Dear Peter King (you don’t represent me),
Do you really want to go down in history as another McCarthy, the man who history has judged to symbolize this country’s participation in the some of the worst sins of the twentieth century? Do you really need attention that badly? You say you are looking for extremists to keep our country safe, but Peter, have you looked in the mirror? Because you’ll find one there. You and your buddies have hijacked my country and flown your jet into the twin towers of compassion and justice. What you are doing doesn’t make me think you are strong. It makes me think you are weak.
You heard testimony yesterday from two people who had relatives who became extremists while worshipping in a mosque. So what? Every human institution has its crazies and manifestations of the brokenness in our world; I’m a Christian pastor and I should know. You’ve proved nothing. Your name, Peter, means ‘rock’ but you are providing no foundation for stability, for peace, for anyone. Communities like mine will be cleaning up the mess you are making now for decades to come. I have a family, Peter, and friends, who wonder where I’ve been while I’ve been trying to build structures of relationship and understanding across religious difference, structures that you and your hearings hack away at every day.
What you are doing will not bring us more security! But I’ll tell you what will. Give up your need for money and fame. Wake up every morning and seek to understand, not to judge. See each person for who she or he is, and know that we are all more than our labels and identities, and less. Stop believing in your own almighty power. Admit to people what really scares you: that ultimately you cannot control the world and what happens and that chaos and disaster will continue to break into our lives. But commit not to contribute to that brokenness because of your fear.
Because guess what, Peter. The real work of creating security and of dealing with all of the difference in our world that might feel scary or threatening just because it’s unknown isn’t sensational. It doesn’t turn us into celebrities and it doesn’t happen in a few weeks. It’s about eating with people and being invited into their homes and places of worship. It’s about choosing to use your time to watch a movie like Arranged or The Bubble or One instead of Black Hawk Down or The Siege. It’s about being willing to be uncomfortable but stay in conversation when you encounter someone whose worldview really is different from you own. At times this work can be exhilarating and at times it can be very tedious, but it matters.
It’s not too late, Peter. It’s Lent and you are a Christian. Repent. Turn toward life and away from the death that you are creating.
With all the compassion I can muster at the moment,