The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Earlier this week I was having a casual conversation with some people who go to my church. One of them told a story about how a cab driver in Denver had driven a man carrying a bunch of shotguns to a gun show, and then called the police that he had just dropped off a terrorist. Or something. It turned out to not be true? That's not the point. The point is that, as a few of us rolled our eyes about the need for any one person to be carrying that many guns around, and began to talk about something else, one person said, "Did he look like a terrorist?" [He was carrying multiple guns. To me, that means yes.] The man telling the story said, "I don't think so, but if you look at these cab drivers, a lot of them look like terrorists."

Because the rest of us had already largely moved on to another topic of conversation, I think I may have been the only one listening when he said that. Nobody even reacted. And I didn't say anything.

I didn't say, "You mean a lot of cab drivers look like what you think a Muslim must look like? And that's a word you equate with terrorism?"

And I don't know why I didn't say anything. That's not true, I know exactly why I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything because I was in a situation where I mistook my role as pastoral intern as someone who needed to appease the people around that table. To call him out in front of that group may have been rude, and so maybe it was okay to skip it then and address it later. But now it's been four days and I've seen him twice so I've sort of lost my chance to just casually mention it.

And is it effective to chip away at Islamophobia by saying things like, "hey, your stereotypes are contributing to the harassment and sometimes death of a group of innocent people," at coffee hour? Or is it better to be sure that my sermons speak of interfaith cooperation and welcoming the stranger and recognizing in all of us a common humanity?

Sometimes I can't tell. Because sometimes I can't tell if it just feels safer to preach about it because people don't get to stand up and say all the things they think right afterward, like I just got to. They have to seek me out after worship to protest -- which, of course, they do -- but I have the upper hand because I got to say mine first, and louder, and to more people. But it's so possible that the people who say the things like "he looked like a terrorist" aren't listening when I say "you are called to love Dzhokar Tsarnaev, whom you believe to be your enemy, yes, but is somehow still your neighbor, and may actually be a terrorist." It's so possible that this man who made this racist and ignorant comment about the dear taxi drivers of the city of Denver, when he thinks of Islamophobia, doesn't include statements such as his. Or, doesn't even think of Islamophobia in such terms, because he thinks that fear of Muslims is reasonable, and that mockery and demonization is the next necessary step.

And then I just get sad, because these are nice people whom I love and trust, and yet they are the people I'm constantly reminding myself I'm "up against."

I've been sitting on this post for a few days because it just felt like it didn't go anywhere and like it just sat with me not knowing what to do or say at the end. But, here we are.

Love Will Come Set Us Free, I Know it Will -- Luke 7:1-10

Ah, if you could see us.