While driving on Radisson Road in Blaine on a Saturday earlier this year, I pulled out my phone to make a call. The day was very busy. I was trying to reach a family who were experiencing serious problems. I rarely initiate calls while driving; however my own time pressures and my desire to reach this family prompted me to make the call. As I was driving, the window of a large pickup truck that was traveling besides me was rolled down; the pickup truck decreased speed and veered a bit into my lane. My initial thought was something was wrong with my car and the driver of the pickup was trying to help me. I rolled down my window. When I did the driver of the pickup—a Caucasian male in his 40’s—pointed his finger at me and yelled, “Get off the !@## phone.” It took every piece of inner strength within me not to flip him the bird. And let me be clear—I haven’t pulled out my middle finger in decades. The experience felt like a male mammal marking his territory.
On Saturday, August 5 an “improvised explosive” device was thrown into the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. The blast heavily damaged the office of Mohamed Omar, the center’s executive director. Windows were shattered in the building. The blast was reported at 5:05 am when about a dozen people had gathered in a room for morning prayers. The Star Tribune reported that Omar, who was in the building when the explosion erupted, said one worshiper saw a pickup truck speed out of the parking lot after the blast.
Last Saturday, August 12 white supremacists, neo-nazis, and their allies marched through Charlottesville, Virginia. James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly drove a car through a group of counter-protestors. Heather D. Heyer was killed and many more were injured. As I shared on my own Facebook page yesterday I highly commend Brian McLaren’s description of the events that he wrote on his blog (brianmclaren.net). McLaren shared a trilogy of blogs where he explained why he was participating in the counter-protests, what happened in Charlottesville, and ways to respond.
To me these three incidents are dots on a cultural landscape that seems to be changing. As a pastor I’m trained to connect the dots. And I’m trained to help people in faith communities respond to what we see in the wider world.
Last Thursday evening the Steering Committee wrestled with a statement about what happened at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center and how to respond in solidarity to the Blaine Muslim Community Center. We know that what happened in Bloomington could happen in Blaine. We took the first draft that I wrote and thought hard about whether it reflected the Purpose Statement and Core Values of Chain of Lakes. The Steering Committee made suggestions to that first draft. The final statement was approved unanimously. The Steering Committee stood in front of the crowd that gathered for worship at Chain of Lakes this past Sunday and read the statement. After worship everyone was given a card on which a person could write his or her own personal statement of support to the people of the Blaine Muslim Community Center. I will be hand-delivering this statement and these cards to the Blaine Muslim Community Center this week.
President Trump’s changing response to Charlottesville is a reflection of a multitude of similar dots that seem to be coming to the surface in America. He is the result of something much deeper.
I believe that people of faith and communities of faith must respond prayerfully, strategically, courageously and non-violently to this cultural landscape. Dr. King Jr. is my own role model for resisting injustice. And we must go out of our way to create multi-racial communities (when possible) whose values reflect the Prince of Peace.
It’s painful to connect these dots. The best response I can do is to pray longer and more fervently. My prayers don’t preclude future action. But these dots necessitate being connected to the ultimate source of life.