First they came for the Muslim…

July 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm


“We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S.” With these words Franklin Graham ignited a wave of controversy last week through his facebook page. Responding to the murder of four Marines killed by Mohammad Abdulazeez in Chatanooga, Graham likened Muslims to the Japanese and Germans of WWII, exhorting the public to contact their congressman and “close the floodgates.”

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Carl Medaris countered with an open letter to Graham through which he offered three helpful considerations and warnings regarding stereotypes, fear and love of our enemies. He writes,

1. Stereotyping (broad-brushing) whole groups of people. We can judge this Muslim man. He was wrong. He’s a criminal of the worst kind.  We can judge Dylan Roof. We can.  That’s judging rightly. But we cannot judge a group of people.  That’s God’s job. And we cannot say it’s “being wise” or “being aware of the times” or things that some folks use to justify judgments.

2.  Fear is the work of Satan.  When you compared “Muslims” with Japanese and Germans during WW2 you committed several fatal flaws in your argument. We are not at war with Muslims – or Islam.

3.  Franklin, consider again the way of Jesus when it comes to dealing with an enemy.  Some things Jesus wasn’t all that clear on. But the enemy thing – quite clear.  He says to love them.  Give to them.  Bless them. Pray for them.

As a missionary within a denomination that ministers predominantly to Muslims, Graham’s words were particularly troubling. We live in a century in which an unprecedented number of  Muslims are coming to Christ. In his book A Wind in the House of Islam David Garrison reveals that there have been more Muslim conversions to Christianity in the last 15 years than in the previous 1400 combined. He notes that the primary reason is a reaction to radical Islam. The terrorist violence of groups like ISIS, Boko-Haram, Al Queda and others is causing nominal, and in some cases even devout, Muslims to question their ethnic religion and turn towards Christianity for answers.

We serve a God who is able to turn the most evil intentions of man into means of his redemptive purposes. I echo Medaris in cautioning Christians from taking a reactionary posture of fear and simultaneously derailing the untold opportunity to share Jesus with the now millions of Muslims who are flooding towards our neighborhoods and doorsteps.  For many of us, the immigration of Muslims to the U.S. has been a long awaited answer to prayer not a reason to recoil.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling of all, is the fact that in choosing to refer to WWII, Graham’s words brought to mind for me not the Germans and Japanese, but the Jews. After all it was the insistence that Jews presented a national threat to Germany which first provoked their persecution and eventual genocide at the hands of a government who was supported by silent followers brainwashed by propaganda. In the aftermath it was a Protestant pastor named Martin Niemöller, a concentration camp survivor, who lamented the nearly universal silence that preceded the horrific history of the Nazi regime. His most famous words of warning are included below as both a witness and sober reminder that when public figures like Graham speak from influential positions, people listen, and not even Graham himself will be able to foresee what sort of response they put into motion. It is not difficult to imagine a United States in which later generations might have wished they had spoken out earlier when it was first suggested that Muslims be removed from our country. Let it not be said of the body of Christ that when they came for the Muslims, we remained silent. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)