by Rick Love
Emotions run high and reasonable discourse runs low when the subjects of the travel ban or immigration come up. But whether you protest or praise particular policies, one thing is undebatable: both Muslims and Mexicans/Latinos face blatant discrimination in Trump’s America.
Why is this the case, and how should Republican and Democrat followers of Jesus respond?
First of all, we need to recognize the impact of President Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims and Mexicans (or Latinos in general). Over the last few years the President has repeatedly described both Muslims and Mexicans in derogatory terms. He often equates Muslims with terrorists and Mexicans with rapists, drug dealers, and MS-13. Mexicans are called “bad hombres,” and anti-Muslim hostility seems to be at the heart of President Trump’s politics.
Trump is trying to build an America of “Us” vs. “Them,” especially when it comes to Muslims and Mexicans.
This is a classic example of dehumanization. He has demonized Muslims and Mexicans, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment. This has been linked to a spike in hate crimes in America (see these articles by the Washington Post, CNN, and NPR).
The President’s rhetoric has a “totalizing” effect on his hearers. It makes people see Muslims and Mexicans through an all-or-nothing grid: all Muslims and all Mexicans are bad people. This hateful rhetoric emboldens racists and Islamophobes, stigmatizing a whole religion and a whole race.
I am not saying that the President necessarily has malicious intentions. In fact, I believe he wants to protect America and fulfill his campaign promises. But even with good intentions everyone should be held accountable for the impact of their words. And the impact of his words has proven divisive and destructive.
Secondly, this administration presents virtually every issue as either/or. This is common in both politics and in conflict in general. But peacemakers and conflict resolution specialists push people beyond the either-or choice to find “win-win” solutions.
We don’t have to choose between national security or compassionate embrace of the immigrant. Our great nation can and must continue to be pro-immigrant and pro-security. We can welcome the immigrant and keep our country safe. This is what great countries do!
For this to happen, Republican followers of Jesus need to reject political totalizing and dehumanizing of Muslims and Mexicans, while Democrat followers of Jesus need to reject political totalizing and dehumanizing of President Trump himself.
Thirdly, when we look at someone, we shouldn’t see them primarily through the lens of religion, race, or political party. We shouldn’t see a Buddhist or a person of color, a Muslim or a Mexican, a Republican or a Democrat. We should see God’s image-bearer. All people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28) and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Fourthly, let me be very clear. President Trump’s rhetoric has dehumanized Muslims and Mexicans. But he didn’t cause this discrimination. He merely stoked the fire and exposed the latent fear, ignorance, and prejudice that already runs deep in people.
This volatile combination of hateful, totalizing rhetoric found a home in the hearts of many. But there is no room for hate in the heart of one who follows Jesus.