A Muslim at the Detroit Prayer Rally

Haroon Moghul, an associate editor at Religion Dispatches, went “undercover” at the Nov. 11 prayer rally at Ford Field in Detroit to report on what went on. It was pretty predictable, to say the least. And interesting, he notes, how similar the event’s ideological positions are to the very people they claim to despise so much:

The Muslim Brotherhood used to have a popular slogan: “Islam is the solution” (Islam huwa al-hall). “Jesus is the answer” is the same kind of sloganeering. I’m not just saying that because I know it would drive Engle nuts. It is an overly and therefore problematically easy answer to some very knotty problems. And hearing Engle insist on this point brought me back to the very format of TheCall, which rushes through speakers, condenses their points, and squishes them between loud music and unreflectively emotional appeals. There’s little time to ponder what it means for America if only Jesus can solve our problems.

In an introduction found in the event program, Engle wrote:

Revolution is in the air. But the revolution that is needed is not a revolution of snarling protesters or angry mobs; it’s a Jesus revolution, a revolution of forgiveness, racial reconciliation, compassion.

It’s one thing if he genuinely disavowed politics, but time and time again his supposedly apolitical efforts have an undeniable political goal. In fact TheCall is deeply and suspiciously political, and—at least here he is honest—revolutionary. It seeks to heal America by making a different America in its place, one whose moral conversation displaces its political discourse, one whose reference point is Jesus. Rick Perry’s prayer rally The Response was modeled on Engle’s interpretation of the solemn assembly described in Joel 2, which in turn shaped TheCall. Engle himself has traveled to SacramentoWashington, and Kampala to praise efforts to restrict the rights of LGBT people and has led elected Republicans in a prayer session that predicted God would punish America for passing health care reform.

But most relevant here was the vacuity of the content: The solution to America’s great crisis was prayer, from start to end, and apparently little else. Any religiosity that encourages worship without broader social engagement—non-Christians were barely acknowledged over the course of an event designed to heal America’s profound crisis—while allying with those who seek to do away with much of our government is anything but apolitical. It just doesn’t have the courage to admit it.

Engle argues that America is in crisis. So do a lot of folks. But then he argues that the only way out is through Jesus. Undoubtedly every political and social crisis has a moral dimension, though to admit that means little. What matters more is to think this logic through: How will we solve political and social crises if we read them through religious lenses? While a universalized, transnational Christianity has its appeal, it doesn’t leave much room for other Americans—or America as a political project. The more I listened to Engle diagnosing America’s problems, the more I thought of old-school Islamists.

An excellent point.

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  • People who have read my comments know I agree. And I’m glad to see other people recognize the same thing.

  • slc1

    The call to Christian religious fundamentalism by the Lou Engles of the world as the solution to America’s problems is the same as the call to Muslim fundamentalism by the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Middle Ease as the solution to the problems in the Arab world. The irony of this is, of course, lost on them.

  • slc1: Don’t forget the call to Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. The irony of you ignoring that third form of toxic fundamentalism is not at all lost on me.

  • raven

    I looked hard for the difference between xian fundies and Moslem fundies.

    There isn’t any. They are so similar they steal each others propaganda and just subsitute Allah for jesus and vice versa.

  • slc1

    Re Raging Bee @ #3

    The Jewish fundamentalists in Israel are just as evil as their Christian and Muslim effective brothers in arms. Happy now?

  • anandine

    If prayer is the answer, we should take them at their word. I’m happy to let them they pray as much as they want, pretty much whenever and wherever they want, as long as they don’t try other, more effective, means of influencing public policy.

  • eric

    “The solution to America’s great crisis was prayer, from start to end, and apparently little else.”

    One thing that always bugs me about the fundie position is: why does prayer only work for that unit? Why not a State? Or County? Or family? If four people can’t pray their way to four people’s prosperity, why should we expect 400 million people to be able to pray their way to 400 million people’s prosperity?

    Politically I understand what they’re doing – this is about power. But theologically, I always wonder how they come to the conclusion that Jesus will only prevent the the hurricanes, epidemics, etc… once this specific geopolitical unit (which was nonexistent in his lifetime) prays together.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    “Islam is the solution” … “Jesus is the answer”

    Sorry, I did the math: neither adds up to 42.

  • briandavis

    I looked hard for the difference between xian fundies and Moslem fundies.

    The christians use more hair spray.

  • I looked hard for the difference between xian fundies and Moslem fundies.

    There isn’t any.

    Of course there is. The Muslim fundamentalists have brown skin, speak funny, and wear weird clothing. The Christian fundamentalists are white guys who wear business suits. Don’t discount the power of cultural affinity in shaping people’s attitudes.

  • Didaktylos

    If Jesus is the answer, then it’s a very stupid question.

  • DaveL

    Incidentally, I’d also recommend his commentary (and the articles he links) on Kamal Saleem to anybody who remains skeptical of the prominent role of inflated/fabricated conversion stories within fundamentalist Christianity.

  • Nentuaby

    Raging Bee:

    Would you care to expand on your complaint? I don’t know your history or slc1’s, from which perspective your complaint is in the form “How dare you compare A and B, where A and B are topics already raised, without mentioning bizarre non-sequitr C.”

  • Chris from Europe

    Nentuaby, are you new here?

    Why don’t you read all the comments over at the scienceblog.com Dispatches and you will understand the history.

  • Scott Simmons

    All the comments? Cool. And he can read the Encyclopedia Brittanica for dessert.

  • “If Jesus is the answer, then it’s a very stupid question.”

    Depends. If the question is: What fictional character was not crucified and did not rise from the dead?