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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Election Year Religious Fearmongering
Topic: idiosyncratic egotism

Over the last few weeks, I have received numerous appeals, from friends at church, via email from various contacts, and even from semi-official Republican sources, strenuously warning me that Barack Obama should be feared because he is a "closet Moslem" seeking to infiltrate the leadership of our Christian nation and restrict the religious liberty of all Christians.  These appeals state as a fact that Obama attended an Islamic religious school in Indonesia, where he would have learned to pretend to be a Christian in order to inflitrate our nation.  The writers assume that he is a Moslem on a nefarious mission here.   The writers also generally assume that all Moslems are potential terrorists who desire nothing more than to force us to comply with their faith and to help them destroy Israel.

However, I refuse to act on those fears, for two reasons:  first, the facts do not appear to confirm the fear that Obama is a "closet Moslem," and second, even if he were Islamic, this would not prove him to be in league with the terrorists.

I'll start with the apparent facts.  According to reliable media sources, Obama did in fact attend a grade school in Djakarta.  It was, however, a public school, not a religious school.  Indonesia is a predominantly Islamic country, but has a secular government (it is not an "Islamic republic").  The public school Obama attended did contain a mosque, and religious instruction was provided for those whose parents did not object, but it was a public school.  Obama's parents were divided over religion.  From the best indications, he was not raised as a Moslem, and in adulthood he professed Christ.  This profession is incompatible with Islam, even for  "closet Moslem."

The religious right's concept of a "closet Moslem" here is rather interesting.  It is true that a strain in Islamic philosophy going back at least to the Ninth Century Persian philosopher al-Farabi would condone keeping one's faith a secret for purposes of infiltrating an enemy.  This is, of course, the same strain in Islamic thought that teaches that the deeper truths of Islam, and of philosophy, must be kept from the masses and debated only by a small elite, and that the masses should be fed only pop religion to keep them under control.  (To give equal time to Christianity, this same concept that the deep truths must be reserved for the elite was incorporated into Christian thinking by Medieval Scholastic philosophers who read the works of earlier Islamic philosophers, and was formalized and finally adopted into Christian thinking by Aquinas).  The concepts of keeping the deep truths secret and of hiding one's true beliefs to secure influence are flip sides of the same concept.

However, hiding one's faith for a higher cause and blaspheming it are two very different things.   If Obama were a "closet Moslem," he might not be open about his faith, but he would not publicly profess that Jesus is the Son of God (as I understand he has done).  Under any interpretation of Islam, this statement is blasphemy.  It would not be justified by a desire or plan to infiltrate an enemy.  It is not something a "closet Moslem" would do.

Furthermore, I do not believe Obama wishes to restrict the religious freedom of Christians.  His vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill, though often cited as proof that he wants to restrict religious liberty, is actually evidence of the opposite.  That bill would have added a federal penalty to willful violent crimes committed against a victim because of his or her religion (among other classifictions).   

Finally, even if it is assumed (probably falsely) that Obama is a follower of Islam, so what?  In my long life, I have had a numer of Islamic friends, some of whom I knew fairly well and liked well.  These Islamic friends have been kind, peace-loving people.  Their faith was no proof that they are in league with terrorists.

In voting, we should pay attention to the issues and to the real character of the candidates, not to unfounded fears.  




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 3:09 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 October 2008 3:12 PM EDT

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