In late 2015, there is a growing propensity in the United States for scapegoating Muslims. The reasons for this are complicated but my sense is that the growth has been fueled most recently by terrorist acts by Muslims with extreme ideologies in places like San Bernardino and Paris. Oh yeah, and the rise and persistence of ISIS has not helped either. Right now, it seems acceptable to many to blame all Muslims for all problems in the US. The message sounds to my ears to be this: if we can just get rid of the Muslims, then all will be well. Not in spite of my faith as a a follower of Jesus Christ, but because of it, I know that this scapegoating is dangerous, un-Christian, and a precursor to more and more violence. None of this is new, profound, or particularly insightful. As a pastor just 10 days from Christmas, though, and with 1000 things to do I find myself torn between wanting to ignore this scapegoating and wanting to do nothing but address it in my life and ministry. What to do…what to do? Here’s one thing we tried in my congregation that might be something you could do, or could adapt:
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent 2015, our church began our worship service, not with an act scapegoating, but of love-goating…of naming groups who may be different than us but to whom we send our love. What did this look like?
- Before worship I explained love-goating to 3 members of the congregation and asked them to “prime the pump” in the service. This gave them some extra time to think about who they might lift up.
- After our announcements at the beginning of the service I explained my concerns about the scapegoating of Muslims and invited the congregation to this act of love-goating. I didn’t over-explain, just told that they we would now raise up the names of groups in our community/country/world, who may be were different than us, but who are still beloved children of God.
- Then, I invited the congregation to a moment of silence before offering this: “we send out love to our Muslim brothers and sisters who walk the way of peace. Please offer your love-goating as you are moved.”
- People in the congregation then “pop-corned” out various groups (those without homes, castaways, refugees, LGBTQ, those not on honor-roll at school, etc.).
- When the love-goating was done I ended with a short prayer before continuing with the service.
That’s it. A short 3-minutes at the beginning of worship that was in tune with the headlines of the day, faithful, and which helped all those present to practice the way of love rather than the way of hate or of fear. This could be adapted for use on any Sunday and for many different needs or occassions.
© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2015