The hostile words that Franklin Graham recently posted on his Facebook page, encouraging the banishment of all Muslims from the country because of their alleged “potential to radicalized,” are not only wrong, they are indicative of a shift in the American Christian Church where, instead of dealing with social issues as the Jesus of the Bible would—with love, grace, mercy and action, many leaders politicize issues, turning them into agenda items and creating a chasm of discord.
At face value, Graham’s words might not seem political at all. In fact, there are many who feel that the issue is less about politics and more about fear. There is some truth to this. Xenophobia is defined as the irrational fear of people from other countries. This fear causes many in the dominant culture—White, male, heterosexual—to reactively rebel against any cultural shift, good or bad, that will threaten their own status in said culture. Bottom line: the world is increasingly more Black and Brown than they’d like. Statements like Graham’s and others like him show, at best, a lack of understanding and wisdom and engagement, and at worst, how deeply rooted White supremacy runs even in the Church. As a result, these so-called leaders continue to rally against anything that will potentially destroy their perception of themselves as superior—all under the guise of defending the faith. They say that “all Muslims are trying to kill us” when that is wholly untrue. They say that “gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage” when that’s wholly untrue. They say that “all immigrants rape and steal from us” when that’s wholly untrue.
They say all this as if God isn’t God. As if He isn’t Sovereign and present and still quite capable of doing a great and powerful work in the world, regardless of what’s happening in the culture.
So sure, there is absolutely a kind of “fear of a Black planet” at work here. But I submit that there is another factor that is deeper and much more devious than that. The effort to politicize Christianity is very much about protecting the threads of White supremacy that have been woven into the fabrics of the American church. But it’s also about “picking sides” and protecting dollars that are being funneled into their ministries by like-minded politicians, as well as insuring that money continues going out from the ministries to political parties with agendas and platforms that maintain the White, male, heterosexual status quo.
Here’s something that might be a revelation for some: Jesus was not an American. As a matter of fact, he most likely looked very much like the average Middle Eastern Muslim who is being denigrated in His name. He would’ve most likely been the direct target of racist and xenophobic comments like Graham’s and others, who he’d probably liken to the White-washed tombs called Pharisees back then.
If one wants to debate the tenets of the Christian faith vs. Islam, fantastic! If we want to engage in a theological discussion with Muslims on the deity of Christ and salvation, about the harsh passages found in BOTH the Koran and the Bible, then we should absolutely do so! But politicizing Christianity (and to a certain extent, Islam) by injecting inflammatory language and mandates into the conversation, only limits the opportunity for those heart-to-hearts to happen.
And quite frankly, Christians don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to suggesting that extreme actions be taken against any group much less another religion. It was a perverted version of the Christian faith that was used to justify 250 years of the chattel enslavement of African people here in this country. It was White ministers who twisted the “curse of Ham” into a rationale for making African people inferior. It was White so-called “believers” who found ways to justify the treatment of millions of people as property; beating, killing, raping, selling away children were ALL justified by those who claimed to believe in Jesus. So under the “ban all Muslims” premise that many evangelical leaders have made (and through their silence, many Black preachers are co-signing), in order to reconcile these horrors and to “deal with the continued threat” of the holocaust against Native and African people that occurred right here, on our own soil, every white Christian slaveholder should have been exiled from this country and not another white person should have been allowed back in until it was somehow “settled.”
If I were to use this same logic and apply it to the recent acts of violence and brutality against people of color, then the only conclusion I could draw is that we need to gather information on all the White people in America—including those who are Christian—and profile them for our own safety. Because by virtue of their very identity, they too are “prone to radicalization.” Maybe they too are prone to being the next person to shoot a Black girl knocking on the door asking for help or break a Black man’s spine in half during an arrest.
But I would be wrong, right?