“This is what Dallas Looks Like”

Muslims are under attack by executive order of our President, and by terrorists in Quebec. Make no mistake, one is related to the other.

Laws such as Trump’s Muslim ban give “moral license” to bigots and crazy people. No, it is not direct causality. But these laws, and the embrace of them by preachers such as Dallas’ own Robert Jeffers, give tacit permission to the angry lone wolf, or the outraged Islamophobe and violent extremist alike.

No doubt, some will cringe at what I’ve said here. But I would remind you –and especially all of you who are Christian– how Jesus mentions, by name, a Syrian man that the great prophets of old had been called to heal. Jesus reminds them that the prophet was not sent to somebody from the “hometown crowd,” but to a “foreigner,” likely somebody of another religion….a Syrian!!! (Gasp!)

What happens next, as the story is told in Luke’s Gospel, is that Jesus’ hometown crowd gets so angry with him that they seek to throw him off the cliff.

Similarly, far too many Christians today, and preachers, have *become* the hometown crowd…those who fear, and are angered by the foreigner….and even more angered when they are called out for their hate and fearmongering.

I mourn with our Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere tonight, as we hear the news from Quebec.

worthingtondallas
Photo: David Worthington

But friends, forget not the lessons of Dallas. Forget not that this weekend has seen an incredible birth of solidarity among our people.

Saturday night, scores of Muslims were joined by dozens (yes, dozens) of Rabbis (in town for a meeting!), about a dozen United Methodist clergy, and many other religious leaders…standing up to the bigotry and injustice of the President’s executive order…

It was our privilege to watch, and stand with in awe, as our Muslim leaders, such as Alia Salem and Imam Omar Suleiman led the people of Dallas…as our city, county, state and national elected officials….many of them…turned out to support…

But even beyond this, it was our honor to watch “the people.” The people of Dallas-Fort Worth, who protested with an inspiring blend of stridency and optimism…who joked with police…and smiled at their neighbors…who became community.

As our Mayor and my friend, County Judge Clay Jenkins, offered flowers to those being released earlier today, they said the exact same words to them that I said to their family members in person last night, “We are so sorry…we are so embarrassed…this is not who we are…”

It is not enough. But it is the small grace of compassionate leadership we are blessed to see here.

We here in Dallas, more than most big cities, understand the truth that a city is never defined by its worst moment. And so we pray for Quebec. And we trust that out of horrific tragedy, some new solidarity among all God’s children might be formed. We know this from our own history, both in the 1960s and today.

Such new hope and solidarity can never replace lives lost. But it can help heal heartbreak, and partially redeem the future.

Today, as the protests dispersed at DFW Airport, one of the final cheers was in the form of the classic, “This is what democracy looks like…” Only with a twist that made my body tingle with delight.

To the whole world, the crowd shouted out, “This is what DALLAS looks like.”

Friends, it’s what the WORLD looks like. And it’s a beautiful thing, for those with hearts to see and embrace it.

In a way, I almost feel sorry for fearmongerers, and terrorists with guns. For they have no idea what blessings they miss by not learning to love and work with their neighbors, rather than fear and hate them.

They have no idea what a privilege and honor it is to stand beside Muslim friends, women, people of all faiths and races, and sexual orientations.

They are so blinded by their fear and hate, that they miss the true beauty of God’s creation all around them.

Pray for Quebec. But more than this, pray that more cities come together, if I may be so bold, like I see us coming together here.

It’s a beautiful thing. And it will help us endure the tough and dark times ahead.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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