Eboo Patel says the forces of inclusion in America have always been stronger than the forces of intolerance. He said he shared that thought with a young Muslim mother who asked him when he thought it would be that her small children would stop being afraid of being bullied because they are Muslim.
I don’t know that I agree with Eboo, though I respect him greatly.
In fact, one of the truths about life is that overall, there is very evidence of people accepting other people who are different. Rev.Dr. James Forbes calls this reality “versusism,” meaning that in this world, there is always a “we” and a “them,” with the “we” group claiming superiority over “them.”
That is sad, seeing as how so much of the world purports to be religious, lovers and followers of God.
I had a private conversation with God not all that long ago, and asked why it is that He made so many different people if He knew they were never going to get along, God’s presence notwithstanding? “Doesn’t it bother you, God, that the Protestants and Catholics don’t like each other, that the Shiites and Sunnis don’t like each other, that the Christians don’t like much of anybody …that white people don’t like black people, Irish and Italians, at least at one time, didn’t care for each other… why in the world, I asked God, didn’t You just make everyone the same? Did You create a diverse world just so you could watch people who say they love you go at each other?
Of course, God didn’t answer.
I think about this all the time, and I wonder where God is in all this human wrangling and disrespect of each other. Where was God when the little black kids in Philadelphia were made to feel unwelcome in a swimming pool last year by white people who didn’t want them there? Or where was God as the Protestants and Catholics went after each other in Ireland?
And where is God now, as anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is growing, with a Christian pastor, no less, threatening to burn their holy book, the Koran?
I know that the Bible says we cannot understand God; that God’s ways and our ways are not ever going to intersect (paraphrasing), but this fundamental “versusism,” which causes people to go after each other, disrespect each other, hurt each other and too many times, kill each other, is bothersome. I thought we were supposed to practice agape love. I know that every major religion teaches that we are to treat others as we would want to be treated. And yet, in the name of God, we mangle each others’ beliefs, souls, spirits and bodies.
There is something wrong here.
Eboo Patel says the forces of inclusion have always been stronger than the forces of intolerance. For me, a more accurate statement would be that the forces of inclusion have always been stubborn, but not stronger. Overall, intolerance enjoys a comfortable berth almost everywhere in the world, not caring who hurts, who is displaced or replaced, who hurts, and who gets lost in the shuffle. And to make matters worse, this intolerance is practiced in the name of God …who represents love, right?
Not only is active intolerance a bane to our world, but the scars it leaves behind take a long time to heal. People live with the memory of the hurt they felt at being excluded and treated poorly just because they happened to be who they were, who God made them.
Is, then, the diversity of the world that God created in fact a joke? A test or something? I know God knew from the outset how we would treat each other, so, then, in light of the fact that God teaches us to practice love and forgiveness, what’s up?
I hope little Muslim boys and girls are not haggled by mean-spirited Christians or other religious types as 911 draws near, but my fear is that the forces of intolerance will dance upon the innocence of these children like they are worth nothing to God, and some little Muslim child will carry that scar for far too long.
It’s been the way of the world forever.
And that’s a candid observation.