the Clinton Global Initiative meeting Tuesday, President Obama announced what some have described as "landmark actions to fight human trafficking" — naming human trafficking as the "evil" that it is, and announcing new policy initiatives to combat modern slavery. During his address, the president highlighted the powerful role of the faith community in raising awareness, serving the survivors of trafficking and abuse, and fighting human rights abuses and rampant injustices globally.
+ Click to continue

Mumford & Sons Stick to Their Guns
by Brandon Hook

Has popularity and success translated into a decent sophomore album? Absolutely. One way to avoid the perilous "sophomore slump" that plagues many musicians and bands these days is to stick to your guns. And that's exactly what English quartet Mumford & Sons did with their second album Babel.

 "The idea was always, 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?'" producer Markus Dravs told Rolling Stone.

And that's almost exactly what audiences get on Babel. It's as if Mumford took all the good things from their first record, Sigh No More, and channeled them into Babel.
+ Click to continue

 
 

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!
 
 
 
  

God is NOT a Republican or a Democrat. During this election season arm yourself with a political statement that makes sense. Get your sticker today!
 

Do you want a great resource to help you deliver a passionate sermon on justice and peace? Do you need lectionary reflections from a trusted source? – Learn More About Preaching the Word.
 

"...For the rights of all who are destitute." Order Strangers in the Land, a six-week devotional guide intended to stir the spirit, mobilize the church, and uncover what justice can look like in our lives, churches, and communities.
 

Dorothy Day says, "Food for the body is not enough...there must be food for the soul." You can say it too as you shop with Sojourners' exclusive stuffable, reusable, and durable Shopping Bag. Order yours.

 

  
 

Click Here!
 

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.