The bombing at the Boston Marathon last week was, of course, a tragedy. As Christians, we mourn with those who are hurting. But, as Christians, we also need to mourn with those who, despite having nothing to do with the cause of this tragedy, will face hardship, trial, and discrimination.
This national tragedy is similar to 9/11 because it encourages Americans to bind together in unity. However, when a group binds together this process naturally excludes, leaves out, and turns “outsiders” into “others.” I have been shocked and saddened by how some have responded to Middle Eastern individuals throughout this situation.
If you are not familiar with the story of the young Saudi Arabian student, let me tell you. This man was hurt at the scene of the Boston Marathon, taken to the hospital, and then quickly became a “suspect” because he was there, because he was running away from the explosion, and—we have to assume—because he was Saudi Arabian. This student’s home was searched, his roommate was questioned, all while he was laying wounded in a Boston hospital.
Nothing came of it, and he was quickly cleared. Because he was simply, like so many others, an injured spectator. Yet, this man was racially profiled and targeted because of what he looked like and what we decided about him based on his appearance.
Jesus Wasn’t American
Often, I think it is easy for Christians to join in this desire for national unity and, in doing so, to want to lash out at Muslims or Middle Easterners. This is because our concept of what it means to be “American” is so often confined to a small portion of the community. We easily award that title to those we think “look” American, usually letting it come down to a simple issue of race. If you’re white, you’re American and we’re not afraid of you. Clearly, this simplistic mindset reduces the American identity to a small portion of the population and excludes the rest.
Because many of us like to believe (or hope) that to be an American also means to be a Christian, this reduction and stereotyping and exclusion has intense ramifications for how we as Christians are viewing Middle Easterners. If we so associate Christianity with our American national identity, not only are we doing a disservice to the tons and tons of Christians who are not American, but we are doing a disservice to Jesus (because He wasn’t and still isn’t American).
This mindset—one that is so quick to judge and categorize and exclude—exists in opposition to how Jesus lived His life. He was willing to draw near to anyone, despite what perceived earthly barriers might have existed. We must live like this. If we ever exclude, judge, or ridicule someone based on what we perceive as some irreconcilable difference, we are not living like Jesus. We are letting fear rule our hearts.
In Romans 12:2, God commands us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It’s easy to want to let ourselves join in the wave of American nationalism and exclude all the people we decide are outsiders. These practices are usually not done with explicit intension. Rather, we let these mindsets seep into our heads and hearts and change how we act towards others, think about others, and love others.
We must resist conforming to the patterns of the world. As Christians, it is our duty to love like Jesus. This means that we must stand up for everyone who is persecuted or judged or despised. We must respond to the Boston tragedy with sympathy and love and support for all men and women, no matter where they come from or what they look like. We must let Jesus transform and renew our minds.