Last Saturday, a friend of mine from Dayton, Ohio described an encounter he had with the anti-Obama protesters gathered in his city:
Today as I was driving through Dayton, Ohio a number of people were out on the street corners with signs saying, “Support our Troops… Obama doesn’t!” “Down with healthcare!” “Obama is Hitler…” Yes, they were all white and all upper-class.
I kept asking myself, “What would a nonviolent, creative response be?” As some people were honking their horns in support, I decided just to shake my head in shame and give a thumbs down…
Immediately one of the Tea Party protesters got in their SUV, started cussing me out with hand gestures, and followed me to the local grocery store. They went inside with me all the time starring at me with contempt and hatred.
It’s hard to know what to do… What really struck me is that next to my car were a couple of cars with Obama stickers on them. In one car was an African American couple in the other was an Hispanic mom with her young child. They all looked very scared!
I went home and prayed…
His story made me think about the countless instances of threatening reactions my wife and I have received because of a bumper sticker on our car which reads “God is Not American.” We put the sticker on our car around the time we moved to Canada, about three years ago. On nearly every trip back home to West Virginia, we have been honked at, flipped off, screamed at, followed, etc. just because of this simple, theologically accurate bumper sticker. It usually makes me want to inquire if the offended person is a Christian. If so, presumably he or she worships Jesus Christ as God. Last I checked Jesus was not an american. Last I checked, the God we worship is bigger than that.
On one occasion, I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some adult beverages. My wife and our newborn baby stayed in the car and as I started to walk away from the car toward the front doors of the store, a fellow next to me was getting into his mini-van. His young daughter was already inside. The man looked at me, looked at my bumper sticker, looked back at me, and frowned. I gave him a “what?” sort of look and kept walking toward the store. I looked over my shoulder, concerned that he was going to do something to the car, as my wife and child were inside. Lo and behold, he had walked closer to our car, looking like he was circling around it.
We have talked about removing that sticker from our car when we move home. It’s not the dirty looks and middle fingers from “patriotic” republicans that worry us. Nor is it their tribalistic, idolatrous theology. It’s the increasingly violent rhetoric and actions of the Christian right in america that troubles us. They claim to want “free speech” and the room to express their ideas, but what they seem to really want is the violent destruction of their enemies. And there are increasing examples of acting on this desire, in words and in acts of violence. When these potentially violent individuals come close to my daughter, it confirms for me, viscerally, how much work we Christians who follow the Prince of Peace need to do in turning these hateful hearts around.