Not long ago Jesse Watters, a correspondent for the Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor, interviewed Spring breakers to expose the “left wing professors and dopey kids spouting left-wing slogans” that infest college campuses. Getting special attention was The University of Akron senior lecturer Christine Wainwright.
Wainwright teaches a class about the major religions in India. A Spring breaker accused her of trying to “convert the entire class to the Muslim religion” and of claiming that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Even O’Reilly seemed not to give much credence to the mass conversion claim, but he and Watters agreed they needed to dig into this to determine whether a college professor is really claiming that the Christian God and the Muslim God are the same God. O’Reilly quipped that if the claim is true “Allah is going to be offended.”
If they actually do the follow-up they will find out that Wainwright teaches that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. That’s because Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
That is to say both worship the God that (depending on your perspective) was recognized by or revealed to the Israelites as recounted in the Hebrew Bible (which Christians call the Old Testament – ecumenism requires lots of parentheticals.)
Judaism, and its two offspring Christianity and Islam, all embraced firm monotheism at a time when most nations and tribes were polytheistic. Mohammed lived on the Arabian Peninsula among polytheistic tribes and believed his revelation, which became the Qur’an, came from the God of Jews and Christians.
Islam stands in a similar relation to Judaism as Christianity does – a belief in a particular, identified God, coupled with a belief in a new revelation that the parent faith does not necessarily accept as authentic. Muslims and Christians differ, but they differ in their beliefs regarding the nature of the God they each believe in.
Allah is simply the Arabic word for “God,” not a new name for God or a designation of a new God. Muslims don’t really say “there is no God but Allah, they say there is no God but God or no Allah but Allah.
So before we get too kumbaya, let us acknowledge that there are real problems with how Islam is practiced today. We in the West broadly describe that problem as the relationship between the faith and people flying airplanes into buildings.
People can have good faith disagreements about the exact relationship between those two things. But pretending that Islam is a religion wholly alien and different from Christianity is not a good faith disagreement. It is demonstrably wrong and carries with it the unspoken and bad faith corollary that intolerance is so deeply woven into the DNA of Islam that Muslims cannot coexist with nonbelievers.