My friend April grew up a church girl. She attended Bible camp and Sunday school, sang Christian songs, and went on mission trips. When she was a senior at Carleton College in Minnesota, she was elected the leader of her campus Christian group.
That year, a mosque in the Twin Cities suffered an arson attack, and the imam sent out an appeal to religious leaders across the state to stand with his community against religious discrimination. April, who had grown close to Muslims during mission trips to Russia, thought this was exactly the right thing to do. She presented her plan at the next meeting of the Christian group and was surprised when it was greeted with stony silence. Finally, someone spoke: “Why are you asking us to support devil worship?” April looked around the room and saw the other members of the group nodding.
April had a big problem. Her conscience was telling her to be a witness against a hate crime; her Christian group was telling her to applaud it. April made her choice: She went to the rally in support of the mosque. The Christian group made its choice: Members voted to remove April as president.
If only this were a simple morality tale, the story of a heroic individual standing up against peer pressure. But April didn’t feel like a hero; she felt abandoned. A large part of her identity was being a Christian. The community she felt closest to her whole life was the church. And now she felt shoved out by that community and confused by that tradition. Furthermore, the members of the Christian group were not just vocal about their position, they were educated about it. They cited prominent Christian leaders on why the destruction of a mosque was a good thing (for example, it may lead some of the Muslims to consider attending a local church instead). So while the students who went to the rally in support of the mosque were labeled compassionate, the ones who applauded the arson were called “Christian.”