Islamophobia and the Christian Voice

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Christian fueled Islamophobia is an arrogant disremembering of history and sacred text. Islamophobia is the irrational fear of people who adhere to the spiritual practices of Islam, more commonly known as Muslims. Islam together with Judaism and Christianity are a connected family of religious practices who trace their collective origin to Abraham. As Abrahamic faiths, these three religions have a common history of sacred text that contain violence. For Christians to read Islam as violent because the sacred text, known as the Quran, affirms violence is disingenuous and the height of religious hypocrisy.  The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is replete with violence committed, commanded, and condoned by God. When Christian people characterize Islam as violent, it serves as an indictment against the God of Abraham. The story of Abraham and Hagar shared between the religious traditions involves slavery, poverty, exploitation, rape, and domestic violence; this is a joint story, and a shared tradition (Williams 1993). Violence is not the property of Islam it is our collective religious failure. The lessor minds of our traditions have led us into sinful acts of violence in the name of our religions because our human need for dominance has overtaken our better selves.

All of our words about God whether Christian or Muslim are wrestling with concepts too large to be contained in mere linguistic constructs.  Theology is, at its best, an uneasy truce between the radical mystery of God and the limitations and idolatries of human language (Farley 1990). True spirituality traffics in humility, and is always void of blaming and shaming. Christians must remember with deep humility and sorrow the history of violence perpetrated by religious zealots who hijacked the Bible to validate their own atrocities. The Inquisitions, The Crusades, The Salem Witch Hunts, Chattel Slavery were all acts of terrorism enacted in the name of the Christian God.  Violence is a part of spiritualities whenever and wherever extreme fundamentalism is present. The history of religious violence is not particular to Islam or the Quran, it rears its head when authoritarianism is allowed to have platform in religious space.  Religious rituals become irrational when extreme consequences are attached to any lapse in performance of said ritual. In fact, one can always recognize the irrationality of ritual in a religious space by the degree of fear produced by its violation (Fromm 1950).   

The fear of the religious other must stop at once. Fear and fear mongers breed the violence we are witnessing in New Zealand and across the globe. Christians are responsible to our Muslim siblings to be as responsible in our rhetoric about Islam as we are careful in our interpretation of Jesus. Religious traditions fall into crisis when the received interpretations of the redemptive paradigms contradict lived experience(Ruether 1993). When our reckless interpretations lead to acts of violence we have lost the ethical center of our religiosity.   Text in our own Bible justifying slavery and hostility to religious and radical outsiders fall below ethical sensibilities and therefore we must seek to read them with fresh eyes in order to understand their usefulness in a just and humane world ordered in keeping with the realm of God.

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There is a temptation for Christians to allow the Bible to be co-opted by small minded despots in service of nationalism, power, and greed. This temptation is a compromise of the message of Jesus in a well-meaning attempt to legislate morality and at the expense of true transformation. These autocrats are morally bankrupt and yet cling to the Bible as though it is the foundation of their enterprise for more wealth and power, need for Muslims to be demonized because they need the energy of hate to finance imperialist capitalist supremacy. People who peddle in Islamophobia traffic in fear and forget that for any social or political endeavor to claim to be consistent with the Biblical tradition, it must have at its center justice for all people regardless of national origin. Even in the Old Testament all the Law Codes promote and legislate social justice and economic parity, and all are particularly concerned with the rights of the most vulnerable members of society which in includes the stranger (Hendricks 2006).    

Every Christian leader must call on our Christian siblings to stand with those of the Muslim faith in these most violent times. Contact the nearest mosque and find out how you can show support. I encourage you to cease propagating the false notion that Islam is a violent religion. Remember the ways in which the Christian faith has been used to support violence and terrorism throughout history and until the present moment. As many cast dispersions on Islamic militants there are yet American Christians burning down and blowing up abortion clinics. We are Abraham’s children so we must solve the issue of violence together and not in isolation.  

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical Professor


Works Cited

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Hendricks, Obrey. 2006. The Politics of jesus. New York: Three Leaves Press.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 1993. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston : Beacon Press .

Williams, Delores S. 1993. Sisters in the Wilderness . Maryknoll: Orbis.

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Holy Hope in the Season of Lent

The forty days of Lent observed by much of the Christian tradition is a solemn time of preparation of the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. It calls for prayer, benevolent giving, repentance, and self-sacrifice or fasting. Conceptually, it is the season that causes us to live into the gratitude of the resurrection by denying ourselves comfortability or pleasure. After this year of engaging our sociopolitical climate I am not sure that lent is exactly what I need. Self-denial and benevolent giving is a normative state of being for marginalized communities. For me particularly, living in my Black embodiment means being in a constant state of generosity, just navigating the dominant culture. In a negrophobic society, Black ontological integrity suffers compromise. In such a society, blackness mutates as negation, nonbeing, nothingness; Blackness insinuates an “other” so radically different that the Black humanity is discredited (Copeland 2010).  I fail to see what benefit lent brings to communities that live in constant lamentation.

Perhaps this year, lent should be reserved for those most in need of prayer, repentance, and self-sacrifice. My mind goes to the recentspecial call meeting of the United Methodist Church. There are many otherspaces in need of Lent, but this fresh wound is an excellent example of wherethis liturgical season should be lifted and centered. No matter what side ofthe issues you fall on, one has to see the divisions and fractures within thechurch as hurtful and damaging to whole body, but particularly damaging tomarginalized groups within the church. These meetings fly in the face of whatChrist calls the Church to be, as we are called to be one. This is not new orshocking; it is the DNA of Methodism in United States. While John Wesleyinstructed Francis Asbury -the first Bishop of American Methodist- to ban allslaveholders from the church, American Methodist ideologues seemed determinedto give racism irrefutable theological grounding. By 1856 the central thesis ofMethodist writing was that slavery per se, is right…. Domestic slavery, as aninstitution, is fully justified by the condition and circumstances God hadsanctioned for the African race in this country (Griffin 1999).   Usingthe Bible to justify bigotry and exclusion is central to the MethodistNarrative. Let us not forget that the African Methodist Episcopal Church wasfounded because Black people were not allowed to pray at the altar in Methodistchurches. Splitting over full inclusion is the tradition. Here is a need forLent. Here is where the Church is called to prayerful repentance and those withpower are called to self-sacrificing.

For those of us who live in marginalized spaces, I amcalling for a different liturgical season. The season of hope. Hope that pointstoward resurrection. The Gospel of Jesus is not a rational concept to explainedin a theory of salvation, but a story about God’s presence in Jesus’ solidaritywith the oppressed, which led to his death on the cross. What is redemptive isthe faith that God snatches victory out of defeat, life out of death, and hopeout of despair, as revealed in the biblical account of Jesus resurrection (Cone 2011).  Holy hope invites us into a season ofprophetic imagination, where we dare for forty days to dream a picture of a preferredfuture. What if we actively remember the goodness of the opulent andextravagant Universe. A season where we intentionally discuss the goodness ofthe world both human and nonhuman. I am calling for a season of Holy Hope wherewe see the potential for life while staring death directly in the face.  Holy hope does not ask us to ignore the fissuresand brokenness of our flawed existence, rather it dares us to proclaim goodnews to poor and broken-hearted people who are weary of systems of oppressionand sublimation.

This season of Holy hope begs us for experimental liturgies. Liturgies of resistance which alter and arrest the Lenten liturgies common to us and reshape them in ways that offer prophetic hopeful encounter with the Divine. Rituals are really shared actions that are expressive of common strivings and rooted in common values (Fromm 1950).  Holy hope as a common value invites me to engage the congregation in singing bright songs and dancing! Dancing is an act of resistance to the oppressive systems that dare to challenge the way I own my personhood and my space. My embodiment is never a problem or a question therefore, Holy hope invites me to counterhegemonic movement that puts my selfhood on full display! This season leading to the Easter celebration will be one of singing and dancing and radical love. I invite all marginalized people into the season of Holy hope, knowing that death must give way to victory.

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Directorof Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical ProfessorSCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY| SEATTLEUNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

Copeland, M. Shawn. 2010. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion.New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Griffin, Paul R. 1999. Seeds of Racism in the United States of America . Cleveland : The Pilgrim Press .

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