Former Arkansas governor and 2012 presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee found himself in hot water this week after he called Islam the “antithesis of the gospel of Christ” and said that churches that share worship space with Muslims are caving to a religion “that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated.”
In an analysis of how Islam may shape campaign politics, Politico’s Bryon Tau wrote: “As Republican candidates define their national security stands in the 2012 elections, conservative discomfort with Islam in America will be a feature of the debate.”
Should Islam be debated on the campaign trail? Are religious issues in danger of being exploited?
Karen Armstrong has said that fundamentalism is energized when people feel like everything they have ever known is being changed.
With all of the change that is going on in society, and in the world, really, I guess we ought not be surprised that conservative religious rhetoric, then, has a fundamentalist feel. The fiscal conservatives are one conversation, but the social conservatives, including those who are railing about Islam, are another conversation altogether.
It is an easy thing to lump everyone in a given group together. Mike Huckabee is doing that, saying that “Islam is the antithesis of Jesus Christ,” and that “Muslims are a group of people who believe that Jesus Christ and thepeople who follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated.”
Really, Rev. Huckabee? There is no proof of that. Sure, there are some Muslims who are anti-Christianity, maybe anti-American, but the vast numbers of Muslims do not fit that description, any more than all evangelicals fit a stereotype that they hate black people or, frankly, Muslims.
I know what it is like to cower under a deep-seated belief. When I was in Mississippi this past weekend, I cringed, and I was angry. All those big, huge megachurches, so much religion in the region, and yet, racism reigned and ruled here for generations.
But the teachings of Jesus mandates that I study Jesus …and this Jesus loved and ministered to everyone. If I profess to be a Christian, I must do what Jesus the Christ says do. Why am I thinking that Jesus would applaud the Christian churches who opened their doors to the Muslims who needed a space to worship? Why am I thinking that Jesus might even have crafted a parable to show how that action on the parts of the churches show what God is about, and what agape love is about?
What is so ironic in the statements of many religious conservatives is that as they denounce what they call the threat of political Islam, they fail to see political evangelicalism as a similar threat. Were evangelicals in this country to have their way, many people who are treated as human beings with dignity might not be so blessed; indeed, it seems that evangelicalism has its own brand of coercion and religious terrorism.
David Horowitz said we are faced with a “mortal threat of political Islam.” I call that a reactionary, fear-based statement, the kind that comes when fundamentalism is on the rise. It seems that what is going on in this country is that religious politics is trying to raise its hairy head and place fear of freedom in the minds of Americans.
Just because something is different does not mean it is deficient. Jeremiah Wright said that in his 2008 speech to the NAACP, but long before he said that, my own mother taught the same to me. If it is true that God made everything and everyone, my mother would say, then there must be room for them all.
Ironically, I don’t think religious fundamentalists, no matter their denomination, can come to grips with that truth.
I do wish that Huckabee and Horowitz and others would be still…and maybe get to know some Muslims. We only grow by coming out of our boxes; we get to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” as Psalm 34 asks us to do.
I see Islam becoming more and more part of the political landscape; Muslim values and beliefs will certainly be lifted up in future campaigns, partly out of legitimate fear, and largely for political gain. Politicians are good at running campaigns on fear, and it is a fact that many people are afraid of Islam. They are afraid of it because they do not know about it, what it is and what it is not.
That is unfortunate and sad, because there are a whole lot of problems and issues which will be minimized as religious politics takes front and center. In the end, exploitation-leaning and fear-filled politicians will paint a picture that will scare the socks off way too many people, and for what? To make sure certain people hold onto power.
The world needs a whole lot less fear and a whole lot more real godly love. It is past time. We will never again be able to sit in little boxes, untouched by people who are different than are we. God is tapping us all on the shoulder to really do what God commands us to do…but if the truth be told, few of us will do that.
It’s not popular, it’s not easy …and it doesn’t win votes.