Often when I’m reading I come across a passage that makes me want to fling the book across the room. I almost never do this—I handle books with an almost superstitious reverence—but at least I can groan or shake my head.
I did a lot of head-shaking and some groaning while reading Matthew Kaemingk’s Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear. Sometimes that was prompted by an excruciatingly pedantic sentence, like this one on page 224: “Music is a powerful sonic medium for liturgical formation.” Sometimes it was in response to the author’s failure to live up to the very principles he eloquently puts forward, as in his caricature of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (no measured critical engagement here; we’ll return to this point later). More often, though, I was scribbling appreciative comments on Post-It Notes and wishing that a friend or two would drop by so we could talk about this book immediately and at length.
Kaemingk’s book should move to the top of the reading list for participants in four distinct but often overlapping conversations: (1) on Christian-Muslim interaction generally, post-9/11, and the “framing” of this subject in the West; (2) on Muslim immigrants to the United States; (3) on the “hegemony” of liberalism in modernity; and (4) on Abraham Kuyper’s theological case for genuine pluralism, with particular reference to the stance that evangelical Christians in the United States should take (admirers of John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism will be particularly interested in this thread). Throughout, Kaemingk’s narrative focuses on the Netherlands, asking what can be learned from the experience of Muslim immigrants there and from the failure of Kuyper’s pluralist project; in addition to Kuyper, he draws on the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck and the pastor-theologian Klaas Schilder.