This Grand Life

Random Musings from the Editor’s Desk

By Kirsten Mustain

Prejudice, as defined by the Oxford Universal Dictionary, means “preconceived opinion, bias; an unreasoning predilection or objection; injury, detriment or damage, caused to a person by judgment or action in which his rights are disregarded.”

Being a newspaper editor is not a popularity contest, thank God. Rather, it is a job that requires a person to set aside prejudice in order to disseminate information to the community. Every day, newspaper editors must make hundreds of choices about the validity of what they print, attempting to override bias in favor of fact. It is not the job of an editor to shield individuals from facts that don’t go along with their beliefs, but rather to widen a community’s understanding of the world.

Naturally, an editor has a certain criteria for each page in the newspaper.

The Editorial page is a different than the rest of the paper. It is made for opinions.

The Religion page is a space in which we endeavor to print uplifting and positive messages and news that happens within the world of religion. We prefer that those messages come from local pastors, but lately one of our favorites has been having some serious health issues, and another has been very busy. We have just recently spoken with a third pastor who is going to start submitting a column soon.

The things we categorically will not print on the Religion page (besides articles that do not pertain to religion) are political diatribes and messages of hatred.

As a Christian who has studied the gospels extensively, I do not believe that hatred, political rhetoric, or prejudice have a place on a page that is dedicated to God. None of these are part of Jesus’ teaching – nor are they part of Krishna’s, Buddha’s, or Moses’ teachings, for that matter.  

When printing our Religion page columns, we stick to the sound advice found in Matthew 7:16 “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?”

Not the First or Last Time My Words Have Gotten Me In Trouble

I would like to share one of the many most mortifying experiences of my life. Many years ago (yes, a few of my most mortifying experiences actually happened before I started working for the Grove Sun Daily), I was working as an office secretary in Boulder, Colorado.

In this office, one of my coworkers was a very nice, soft-spoken gentleman who was always well dressed and polite. All of the secretaries were fond of him because he treated us with courtesy and asked our opinions about things, rather than simply issuing orders. We knew his family – his wife and his children – and we liked all of them very much.

One day in the break room, the discussion turned to the conflict in the Middle East.

I piped in immediately with the opinion I held at the time, “If we could just get rid of all those Muslims, we could have peace in the Middle East.”

I will never forget the stricken look on that man, my friend’s face. It was a mixture of horror and despair. After an extremely uncomfortable silence he said, very quietly, “I am a Muslim.”

The best thing we can do with painful embarrassment is to learn from it, and I am thankful that I was given this opportunity to learn an important truth.

It is one thing to hate a faceless enemy whom we have never met. It is quite another to look someone in the eyes and realize he or she is a human being created in the image of God, with feelings, opinions, and emotions; children, and parents; aunts, uncles, husbands, wives and friends.

To lump Muslims into one faceless mass that only has one viewpoint is no different than lumping Christians into a faceless mass that only has one viewpoint.

Christians hail from a variety of ethnic, cultural, and denominational backgrounds. So do Muslims.

I am a Christian, and unlike a few Christians I have heard about, I have never bombed anything or murdered anyone because they do not believe the way I do. That is not how Jesus taught me to behave, and I am saddened and offended when another person assumes I am full of judgment and hatred because I am a Christian. When they do that, they have reduced me from a human being to a label.

It hurts my heart to know that it is my fellow Christians who have given people of other faiths the impression that “Christianity” is synonymous with malice, fear, and judgment – the opposite of what my savior taught.

There are Muslims who feel the same way about the extremists who have perpetrated horrendous crimes in their name.

If we are ever to establish peace, we are going to have to learn tolerance and to recognize that there are many different people who inhabit our world. Jesus’ teachings can and should be a part of this. He has enough love to heal us all.

True faith is steadfast in the midst of differing ideas and viewpoints. It cannot be shaken by disagreement or doubt. A well-rounded education can only make it stronger.

Even if you disagree with someone, hearing his or her views can be an opportunity for you to clarify your own.

An all-powerful God can unquestionably help anyone who prays to see the truth to find that truth in every place he or she cares to look. We have been given eyes and ears so that we may observe and listen.

If God had intended everyone to see in black and white, He would not have given us the ability to see the beautiful colors of the rainbow. If He had intended us all to think exactly the same way, He would not have given us different eyes, different experiences, different countries, different talents and different personalities – factors which make it impossible for us to all be exactly the same.

Would you and I personally, as Christians, be more comfortable if there were no Muslims in the world? Perhaps, but the truth is that we live in a world where Muslims exist. Some of them are our enemies, but others of them are trying to make a positive difference in other countries and in our own.

Are they any different than the Samaritan who saved the man who had been robbed and beaten on the road? (See Luke 10:25-37, too lengthy to print here.)

Sometimes, whether we are discovering new things about the world we live in or following God, or both, we must be willing to step outside of what makes us comfortable.