Did you catch this story from a while back? Apparently an Iranian national was rejected as a refugee and not allowed into England because someone decided that Christianity is a hateful religion. Naturally the Church of England and other Christians are angry at such idiocy. Government officials in a Western modern society should not be in the business of engaging in the theological interpretations of different religions. Their job should be to see if the refugee’s life and safety is at stake and if so to act accordingly.
Unfortunately, I run into this attitude in the United States as well. But this time it is not aimed at Christians. It is aimed at Muslims. Many Christians I have communicated with are uneasy about allowing Muslim refugees into our country. A common reason they give is that Islam is not a religion but a political system. According to them, Muslims are committed to overthrowing the current government and establishing Sharia law. In other words, they want their government officials to engage in the theological interpretation of Islam.
I have blogged about the role that Christians should play in defending religious freedom for everyone. It is my wish that we would defend religious freedom for the sheer principle of it. We serve a God that grants us free will, and if we do not respect that free will in others, then we are disrespecting God. But I will take Christians defending religious freedom simply to save our own necks. The very logic some are using to keep Muslims out of this country is being used by government officials in England to keep Christians out of that country. And it is just as wrong when we do it over here as when they do it over there.
Some Christians will argue that it is wrong in England but not the United States because Islam is truly different than Christianity. Hence their argument is that Islam is not a real religion. I disagree that Islam is not a religion, but let me grant them this argument. In fact I do agree that today Muslims are engaging in terrorism around the world more than Christians, so Islam is different in effect than Christianity. But do these Christians think that such differences will matter to those who want to find reasons to punish us? These differences will not matter.
When I did my research on cultural progressive activists and those with Christianophobia, I found that many expressed concerns about Christians trying to set up a theocracy. While there are a few crackpot Christians who are serious about setting up a theocracy, I find such fears to be unfounded. But the fact that they are unfounded does not matter. These individuals truly believe that Christians want a theocracy and since those with anti-Christian hatred have disproportionate cultural power in our society, they may one day be in a position to deny Christian refugees from our country. But even before they get to that stage of discrimination, they will employ other unfair measures against Christians, and indeed we have already seen the results of such prejudice in modern America.
I think Christians should look at any measure that will be used against Muslims as one that can be used against them in the near future. Do not want Muslim refugees? Well there is already some evidence of discrimination against Christian refugees in the U.S. Do you want to see more such discrimination? Want to stop Muslims from building mosques? Do you think that those with Christianophobia will not use those rules against churches when they get the chance? Seek to bar Muslims from being government officials? Are you not tired of the religious tests given to Christians?
I know that fighting for the religious rights of Muslims will not stop Christianophobes from trying to punish Christians. But we can greatly decrease the potency of their weapons if we, as Christians fight, and when necessary, work as an ally with other religious groups. Doing this is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.
To be clear trying to protect ourselves is not the noblest reason to do what is right. I would rather Christians do what is right in protecting religious freedom because that is in keeping with our values. But I will take what I can get and if fear of Christianophobia convinces some Christians to fight Islamophobia, then so be it.