American Civic Life

How Christians Can Help Combat Hostility Toward Faith Groups

People attending study in community center. (iStock / Getty Images Plus)

People attending study in community center. (iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As a pastor and a leader in the Christian community, I have become increasingly concerned about the angry rhetoric directed at faith groups in recent years.

This hostility is not just directed at Christians, but at people of all faiths, and it is tearing our society apart. As Christians, we are called to love and respect all people, regardless of their background or beliefs. When we cannot do this, it undermines the values of our faith and creates a dangerous and divisive society.  

Recent studies report that political polarization in the U.S. has reached a record high, resulting in cancel culture and a breakdown of empathy. We have abandoned kindness and accountability in favor of political expediency, putting the very foundations of our democracy at risk. We must take action to reverse this trend, engaging in civil discourse and embracing diverse perspectives before it is too late. There is a unique opportunity to help turn the tide and create a more peaceful, respectful society.  

Primarily, we must recognize that we all have biases and prejudices, and we must be willing to confront and overcome them. A recent study conducted by LifeWay Research found that a majority of Americans hold at least one bias against people from different religions. As Christians, we must be willing to acknowledge our own biases and work to overcome them. This includes educating ourselves about other faith traditions and engaging in dialogue with people from different religious backgrounds.  

Another crucial step is to seek out opportunities to build bridges with people from different faiths. This means participating in multi-faith events and initiatives and taking the time to get to know people from different faith traditions in our own communities. By building relationships with people from different faiths, we can break down stereotypes and promote understanding.  

Seek out opportunities to build bridges with people from different faiths.

Second, we must model respect and civility in our own interactions with others. One of the most effective ways to combat angry rhetoric is to model the behavior we want to see in others. In other words, we ought to follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This means treating people with respect and kindness, even when we disagree with them. It means listening to others with an open mind and seeking to understand their perspective, even if we do not agree with them. It means being willing to have difficult conversations without resorting to name-calling or personal attacks.  

Studies have shown that people are more likely to listen to and respect someone who treats them with respect and kindness, even when they disagree with them. This is why modeling respectful behavior is so important. It can help break down barriers and open the door to productive relationships.  

Third, we must speak out against hatred. This means speaking up when we hear someone making disparaging remarks about another faith group, or when we see acts of violence or discrimination directed at people because of their faith. It means using our voices and our platforms to promote kindness, and standing up for those who are being marginalized or oppressed.  

Use our voices and our platforms to promote kindness, and stand up for those who are being marginalized or oppressed.  

A study from the Pew Research Center found Americans are increasingly likely to view members of different faith groups as unfriendly or even hostile. This trend is especially pronounced among my faith community, Evangelical Christians, who are the most likely group to express negative attitudes toward people of other faiths. This is a concerning trend, and it highlights the need for Christians to speak out against hate and instead demonstrate love and grace.  

Fourth, we must be willing to engage in self-reflection and recognize the ways in which our own beliefs and attitudes may contribute to the problem. It is easy to point fingers and blame others for the angry rhetoric toward faith groups, but we must also be willing to look inward and examine our own hearts and minds. We must ask ourselves tough questions, such as whether we harbor negative attitudes toward people of other faiths, or whether we are quick to judge others based on their religious beliefs.  

Research has shown that people who engage in self-reflection are more likely to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and less likely to hold prejudiced attitudes toward people who are different from themselves. This is why self-reflection is such a valuable tool for combating angry rhetoric and promoting peace. 

Pastor Bob Roberts Jr. is the founder of GlocalNet, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing the church for transformation in the public square, and co-founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network (MFNN). Roberts, known as Pastor Bob, also founded and led Northwood Church in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, for the past 34 years. Over the past 20 years, Roberts has been a trailblazer in the multi-faith peacemaking and international religious freedom arenas, frequently being called upon by the U.S. Department of State, United Nations, U.S. Islamic World Forum, World Economic Forum, ambassadors, international royal families, diplomats, and others for his groundbreaking work in this field.