Here are two small stories that will never make it into the headlines but that, to the credit of the New York Times, at least made it into the Sunday paper.
In his Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s Sunday Review, Nikolas Kristoff argues that “Donald Trump is Making America Meaner.”
In his article Kristoff tells the story of Maureen Costello of the Southern Poverty Law Center who states,
We’ve spent the last 15 years fighting bullying in schools, and the example set by the Trump campaign has broken down the doors, and a tidal wave of bullying has come through.
But, Kristoff does not stop with this disheartening description of the impact of Trump’s malicious run for the presidency. He goes on to describe a scenario that moves in a radically different direction:
In Georgia, an India-born Muslim named Malik Waliyani bought a gas station and convenience store a few months ago and was horrified when it was recently burglarized and damaged. He struggled to keep it going. But then the nearby Smoke Rise Baptist Church heard what had happened.
“Let’s shower our neighbor with love,” Chris George, the pastor, told his congregation at the end of his sermon, and more than 200 members drove over to assist, mostly by making purchases. One man drove his car around until the gas tank was empty, so he could buy more gas.
“Our faith inspires us to build bridges, not to label people as us and them, but to recognize that we’re all part of the same family,” the pastor told me. “Our world is a stronger place when we choose to look past labels and embrace others with love.”
Faced with a choice between the angry divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump and the compassionate action of Smoke Rise Baptist Church, there is no competition for Christians. We dare not join the bullies.
From the beginning the vision has been clear. People who have been given great bounty are blessed not for their own gain or gratification, but in order that they might be a blessing to others. As God is reported to have said to the Hebrew people,
I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:2,3)
It cannot be said often enough, loudly enough, or with enough force – faith calls us to be people of compassion, gentleness, kindness, and self-giving loving service for the well-being of all life.
As human beings who have been blessed with the gift of life, we are called by the One who has entrusted us with this gift, to be instruments of healing, peace, and unity. We stand against all forces that divide. We refuse language that demonizes. We resist the determination to create enemies and foster violence, isolation, and disrespect.
All human beings are created in the “image and likeness” of God. No matter what their nationality, ethnicity, socio-economic status, faith, or lack of faith, all human beings are inherently valuable and worthy of deep respect and honour.
Christians do not create boundaries. We do not judge, exclude or condemn.
We share one world. Political boundaries and geographical and ethnic distinctions are all humanly created artificial constructs. They have no place in shaping the way we respond to other people. We live in an elaborately inter-connected eco-system. All life is a web of relationship. When any one strand is damaged, we are all hurt.
As Nikolas Kristoff points out, if the torn fabric of the human community is going to be mended, it will only be as we join the good people of Smoke Rise Baptist Church in practical acts of kindness and good will.