(This post is not about the legalities of “free speech” in America – specifically Dearborn, Michigan – or how much the police did or did not do to protect the “Bible Believers” when they were pelted with water bottles and other items by Muslim teenagers in June, 2012 at the Arab Festival. I will leave all of that up to others to debate and for the courts to decide. My point here is simply to address the words and behavior of the “Bible Believers” at the Festival and encourage all of us to examine them by the teachings and actions of Jesus.)
The words on the young boy’s sign above are so true: somebody keeps giving Christianity a bad name at the annual Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan.
Of the more than 325,000 people who attend the festival each June on Father’s Day weekend, it is not the festival organizers or the Dearborn city officials or the police who give Christianity a bad name. Nor is it the majority of Muslims or Christians (many of whom are Arab) who attend the festival who cause the trouble. They actually get along quite well together and are just there to have a good time. No, the people who attend the Arab Festival and give Christianity a bad name are mostly a small group of visiting protesters who call themselves by the name, “Bible Believers,” and act (in my opinion) more like bigots and racists than true followers of Jesus. See the video here if you like:
It seems to me that these visitors come just to create an uproar and then feel good about themselves when both epithets and eggs are thrown at them! Their satisfaction when this occurs is a false and twisted understanding of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake” (Injeel, Matthew 5:11).
Instead of sharing “Good News” about Jesus, the “Bible Believers” used their terrible signs and voices of contempt last summer and this summer in Dearborn to spread a lot of “Bad News” and give Christianity a bad name. These people might have stood in the “free speech zone” at the festival but Jesus never gave them the freedom to point their fingers and speak the foul words that came from their mouths.
Below is one last picture of their group – one that I photographed last June:
When I approached one of the man in the picture and rebuked him for his lack of Jesus-like behavior, all he could do was berate me and call me names in a mean-spirited and arrogant manner. I was ashamed of him for conducting himself in such despicable ways and at the same time associating himself with the beautiful name of Jesus. I told him exactly that. No one bearing the name “Christian” should ever, ever behave in such a horrible and hateful manner toward Muslims (or anyone else).
So what does the Bible itself have to say about the behavior of these so called “Bible Believers” – these so called “Christians” – who shout at Muslim kids, walk around the festival with a pig’s head on a stick to incite anger, and carry signs filled with words of vitriol? Well, it says a lot. Please check out just two well-known statements from the Bible from the mouth of Jesus:
*** “Love your neighbor” – Jesus repeated this command from the Torah (Leviticus 19:18) over and over again (Injeel: Matthew 19:19 and Matthew 22:39 for example). It is crucial to a life of following him. Muslims are our neighbors. The “Bible Believers” never seem to have gotten the message to love them.
*** “Love your enemies” – Muslims are not my enemies but I guess – at least by their behavior – that the “Bible Believers” think they are their enemies. If so, it seems like they never got this command of Jesus either (Injeel: Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36). This begs the question, “What Bible are the ‘Bible Believers’ believing anyway?!”
I sincerely hope that all of you who are Muslim readers can easily see that these “Bible Believers” who show up at the Arab Festival don’t accurately represent the Bible, Jesus, Christians, or Christianity. They just give it a bad name.
As a “Christian” – one who tries to follow Jesus and proclaim the truly “Good News” of his death and resurrection – I say to all Muslims: “I love you with the love of my savior, Jesus Christ.” And I think I speak for countless other Christians who feel the same way.