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Eric Allen Bell

Eric Allen Bell is a filmmaker living in Murfreesboro, TN

October 5th, 2010 8:40 PM

The Peaceful Many and the Violent Few

I am not complaining when I tell you that, since starting production on a documentary about the backlash in Murfreesboro, TN against the building of a new Islamic Center, I get hate mail daily. Given the rise of Islamophobia, the history of intolerance in the South and my sometimes aggressive style in going after the truth, I really have no right to complain if people don't like me.

But lately the hate mail has changed to threatening emails and threats of violence online. Surveillance equipment has gone up around my house. Last night as a friend drove away from my house, two police cars followed him for a few blocks just to make sure everything was okay. And I might add that the Murfreesboro Police Department have been professional, supportive and on top of their game when it comes to keeping all of us, on all sides of this debate, safe. It's unfortunate however that it would come to this.

But what is most surprising and disappointing is that the people making these threats identify themselves as being Christian. Now let me just say right away that the vast majority of Christian people are like anyone else, peaceful and nonviolent. I can think of a few other religions where I could say the exact same thing. It would be wrong of me to judge an entire group of people based on the violent actions and rhetoric of a radical few. And even when you see an angry mob of them parading down Main Street with their hate-filled signs, it seems like there are a lot of them. But still, they really do only represent a fringe element within the Christian faith.

And the same thing goes for the act of terrorism against the Mosque that took place at the construction site of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on August 28th. Just because it has been people identifying themselves as Christians who have been fanning the flames of hatred against this small minority group is no reason to assume that all Christians are full of hatred, judgment, condemnation or intolerance. Even though I often find myself getting angry at these people, it just wouldn't be fair to lump them all together and assume that everyone who identifies themselves as Christian must therefore be a hatemonger who supports threats of violence and acts of aggression.

I am sure it would be offensive to many Christians if I or someone else where to suggest that they all follow Pat Robertson for instance. Just because the radical Evangelical movement in America is at least 30 million strong and just because a few hundred thousand of them gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. also on August 28th to hear Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin support ideas such as homophobia and turning America into a Christian theocracy is no reason to assume that all Christians are like this.

From what I understand about Christianity, Jesus taught two basic principles:

1 - Love God with all your heart mind and soul, and;

2 - Love your neighbor as yourself.

Well there it is. So even though the book of Leviticus in the Bible talks about stoning your children if they talk back to you and even though the Bible is filled with passages where God allegedly tells this person or that person to go out and essentially commit acts of ethnic cleansing, I prefer to focus on what Christianity says it is about today. They say they are about the teachings of Jesus and I am going to take them at their word. I'm not going to let some outdated passages in their holy book and the violent and hateful actions of a fringe element distort my views on Christianity or the 2 billion people worldwide who call themselves Christian. These are our friends and neighbors and I am sure that true Christians throughout Murfreesboro and all over the world would not condone the hate speech and intolerance of a few million whackos.

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