Our failure to love strangers is an opportunity for them to be radicalized
I winced when I heard about the bombings in New York and New Jersey. The return of fear. The chaos of not knowing who had attacked us.
Now, it appears, we know who attacked us. It was us.
“Us?” you say.
We, a nation filled with people who profess to follow the welcomer of refugees, friend of the lost, enemy of the comfortable and officious. We failed to love, the second greatest commandment of the man who was the son of God demanded of us. The man who made us Christians. The commandment to love our neighbor was second only to one other commandment, which is to love God. The first two commandments, told to us by the namesake of Christianity, LOVE, LOVE and LOVE.
I wish I could say that as we became more secular and moved away from professing our religion, those who continued to profess that religion moved closer to its founder and his ideals. But we did not.
The secular among us preach tolerance, acceptance, but rarely radical love. And many in America still proclaiming to follow Jesus proclaim their heritage through pronouncements against minority groups, instead of acting like their radical namesake.
Those who should be modeling love for everyone, those who followed the most radical lover of humanity, Jesus, failed.
What we know about Ahmad Khan Rahami is that he was Afghan descent, the son of refugees. And his family carved out a small slice of the American dream, living above a small restaurant in New Jersey. But instead of love, there was trouble. The town and the restaurant’s neighbors battled the family and, in a lawsuit by the family against THEIR town, alleges they were discriminated against at least in part because of their faith, because they were strangers.
Whether it was simple bureaucracy, or discrimination, this family was not given the love it deserved as people fleeing a war zone, a war zone America helped to create (both in the recent past, and into the 1980s when we funded insurgents against our arch enemies, the U.S.S.R.).
If we had lived up to our aspirations, both as Christian and as a nation that once asked the world to send us its huddled masses, would Rahami have been so susceptible to the messages that eventually radicalized him?
I don’t know the definitive answer. However, as I listen to the followers of Presidential candidate Donald Trump scream for the exclusion of Muslims from our great — and religiously free country — I can’t help but believe the answer is yes.
There was a reason that Jesus asked his followers to turn the other cheek when they were struck. It was to show love for their oppressors, to show love for their tormentors, to end the cycle of violence and oppression rampant in his land. It was to change the tone of the world.
Love your neighbor, even if they do not love you. Love your enemy, especially because they do not love you.
Love, because without love, you leave the door open.
Our failure to love everyone, particularly the stranger, is an opportunity for them to be radicalized by someone professing the opposite of love — fear and hatred. Love, because we can only defeat terror by love. We can never fight our way out of terrorism. We can only love our neighbors and our enemies until they give up.
Jesus knew it and he sacrificed himself to prove it, to profess it, to show it.
Please find it in yourself to love, whether you are secular or Christian. Please love. Let there be no more radicalized youth because we love them too much.
The young are prone to alienation, and without love, they find anger. We must love. We must show it, we must embody it. If we cannot, we will never break loose from terror.
Jesus knew it. He commanded it. We must follow it, whether we follow him or not. There is one answer to terror, and it is love.
Love. Love. Love.