National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams has brought widespread criticism that is unusual because of its diverse sources. After all, when was the last time Whoopi Goldberg and Sen. Jim DeMint agreed on anything?
At issue was Williams’ remark on “The O’Reilly Factor” that he becomes worried on an airplane when he sees passengers dressed in Muslim apparel. NPR stated that Williams violated its code of ethics. No matter that Williams also corrected O’Reilly by distinguishing between moderate and extremist Muslims.
Not knowing which are extremists is what puts many Americans on edge. As Elvin Lim wrote in The Faster Times, NPR’s disingenuous explanation of the firing in effect treated Williams’ emotion as illegitimate without explaining why. NPR and other media are too captive to Islamophobia phobia to give Americans helpful guidance on how to deal with fear of Muslims.
Enter the Church, stage right. David Prior has written, “When we live in victory over the forces that destroy others, then people begin to see that there is meaning and purpose and reason for the salvation we profess to have.”
While it is understandable that many feel nervous around people in Muslim apparel, is fear a reasonable or helpful response? Extremists will probably not advertise themselves, so appearance alone is not the issue. What must be overcome is that many Christians fear approaching Muslims simply because they are Muslim.
NPR has given Christians a teachable moment, and God offers us the power to use it. His power transcends “the fear of man that brings a snare,” (Proverbs 29:25). The choice we face is between retreating from our fears or overcoming them.
When I made the effort to meet Muslims face to face, I found that they appreciate my spending time with them to learn about their beliefs. I pay attention to how they think as well as what they think. I also reason vigorously with them from God’s Word about sin and Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross as the only solution.
This kind of interfaith dialogue does not succeed by human resources. I pray for at least a half dozen of my Muslim friends by name. Prayer focuses energy on reaching others with God’s power in spite of the fear I still feel.
Avoiding all Muslims will not make us safer, but it will rob us of valuable opportunities. To successfully engage them we must learn what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This comes by submitting to Him and asking for boldness, as did the believers in Acts 4. When we do, God will empower us to make the bold advance.