“Have you all seen the horrendous billboard in Swan River? Can you even believe this is what we have come to!?” Okay, Facebook, you got me again. What billboard and why is it so appalling? Call me weak, but I did it, I clicked on the feed and there it was… A picture of two men in a Temple (it’s actually a gudwara – that is, a place for all faiths and non-believers alike), kneeling in prayer. They appeared to be of the Sikh religion, I guessed by the style of the turbans wrapped around their heads. The billboard included the hashtag, #WeAreAmerica and for me, the comments people were making made the whole thing appalling. “This is not America,” is one that struck me as particularly arrogant. I wanted to ask the individual, “Is this not America because they are brown-skinned, or because they are praying?”
These billboard ads are part of the Love Has No Labels campaign, to my understanding it’s a national public service endeavor that seeks to create a more inclusive world. It’s most popular commercial shows pro-wrestler, John Cena, walking through a diverse neighborhood, reminding us that “to love America is to love all Americans.”
If we say that the men in this billboard are not American, are we coming to that conclusion because they are not white? Quite frankly, that seems a ridiculous conclusion when the Indigenous people of this land were not, in fact, white European immigrants. I simply cannot believe that the vast majority of us do not realize that there are brown and black and Hispanic Americans, that a quick study of our certificates of citizenship disclose a variety of racial and ethnic diversity. Perhaps then, the outrage was because these men wore turbans, they didn’t appear to be Christian. Again, I want to believe we are smart enough to realize that our country was founded on religious freedom. I think too often we confuse “One nation under God,” with “one nation under Jesus.” This misinterpretation of our founding fathers words only works if Christians somehow have ownership of God, something I don’t find supported in our Hebrew scriptures.
As a person of faith, who tries to follow the loving and inclusive proclamation of Jesus Christ, I think its time for a wake-up call. #WeAreAmerica when we take pride in the diversity that sets us apart from other countries. #WeAreAmerica when we respect one another’s right to their personal, unique relationship with God. #WeAreAmerica when instead of hurling insults at one another, we stop to greet our neighbor and work together to keep this nation beautiful and thriving. Come on friends, are we not better than this?