People who spend time around me are pretty sure I’m a liberal. People who know me confirm it. They know I’ll talk the weather and family and religion and politics with anyone. I’ll do it with respect, share what I know, and learn a thing or twelve.
Folks also know I’m fairly intolerant of those who lack respect. Talking people down, labeling and demonizing are on my unacceptable list (although I catch myself committing these devilish practices way too often). I have no time for racist “humor,” stereotypes, and intolerance. (I’m kind of intolerant of intolerance – I know it’s hypocritical.)
On Christmas Eve of 2015 the La Crosse Tribune published my letter to the editor. I stated my thanks for the good Muslim neighbors we have in our community. I pledged to be a good neighbor in return. I promised that as Bishop I would lead the La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in being good, caring, loving neighbors to our Muslim friends. Since then I’ve been questioned, and I’ve been thanked, and people know where I stand. Folks were not surprised to see me at this month’s community rally proclaiming a welcome to refugees and care for the Muslims in our midst. I’m a good liberal.
But now, as of Valentine’s Day, our daughter is engaged to a really likable Muslim from Morocco. A switch has flipped in my brain. You are no longer talking about some Muslims, you are talking about my future son-in-law. Now it’s personal in a whole new way. It’s not just children of God, it’s family. And I love my family.