March 23: Seek Good

Seek good and not evil,
   that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
   just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
   and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
   will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Amos 5:14-15

I witnessed a strange miracle last Saturday night.

I attended the 19th annual CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) banquet at the Doubletree Hotel in Dallas. I have been at the last several banquets because of the many Muslim friends I have made since observing Ramadan in 2012. Plus, I’ve become a good friend of Alia Salem, CAIR-DFW’s executive director.

I was excited to see and hear the keynote speakers, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents who spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention. But I was also looking forward to seeing many interfaith friends.

One of those friends is Rev. Dr. Michael Waters, pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. in Dallas. Dr. Waters is a passionate and determined advocate for justice, and has stood by Muslims in the face of Islamophobia and bigotry.

On this night, he was simply attending, like me. We were sitting “in solidarity.”

However, the primary reason for the gathering is to raise money for CAIR’s work. Salem has set a goal for greatly increasing the organization’s budget in order to expand the work. One part of the program was set aside to raise money.

For some reason, the energy in the room began to sag when the fundraising started. The poor soul designated to invite contributions was having no luck at all.

And then all of a sudden, Dr. Waters took the stage and grabbed the microphone. He began by sharing the story of visiting Emmanuel A.M.E. days after Dylann Roof murdered nine people in a Bible study. He saw the bullet holes in the room, talked to the survivors, and prayed with the church family.

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He then reminded the crowd that hatred was still alive in the country. He told the participants that a movement was underway.

“Look at me,” he said. “This is important. Do you remember the bullet holes? I need $50,000 from one of you. Stand up.”

Someone did.

Others stood to give $25,000. And then $10,000. And then $5,000.

Dr. Waters kept pacing the stage, exhorting people, reminding us all of our obligation to fund the organizations that protect those who are vulnerable. He sounded like a

Even I raised my hand at some point. I just couldn’t help it.

The Christians and Jews in the ballroom that night who contributed to CAIR were simply heeding the words of the prophet Amos, who said, “Seek good and not evil.” In other words, no matter where you find good, reward it. No matter whether the good is being practiced by people who don’t believe like us or look like us, the good must still be celebrated.

CAIR does good work in Dallas and across the country. In fact, in protecting the religious freedoms of Muslim-Americans, they are actually protecting the rights of all Americans. That is good.

I don’t think I will ever see anything like it again — an African-American Christian pastor preaching justice and raising money among American Muslims! That’s just downright good stuff!

Prayer: God, help me to embrace all the good in this world, and to reject the evil. Don’t let my prejudices get in the way of recognizing good. Amen.

Justice Challenge: I’m going to continue Dr. Waters’ appeal — consider making a donation to CAIR today, and help them fight religious discrimination.