Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 2)

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29 (RSV)

Background

ReltavismThe PCUSA is involved in a myriad of religious and public policy issues. One area of emphasis has been interfaith outreach. As one component of this initiative, the Presbytery of Chicago approved creation of the Interfaith Solidarity Network in 2008. Its stated mission is to:

… provide support to the religious communities in the Chicago area if they are threatened, made fearful or hurt by expressions of hate. Responses may be in the form of written letters, press releases/conferences, or public response (demonstration or counter-demonstration.)

Due to an article in the Chicago Presbytery’s newsletter, “Our Common Ministry” [1] titled “Standing in Solidarity with Sikhs and Muslims,” I began research on the Presbytery’s activities in this area. The article in question appeared to assume the widespread hatred of Muslims throughout entire communities. The relevant text from this article is excerpted as follows.Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AM

On August 10, the Muslim Education Center (Mosque) in Morton Grove was shot at with a “high-velocity pellet gun” by an enraged neighbor while 500 persons were praying within the building. Fortunately, no one was injured. In collaboration with Winnetka Presbyterian, the ISN organized a visit of six churches (Chicago Fourth, Evanston Northminster, Morton Grove Community, Skokie Carter Westminster, Wilmette, and Winnetka). They greeted worshippers as they arrived for prayers with words of support and encouragement.

On August 12, The College Preparatory School of America (CPSA), a fulltime Muslim school in Lombard, had a bottle full of acid thrown at the school during Ramadan Prayers. The following Saturday, ISN members, plus members from two United Church of Christ churches, visited the school to express support and concern. They met with the teachers, then greeted parents as they arrived for school orientation, holding signs that said, “We are concerned,” “Hate has no place in Lombard,” and “Our hearts are with you.” One of our Presbyterian pastors spoke to the assembled group, saying “You are not alone” … [1]

I was taken aback by the apparent presumption that hate has a place in Lombard. Certainly a village with a population exceeding 40,000 will have a wide variety of inhabitants – many who are upstanding and productive members of the community, and, a few who fall short on important dimensions of moral conduct.

I believe that the attribution of a morally charged word like “hate” to an entire community must be reserved for only the most clear-cut, extreme situations. Having lived near Lombard for decades and known numerous of its citizens, I was doubtful that this community deserved to have its good name besmirched in this manner. I therefore began looking into the apparent presumption that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred as well as the specific Lombard and Morton Grove incidents.


[1] Our Common Ministry, Volume 29 Number 5, Presbytery of Chicago, November 2012.

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