This is a guest post from Rev. Carl Gregg, pastor, author, and Patheos blogger, in response to the recent controversy about Lowes pulling its advertisement from TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” after pressure from the Florida Family Association.
Dear Lowe’s: Islamophobia is as equally reprehensible as anti-Semitism. Both are forms of racism and bigotry. Christians must stop confusing Christianity with Christian Supremacy.
I wish I could force both the management of Lowe’s as well as the protesters to read Philip Jenkins’ important new book Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the BIBLE’S Violent Verses:
Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions — all are in the Bible, and all occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more hard-wired in Christianity than it is in Islam.
Although I have appreciated Jenkins’ books for many year, his latest is both better and more important that I expected from the title alone. The devil is in the details, and he has amassed a stunning number of examples of how the Bible has been misused throughout history to horrifying results. His point: the problem isn’t the text itself of any sacred scripture; it’s how we learn and choose to read these texts that makes all the difference. It’s a crucial read for anyone who is quick to highlight the problematic passages in the Qur’an, while being simultaneously blind to the larger number of problematic passages in the Bible.
For regular readers of my blog, Jenkins’ work also helps further support my earlier post on “Why Not Choose Love? Picking and Choosing Scripture as a Twenty-first Century Christian.”
I also encourage everyone to view The Daily Show‘s skewering of the wrongheaded protests surrounding TLC’s innocuous All-American Muslim: ”The Florida Family Association argues that this TV show is dangerous because it doesn’t depict its stars as radical Jihadists. The FFA spokesperson claimed that it goes against his group’s ‘belief structure.’ Jon Stewart was floored: ‘Isn’t the purpose of education to replace your belief structure with facts?” Indeed….
Overall, author and public theologian Brian McLaren is right that the problem isn’t any form of religion per se; rather, the problem is unhealthy, small-minded, and tribalistic forms of any religion:
There are two kinds of Christianity, along with two kinds of Islam, Judaism, and every other religion and non-religion too: one of social control and one of social transformation; one to hold people down, one to lift them up; one an opiate to pacify people into compliance, the other a stimulant to empower people to imagine a better world, a better future, a better life — giving them the courage to live in peaceful defiance of violent, corrupt, and greedy powers-that-be. Neither kind is perfect, and both kinds contain good and sincere people. But if those who use God and religion for social control are left to define faith, the religion they define will be a false one, an ugly one, an idolatrous one.
I am progressive Christian, whose wife is Jewish. And I am proud to be an officer on the national board of the Alliance of Baptists, a denominational movement of progressive Christians, who released a statement in 2003 on Muslim-Christian Relations which includes commitments to:
- Renounce interpretations of Scripture which foster religious stereotyping and prejudice against the Muslim people and their faith;
- Seek genuine dialogue with the broader Islamic community, a dialogue built on mutual respect and the integrity of each others faith;
- Lift our voices quickly and boldly against all expressions of racism, bigotry and religious bias which target followers of Islam;
- Educate ourselves and others on the often peaceful and at times tumultuous history of Muslim- Christian relations from the seventh century to the present, so as to understand our present by learning from our past;
- work for full religious freedom, including the right to practice the faith of ones choice, and for equality of citizenship for all persons in all societies, whether Muslims or Christians or others, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.
I cite this excerpt as an example of how one can be committed to the way of Jesus and also affirm other ways of being religious or non-religious in our pluralistic world. Thanks be to God.
For Further Study
- Carl Gregg, Book Review: “Who Is My Enemy?: Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam–and Themselves.”
- Carl Gregg, France Caves to Islamophobia; Discourage Veiling, Don’t Discriminate (April 11, 2011).
- Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.
- Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations.
- John L. Esposito, The Future of Islam.
The Rev. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. candidate at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg).
This post originally appeared on Rev. Gregg’s Patheos blog, “Pluralism, Progressivism, Pragmatism: A Progressive Pastor in a Postmodern World.”