Book Club Channel
Trading Places: A Review of "Who Is My Enemy?"
"30 Days," a television show about trading places, is grabbing a ratings niche—and deservedly so. The premise takes people whose beliefs and values are in complete opposition and moves them into the daily life of the other side for thirty days. For me, I'd be moving in with Cleveland Browns fans who wear 1950's era cowboy band shirts with fringe over the pockets and eat stewed okra every day. It would be grim. The real shows get more intense than that. A white supremacist moves in with a black family. An atheist moves in with a Baptist family. Much is challenged, and much is learned.
Trading places is an apt description for what author Lee Camp tries to do in his new book Who Is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face About Islam - And Themselves. (Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation on this book.) Fielding questions after a talk in Nashville, Camp encountered a woman asking, "[H]ow should we respond to those people... down at the mosque on Twelfth Avenue, all these people who want to kill us?" Camp replied that he thought she was wrong about their intentions. But a lot of people in America agree with her—Muslims conquer by the sword; it's convert or die. Is this true the way many believe it? Camp wants us to trade places, to get inside the head of a faith with which we disagree.
A lot of people who should read Camp's book either won't or will put it down. It's strong stuff, especially when Camp talks not about Muslims, but about us.
Camp opens our eyes to something many Christians have examined—our own wrong and evil as Christians. We've given our critics a lot of ammunition. Even if churches would teach on this, it's doubtful anyone would come. He also examines evil done in and by Christian America. The springboard into all this comes from Paul in Romans 2:1-3, which says, "Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?" Camp lays out our history starting with the early church and their lives and teaching. He also moves into later church history and American history.
I remember a teacher querying his class, "How many of you understand that when the church does something, that doesn't mean that Christians are doing it?" While he was partially right, sometimes real Christians commit real evil. Sometimes Christian America hasn't been very Christian. (Read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown with Kleenex handy.)
Here's where Lee Camp throws his fastball. He writes well documented, riveting prose carrying the reader through the five or six chapters that make up the meat of the book. He disturbs our thinking and makes us look at the painful and even repulsive parts of Christian history. Then, after we engage with our ugly past, Lee introduces us to real Muslims.
Here's where we trade places. We read Muslim historians and meet living Muslims, including scholars, barbers and cab drivers. A local note: the Detroit area (notably Dearborn) holds the greatest concentration of Muslims in the United States. Wayne (a nearby largely white blue collar suburb) elected Abdul Hadous, a Muslim, as their first popularly elected mayor just two months after the 9/11 bombings. He is still the mayor, either running unopposed or winning by wide margins. The citizens say he's the most patriotic man they've ever known.
David Swartz pastors Bethel Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He thinks that jazz is sacred music, that books are better company than most people, and that university towns rock. He blogs at geezeronthequad.com.