A few years back a guy here in North Carolina named Mike Peterson was convicted of killing his wife. In the same general time there was a man named Scott Peterson out in California who was convicted of the same charge and another man in Illinois named Drew Peterson who faced the same charge too. I remember at the time my wife and I joked about needing to be careful if a guy named Peterson asked you to marry him.
This is an example of what is called Cognitive Bias; the natural human tendency to take what is known as a “subjective social reality” and generalize it into a perceived objective truth. In other words, “I know of three guys named Peterson who murdered their wives therefore Petersons are prone to murdering their wives.” While our brains may suggest that there is a Peterson = wife-murderer connection we can, and do, over-ride the idea and free the rest of the world’s Petersons from idiotic accusations.
I bring this up because some in our country, led by Donald Trump, are calling for the ban on all Muslims coming to the US. The idea is based on the argument that we must treat all Muslims as terrorists because some are. But that there are a few bad people in a large group tells us exactly nothing reliable about any other member of the group. Worse yet, this cognitive bias leads to us being the target of the same thing. It fulfills the claim that ISIS makes that all Americans are enemies of all Muslims. Sadly, that claim is followed by a call to arms which actually increases the threat level, making things worse and not better.
Fears about security are genuine and should never be diminished. In the millions of Muslims in America, and the 1.6 billion in the rest of world, there are some who are very dangerous. Understanding that it is absolutely impossible to accurately assess the security risk of every single person in so large a group, we still need to make every effort to do this to the best of our ability.
That ability would be greatly enhanced if we could enlist the overwhelming number of law-abiding Muslims in our effort. We can rightly hope that they have the same ethical obligations that we do – the obligation to notify authorities of a possible impending crime, not to act as secret agents. Trump & Company are making this less likely as their calls are telling these people that they too will become suspects.
I saw a poll yesterday that said that 40% of evangelicals in Iowa thought that all mosques should be closed. 40%. For a people that cry about loss of religious freedom it seems odd that they would want to inflict that on others.
Who would Jesus let in?