Christian Caryl

That Little Problem With the Lord

People are claiming that Muslims, Christians, and Jews might have something in common. God forbid!

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It’s official. President Barack Obama is a subversive. And I certainly hope that the Republican presidential candidates get on the case immediately.

This week, Obama gave a big speech at a mosque in Baltimore. A mosque, of all places. And, as you might have expected, he decided to talk about religion. About America and Islam.

The speech is filled with all sorts of off-the-wall ideas. He talked about Founding Fathers who owned Qurans, and about some Muslim American architect who, he said, once designed skyscrapers in Chicago. He even claimed that kids can be Muslims and Cub Scouts at the same time. Yeah, right. Just try imagining a Norman Rockwell painting with a little Muslim kid in there.

But that wasn’t the worst part — the part, I think, that a lot of conservatives probably missed, because of the sly way the president slipped it in there: “Christians, Jews, Muslims — we’re all, under our faiths, descendants of Abraham.” Yeah, you heard right. It’s almost as if he was suggesting that all those people might be worshiping the same god. Where does he get this stuff?

I think I might have an idea. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Larycia Hawkins, the professor who was suspended from her job last year at Wheaton College, an Illinois private school with a strong Christian orientation. Hawkins got in trouble with her bosses for deciding to cover her head in sympathy with American Muslims. (Apparently, after the attack in San Bernadino, various patriotic, red-blooded, flag-waving Americans have been attacking mosques and threatening the people who go there.) Jesus, Hawkins told me, had a habit of siding with unpopular people. I’m not sure, but I think she’s singing from a different hymn sheet.

But that’s not all. The whole controversy started off with an even crazier post on her Facebook page. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” Pope Francis? You mean Pope Francis, the Catholic? Give me a break. Small wonder that right-thinking freedom-lovers immediately prevailed upon Facebook to have the post removed, as Hawkins told me, for violating “community standards.”

I’m not so strong on this whole theology thing, so I was relieved when illustrious Wheaton College graduate Franklin Graham, the son of the famous evangelist, decided to weigh in. “Islam denies that God has a Son. They deny that Jesus is God. They do not believe in a Triune God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And just in case you didn’t get the point, he added: “I can tell you — Islam and Christianity clearly do not worship the same God.”

Exactly my point, reverend. Who in their right mind would claim that Christians worship the God of Abraham, the Lord of all Creation? Because the Quran goes on and on about all that stuff, and it only talks about Jesus (and his mother Mary) a bit. Well, quite a bit, actually — but certainly not in the same way as Christians. But as Franklin says, when he’s talking about the nature of God, “This is no minor issue that should be debated.” Because, after all, a college is the last place you’d want to do that. And certainly not when it’s about religion.

Most importantly of all, let’s not get distracted by all the things that the Prophet Mohammed says about Noah and Moses and all the other Jewish prophets, whom he holds up as models for humankind. Of course, if he’d had the time, Franklin could have talked about how Christians aren’t Jews, either, even if some people claim that the two faiths both rely on the Old Testament. (That whole “thou shalt have no other gods before me” thing is so, well, Middle Eastern, really, when you get right down to it.)

I’m surprised he didn’t mention the fact that Muslims worship “Allah,” to use alien, disconcerting, and decidedly not-American term. But I suspect he didn’t want to muddy the waters, since someone might have pointed out that “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God,” and that it’s the very same word that Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians use for their “God.” Way too complicated. Don’t even go there.

Speaking of our saviors, we should be thankful to all the Republican candidates for reminding us just how little real Americans have in common with people who believe in Islam. Donald Trump, for example, has proposed banning them from entering the United States. All one and half billion of them. That is one heck of a lot of suspected terrorists.

Admittedly, there are still a few kinks to be worked out with the policy. Like, how do we tell who is a Muslim so we can ban them? For example, we have agreements with a whole bunch of countries to allow their citizens to enter the U.S. without visas, and all of those countries include Muslims (though without identifying them by religion). So U.S. officials will have to interview millions upon millions of visitors at border crossings to figure out their religious beliefs. Although I guess we could just demand that those countries don’t allow their Muslims to visit us in the first place — I’m sure they can figure it out. Problem solved!

Yes, this will probably just make us even more unpopular in the world. But let’s just get over it. Muslims have so little in common with us that we don’t need to worry about winning their hearts and minds. Forget all those Islamic soldiers, like the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, who are our allies fighting the Islamic State (IS) on the ground right now. (We sure wouldn’t want any of those folks visiting us, would we?) And forget all those Muslim countries in the anti-IS coalition. We don’t need them. Tell them all to go home. And we don’t even need to send our own troops to replace them. When in doubt, carpet bomb.

Americans have a God-given right to be afraid of Muslims. After all, have you ever seen one on your block? (Although, despite their limited numbers, they’ve still managed to wage a nationwide campaign to implement sharia law around the country. Scary!)

Republicans are right to draw attention to these facts. Our country faces so much uncertainty right now. Americans need something to rally around. And history shows that hatred and suspicion of a small religious minority is just the thing.

So whatever you do, don’t read President Obama’s speech. And don’t support crazy academics like Larycia Hawkins. And don’t listen to the other Jews or Muslims or Christians who claim that we might actually all have something in common. People like that can give you ideas.

Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN / Stringer

Clarification: The original version of this article did not clarify that the Wheaton College mentioned is in Illinois — it is different from and has no affiliation with the Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, which is not a religious institution.

 @ccaryl

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