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Resisting Shallow Calls to Love in Difficult Times


Resisting Shallow Calls to Love in Difficult Times

Rachel Virginia Hester

by Rachel Virginia Hester

Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public. – Cornel West

These are difficult times, and I am afraid. I’m afraid for me and for the people I love. I feel rushed. I feel urgency. I don’t have time to convince you. I don’t have beautiful language or academic words. I only have this. If you are a Christian who can’t hear me, who doesn’t believe I’m in pain, who doesn’t believe the pain is real, then we have a problem. You have a problem.

You make shallow and uninformed calls to love the oppressed. We need to love Muslims, you say. We need to love Black people, we need to love LGBTQ+ people because they are our siblings, they are family. However, in the very next breath, you pass off false information, toss off stereotypes, hold off from helping the people you just called “family.”

You say, “But I have never done a racist/Islamophobic/sexist act.” And you talk amongst yourselves, convinced that agreeing about love is the same thing as loving.

As if love were just an ideology. Or politics.

I visited an evangelical website: “Dear Church,” it said, “Islamophobia is Anti-Christ.” And I agree. But I kept reading. And, of course, the article perpetuates misinformation, one-dimensional narratives and a dangerously shallow notion of love. (Please feel free to read it yourself, so you may form your own opinions.) The author describes a personal experience in which a house of worship is destroyed by an extremist group. But the way that he introduces the idea of loving our Muslim neighbor is by talking about extremist groups like Daesh/ISIS.

Maybe you’re confused. Let me explain.

Having an article about “loving your Muslim neighbor” and fighting Islamophobia while referencing an act committed by radicalized groups like Daesh, Boko Haram, and the Taliban conflates the actions of these groups with an entire population of Muslim people. This is problematic because it perpetuates the stereotype that the religion of Muslim people is inherently a violent one.

The Muslim people that we encounter on a day to day basis, our neighbors and co-workers – they are not Daesh. They are not affiliated with the Taliban. But articles like the one I referenced make these false equivalencies.

This is discrimination.

Relying on stereotypes like these perpetuates the idea that some people are innately good and some are evil; that entire groups of people are not worthy of protection. Christians then waste time trying to self-righteously tell their peers to love a group of people whom they have and continue to dehumanize in their ignorance.

I am not writing you this to convince you that this reductive conflation of your Muslim neighbor with Daesh is wrong. Because it absolutely is wrong. You already know that assuming all Christians are KKK members is wrong. You already know that the Crusades don’t make it on to Sunday school flannel graphs.

Why do you continue to be complicit with and supportive of the stereotypes you’ve been fed?

Do you not understand how dehumanizing it is to keep doing this?

I’m tired of watching the church debate the humanity of the oppressed. I’m tired of the Christian debate about whether oppressed people DESERVE the church’s assistance. I’m tired of the many ways you dehumanize.

All the dehumanizing.

All people and all living things are loved by God.

And this love is not a shallow love. This is a Love that seeks JUSTICE and PEACE for the people that Love loves.

Real love doesn’t debate a person’s humanity. Love seeks to understand. Love already knows that any human being, made in the very image of the divine, is worthy of protection, safety, happiness and abundant life.

These are dangerous times. Muslim Americans and immigrants and refugees continue to be surveilled in their communities, threatened by hate crimes. They wake up each morning to televised announcements of the evil plotted against them, to news of the evil that people like them have endured.

As a black woman, I have read a lot of white conservative, white moderate, and even white progressive Christian blog posts, anxiously wringing their hands, wondering whether and how much my life should matter, about whether I’m worth protecting.

Stop writing. Try to understand what it means to be oppressed, to be stigmatized and demonized. And then, if you love me, fight for me the way you would if we were actually family, the way you would if you knew what love is or how it feels or what it looks like.

Beyond seeking to love our Muslim neighbor or our black LGBTQ+ neighbor, we must seek out justice for them. Love beckons us to seek out justice. In pursuing justice, we must confront the powers and principalities that are not interested in seeing justice for the oppressed.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Please stop wasting time. Where is your urgency? You need to name these dark powers and evil forces that mock the name of Jesus. White supremacy. Capitalism. Homophobia. Once you know what those forces are, you need to know how to combat them.

As Christians, we should have already agreed that all of God’s creatures were named good and that everyone is trying their best to live and to love well.

Act like it.

Live like it.

Good intentions are not enough, and misinformation can create serious harm. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. We must have intimate knowledge about who our local and global neighbors are, knowledge about what actions we are to take, and knowledge about what our love is to look like in a particular time and place.

Otherwise, our love isn’t really love.