Muslims like me don’t have theological beef with evangelicals. It’s the prejudice against us that’s the problem.

1728056Last month, my wife and I joined a small group of Muslims and thousands of Christians at the annual March for Life in Washington to call for an end to what we believe is the unjust murder of unborn children in America. My wife’s hijab attracted interest, but we didn’t feel out of place among marchers, many of whom were white evangelicals.

Despite our deep theological differences on other issues, we were at home in the company of fellow believers.

Yet, the Muslim presence at the March is perennially small, even insignificant. In fact, Muslims also decline to join forces with conservative Christians on other traditional social causes such as opposing same-sex marriage.

While research suggests that American Muslims overall are significantly more liberal than white evangelical Protestants, there remains a significant pool of conservative Muslims who in a parallel universe would consider evangelicals their natural allies.

That parallel universe could have existed if the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hadn’t unleashed a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment. Without that, many Muslims would make common cause with evangelicals, something I hope is beginning to happen in America.

The absence of American Muslims from the social conservative space is a result in large part not of theology but of mistrust and even animosity between them and evangelical Christians. When I told a Muslim friend I was meeting with evangelical leaders to get ideas for greater Muslim participation in the March for Life, he asked incredulously, “Why would you talk to Islamophobes?”

His reaction was understandable. There is a widespread sense in the American Muslim community that American foreign policy is influenced by evangelical antipathy toward Islam, as in the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A 2017 poll from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of white Evangelicals believe that Islam is not part of mainstream American society. Such views manifest in diverse ways, as in opposition to mosque-building in local communities, anti-Muslim screeds on social media and bans on travel from Muslim countries.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

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American Evangelical Islamophobia: A History of Continuity with a Hope for Change

From Fuller Seminary’s reflections on Christian-Muslim relations

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Colonial Americans had no idea that many of the slaves on their shores were actually Muslims. The famous Boston pastor Cotton Mather once quipped, “we are afar off, in a Land, which never had (that ever heard of) one Mahometan breathing in it.”2 Yet they felt themselves to be knowledgeable about Islam through the proliferation of sermons and books on that topic. The other source was the reality of Americans, along with Europeans, who were enslaved by the “Barbary Pirates” of North Africa.3 Already in the 1670s, several stories of North American captives caught the attention of the colonists, but especially that of the appointed royal governor of Carolina, who was abducted in 1679 and later freed by ransom. His narrative has only survived in fragments, but what stands out is “the cruelties of the Muslims” and the power of his prayers, which also influenced his captors.4

Captivity stories from North Africa were so common that many beggars on the streets of colonial America claimed to have been captured by the Barbary pirates, hoping to elicit more sympathy. Yet these stories also fueled a longstanding industry within Christendom including polemical writings about Muslims and Islam. One particularly influential book, Humphrey Prideaux’s, The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet, was published in London in 1697, with seven subsequent editions. Years later, American editions appeared in Philadelphia (1796) and Fairhaven, Vermont (1798), no doubt connected to the nascent U.S. government’s troubles with the Barbary powers at that time.5

We know that Prideaux’s book was widely read in the American colonies, because from the early 18th century on, and for the first time, Muhammad’s name in print rarely appeared without the epithet “impostor.” Prideaux’s message was hardly new, but this Anglican theologian’s main target was the Deists, whose central critique of Christianity was that it was fraudulent. By holding up Islam as a plain case of religious forgery, he hoped to defend Christianity’s integrity. From the start he anticipates accusations of demonizing Islam, but he promises to “approach Islam judiciously.”6 That said, he had little first-hand knowledge, and what he did think he knew was often wrong—but wrote he did, and people on both sides of the Atlantic absorbed it as truth.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FULLER STUDIO

 

 

 

Jewish and evangelical Americans are divided over plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

nikkiThe United Nations General Assembly isn’t alone in its lack of support for the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On Thursday, the body overwhelmingly rejected the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move is a rebuke of the administration’s decision that many have warned could undermine the peace negotiations Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

But some of the most vocal critics are closer to the issue.

Only 16 percent of Jewish Americans support moving the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, according to AJC’s 2017 Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Slightly more than a third — 36 percent — favor moving it “at a later date in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” But a plurality — 44 percent — disagree with moving the embassy all together.

Nearly 170 Jewish studies scholars from American colleges and universities signed a statement expressing “dismay” at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

“Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case.

A declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

 

Most White Evangelicals Don’t Believe Muslims Belong in America

77985As much of American society undergoes a secular shift, most Muslims and Christians continue to attend worship, adhere to tenets of their traditions, and proudly identify with their faiths.

 But despite this shared sense of religious devotion, as detailed in a new Pew Research Center report on what US Muslims believe and practice, survey data also show a huge gap in their perceptions of each other.

While Americans overall have warmed up to Muslims in recent years, white evangelicals express more concerns about US Muslims than any other religious group. Two-thirds of white evangelicals believe Islam is not part of mainstream American society and contend that it encourages violence more than other faiths, according to Pew.

Meanwhile, 72 percent of white evangelicals—compared to 44 percent of Americans overall—see a natural conflict between Islam and democracy. And 30 percent of Muslims themselves agree that the two are in conflict.

A small minority of Americans (6%) and Muslims (5%) attribute the tension to the belief that America is a Christian nation.

As CT reported in March, missions experts worry that evangelicals’ views of Muslims are sabotaging a long-dreamed-of moment. Previous research by Pew found that only 35 percent of white evangelicals say they have a personal connection to a Muslim, compared to about 40 percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics, 50 percent of unaffiliated Americans, and 73 percent of Jews.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah, Part 1

islam-christianityby John Hubers

Part 1:  Setting the Parameters

This is the first part of a four part series exploring the question “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the same God?” in its historical context among evangelical Christians.  It will be presented as a series on this page. 

From the Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/)
meme    mēm     noun
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means

The Allah Meme

One of the memes that has recently rooted itself deeply in the consciousness of some American Christians, particularly those who come from the more conservative side of the evangelical tradition, is the confident assertion that Muslims worship a different god from the Christian God.  This is more than saying that we have different conceptions of God.  This is a blunt and often combative claim that we are, in fact, talking about two entirely different divine entities.  Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, who heads up the diaconal ministry Samaritan’s Purse, has been most strident in his public statements to this effect reaching back to the time just after 9/11.  He first did so in an address he gave at the dedication of a North Carolina church that was quoted by an NBC Nightly news segment (as well as nearly every news source in the Muslim majority world)  just two months after the 9/11 tragedy.

            The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo- Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it [Islam] is a very evil and wicked   religion.[1]

 Graham is not alone in this perception.  It has, in fact, become a kind of theological maxim among more conservative groups, particularly after 9/11.[2]

I discovered this in a personal way when I was approached about becoming full time pulpit supply at a conservative church in a Chicago suburb during the years I was doing my PhD studies.  I had first been invited to preach a sermon in this church about Christian-Muslim relations that was well received, enough so that the consistory decided to invite me to preach on a full time basis as they carried on a search for a permanent pastor.  But it wasn’t an open invitation. I was first asked to justify the assumption some heard in my sermon that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.  They were correct in what they heard as this has been an assumption of mine  since the onset of my years of missionary service in the Muslim majority world, just as it was the assumption made by every other missionary I have ever known in that part of the world, evangelical or otherwise.  But at this traditional Christian Reformed Church such a belief was considered suspect, perhaps even bordering on heresy.   So before I was given the invitation I was first required to write a paper giving justification to that assumption for the consistory to review.  I must have made a good case, as I got the invitation and it was never mentioned again.

What I discovered in this incident was the weight of this particular meme – strong enough that in certain circles it has become a kind of litmus test for evangelical orthodoxy.   And while it should be said at the outset that there is a legitimate theological discussion to be had around the question posed by this meme – “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God” – the challenge it poses is related less to the way it answers this question than to its operative force as a test of evangelical orthodoxy.  Simply put those who hold it are suspect of those who don’t. That is the nature of a meme – the confidence with which it perpetuates itself as a kind of foundational truism for those who become its proponents. In this case, however, more is at stake than personal opinion as the tenacity with which it is held can have the effect of endangering the sensitive incarnational witness those of us who teach missions are trying to inculcate in our students.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

Conservative Christians are divided on Trump’s stance on refugees — but they can be convinced

refugee-welcome-620x412

After President Donald Trump announced that all refugee admissions would be paused for 120 days, a strange thing happened. A series of religious organizations issued stern denunciations: A Lutheran group headlined its press release indicating that it “denounces” the Trump administration’s actions; a Catholic group expressed “solidarity” with Muslims and “deep concern” over religious freedom for all groups; more than 2,000 religious leaders signed a letter “opposing” the executive order.

These groups and others like them have two things in common: They have explicitly Christian, denominationally tied missions, and they have recognition by the State Department as voluntary organizations that support refugee resettlement. This is not merely a reaction of the Christian left: Groups like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services have board members from traditionally more liberal denominations, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as well as more conservative ones, like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is as avowedly pro-life as it is pro-refugee. Refugee resettlement and welcoming has been a core part of organized Christianity’s moral mission for as long as we’ve been receiving refugees.

Throughout the American Christian (and especially conservative) world, the refugee ban has created a unique fissure, apart from other concerns that many individuals have over the visa ban or other components of the now-infamous executive order. I’ve spoken with fellow believers of many denominations in positions high and low and find that even many people who voted for President Trump and who continue to support him find their conscience troubled by this specific question of refugee admission. Coming, as it did, as we wait to see if we will get another pro-life Supreme Court Justice confirmed, the refugee ban leaves many social conservatives in a painful situation: What do we make of this would-be-King Cyrus? What if he delivers us victory for one key moral priority (abortion), while handing us unprecedented defeat on the other (refugees)? What if we escape Babylon, many of us are wondering, only to find ourselves still exiles?

FULL ARTICLE FROM SALON 

Evangelicals Ignore G.O.P. by Embracing Syrian Refugees

05syrians1-master768MARIETTA, Ga. — William Stocks, a white, Alabama-born, Republican-leaning member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, arrived at the tiny apartment of a Syrian refugee family on a Wednesday night after work. He was wearing a green-striped golf shirt and a gentle smile, and he was eager to teach yet another improvised session of English 101.

Mr. Stocks, 23, had recently moved to Georgia from Alabama, states where the governors are, like him, Southern Baptists. They are also among the more than 30 Republican governors who have publicly resisted the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees from war-ravaged Syria, fearing that the refugees might bring terrorism to their states.

To Mr. Stocks, such questions belonged in the realm of politics — and he had not come that evening for political reasons. Rather, he said, he had come as a follower of Christ. “My job is to serve these people,” he said, “because they need to be served.”

But politics and faith have always had the potential to conflict in the questions about resettling Syrian refugees in the United States.

And at a time when conservative politicians, many with ties to Christian religious groups, have aggressively sought to keep the Syrian newcomers out of their states, it is conservative people of faith who, in many cases, are serving as their indispensable support system.

Here in Marietta, the English lesson began around the donated kitchen table of Anwar and Daleen, two of the 10,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the United States in the past year only to grapple with that political reality, one as confusing as any new language.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES