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Not My Enemy, But My Friend


At the Oklahoma State Capitol on Tuesday, a few lawmakers met to “study” whether radical Islam has infiltrated the state.  Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, accused local Muslim leaders of participating in terrorist activities, “The enemy must be stopped. We're going to be called bigots, and racists, and Islamophobes and a whole host of other things by the media after this is over. We're going to be called that by terrorists organizations like CAIR that is here today, but you know that is a small price to pay to put our foot to the tail end of these terrorists and these anti-American groups in the name of freedom” (NewsOK, 10/26/2016).


While Bennett stated his purpose for the meeting, he also revealed his objective, “We're going to do all we can to kick these terrorist organizations out of the state of Oklahoma” (Ibid.) When Rep. Bennett refers to “terrorists organization” he is referring to my good friends, Imam Imad Enchassi and Adam Soltani.  Enchassi is the local Senior Imam at The Islamic Center of Greater Oklahoma City.  Soltani is the Executive Director of CAIR-OK (Council on American-Islamic Relations).  Without any credible evidence by state or federal law enforcement officials, Bennett and his associates are attempting to create unsubstantiated and unfounded accusations against peaceful Americans whose faith happens to differ from his.  


There are numerous reasons why this line of legislative harassment is unacceptable.  As a Christian minister, I find the actions by Bennett and other legislators as egregiously opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   During Jesus life and ministry, he engaged and welcomed the strangers among his people, even when his people felt differently about them.  From the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) to healing the servant of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), Jesus practiced what he preached.  And speaking of preaching, he had these words to say, 


“for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

-Matthew 25:42-46


As a Baptist minister, I am absolutely terrified local magistrates are once again using faith as a tool for persecution and harassment.  In the 17th Century, Baptists were persecuted, imprisoned, and publicly whipped for advocating a faith different from that of the majority. This kind of religious persecution prompted Roger Williams to declare in 1644, “An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state, confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (brucegourley.com).


In that same year, Massachusetts “outlawed” being a Baptist altogether, declaring them to be a danger to the state, “some whereof (as others before them) denied the ordinance of the magistracy…bring guilt upon us, infection and trouble to our churches, and hazard to the whole commonwealth” (Leonard, Baptist Ways, 78).  The New England magistrates felt as though Baptists were a terror in their own right, causing chaos and mayhem among their commonwealth.  In my opinion, there is no difference between what 17th Century Puritan magistrates were doing and what Rep. Bennett is doing today.


Finally, as an American, I am appalled at this line of false inquiry and inquisition. Revolutionary Baptist Pastor, John Leland, expressed the sentiments of a liberal democracy when he declared, “The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. ... Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians” (brucegourley.com).  


The charade that took place at the Oklahoma Capitol on Tuesday should make every American’s blood boil.  There is nothing more un-American than elected public officials making unsubstantiated accusations against law abiding and peaceful citizens of a different faith.  This line of inquiry and investigation must cease immediately.  If allowed to continue, the echoes of a new McCarthyism will grow louder over time.  


Therefore, as a Christian and Baptist minister, I stand beside my Muslim brothers and sisters because I truly believe this is what Jesus would do.  As an American citizen, I stand beside you because I still believe that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land for every citizen, not just the powerful elite.  In closing, to my Muslim brothers and sisters, I, for one, do not consider you an enemy, but a friend.  

13 comments (Add your own)

1. Christian wrote:
Do you share your faith with Muslims as Jesus would have done?

October 26, 2016 @ 11:53 AM

2. Neal wrote:
Thank you very much, pastor! This is great!

October 26, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

3. Mitch Randall wrote:
Indeed, I do demonstrate and share my faith by being a decent human being, expressing the love of Christ to those that are different than me, and offer the hope of the Gospel for a better future. Is there anymore that I can do?

October 26, 2016 @ 12:12 PM

4. Noel Jacobs wrote:
Pastor Randall, these words are powerful and healing. Thank you for your voice as a Christian, defending others' dignity and place in our state.

Noel J. Jacobs, PhD
Chair, Beyond Coexistence Service Initiative
Vice President, The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma

October 26, 2016 @ 2:42 PM

5. Chris Moore wrote:
Mitch-

Thanks, as always, for your prophetic words, your witness and your work to be and to follow the Gospel. I am happy to call you friend and colleague.

Rev. Chris Moore
Fellowship UCC
Tulsa, OK

October 26, 2016 @ 3:19 PM

6. James Nimmo wrote:
I'm atheist myself and at the same time I'm fine with giving others all the mental room they need to have any religious or non-religious thoughts it takes for them to live their lives as they see fit.

But what I can't stand is for flat-earth religious people to use intimidation and taunts to browbeat those who have other ideas about life and existence. My feelings are especially strong for those who use their public elected tax-paid office to preach and screech in order to promote a narrow, self-centered, ego-driven policy that restricts or even removes the civil rights of those who believe differently from the bullies holding the bull-horn.

October 26, 2016 @ 5:51 PM

7. Matthew wrote:
It is certainly refreshing for an American Minister to acknowledge the 'stranger' in our land. Here lies the church's greatest potential to do good and truly be the light it is called to be. Love your neighbour is without caveat. Thanks for your insight and dedication.

October 27, 2016 @ 8:47 AM

8. Rev. Charlotte Coyle wrote:
Well done! I too speak where I can and work where I am to break down barriers and build bridges between all God's children. Thank you for your bold clear advocacy for what it means to be American. AND for the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

October 27, 2016 @ 9:46 AM

9. Rev Dr Robert Chesnut wrote:
God bless you for your courage. We have Muslim neighbors and Muslim relatives. All great human beings and we love one another dearly, as Christ would have us

October 27, 2016 @ 12:48 PM

10. Jim McGinley wrote:
Thank you for your courage in standing up to hate and fear mongering which only divides us!

October 28, 2016 @ 12:05 AM

11. Mark Fisher wrote:
Religion....shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion...because, if there be [a God], he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson

October 28, 2016 @ 5:42 AM

12. Aubrey wrote:
Well Said Mitch! I am proud to call you Brother. For any elected official in these United States to assert that a whole group of people are terrorists or sympathizers solely due to their religious affiliation is an affront to our nation. Did these elected officials not pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Oklahoma? Does their pledge mean nothing? Or does the First Amendment's "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" mean nothing?

October 31, 2016 @ 1:52 PM

13. Daniel Glaze wrote:
I am so very proud of you, my brother. On behalf of Christians who actually consider our Muslim brothers and sisters children of God, thank you for reaching out in love and grace. And thank you for eloquently stating what is both maddening and heartbreaking about the vilification of others. As followers of Christ, we are better than this. Thank you for calling us to it.

November 1, 2016 @ 8:02 AM

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