What Would Jesus Do? How the Politicizing of Christianity Causes Divisions (w/Dr. Tina Opie)

Should this intersection even exist?

By Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts and Dr. Tina Opie

We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized—and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we’ve got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. – Franklin Graham

In a recent article we wrote for theRoot.com, we discussed recent statements made by Franklin Graham on a Facebook post regarding the need to banish Muslims from America because of some irrational perception that they are more likely to be “radicalized.” Not only were these statements hurtful and unrepresentative of the Jesus we follow, they are a telling reminder of just how politicized Christianity has become.

Consider this.  The Obama administration recently inked a nuclear agreement with Iran.  Iran is 90 – 95% Shi’a (a branch of Islam).  The loudest opponents to the nuclear agreement have been Republicans. Might Graham’s xenophobic comments against Muslims further antagonize the relationship between Republicans, President Obama and the Democratic party?

If we take all of Graham’s many politically charged comments—everything from “Get involved in politics…gays and lesbians are” and “We have to be careful of Muslims in this country. I hope our politicians will close the door to these people” we can accurately deduce that the divisions created by his words are directly related to political affiliation and agenda rather than any real spiritual conviction or biblical frame of reference.

This is a problem, not just with Graham, but with many religious leaders who spew unloving and unbiblical language seemingly in an effort to steer the votes and cloud the lenses of those who follow them.

Additionally, these kinds of statements are a classic example of the often illogical and unsubstantiated argument of “us” versus “them”.  In this case, the us being Americans (though we would submit he is only referencing certain segments of America – more on that later) and the them being Muslims. It’s a lopsided contention at best because obviously, there are Muslim-Americans who fit both categories. His comments seem to equate US Americans with non-Muslims, which is an incredibly hurtful oversight, if an oversight at all. The “us versus them” approach has been proven throughout world history to result in some of the worst conflicts ever.  (see Hutus versus Tutsis, Nazis versus Jews, Whites versus Blacks, US versus Japanese).

These kinds of assertions—that all Muslims are dangerous, immigrants only steal and rape, Black people too often give police a “reason” to use force—comes dangerously close to those of Nazi Germany when it said that Jews were mongrels, degenerates that posed a danger to the common good.  And, once people bought into this racist, xenophobic philosophy, it was only a matter of time before Germany began to exterminate Jewish people.

And how is this any different than the KKK stating that all people who aren’t of the Aryan race cannot be trusted?  How is this any different than the United States government enforcing laws that segregated Black and White people or refusing to hold rogue police who brutally beat and kill Black men and women like Eric Garner and Natasha McKenna accountable for the actions?

Yet, there is a deafening silence from many evangelical leaders in this regard.

But this we know for sure: if the hearts of these leaders do not change, they are in for a rude awakening.  According to Pew Research, in 2010 there were 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide (making it the second largest religion worldwide, after Christianity); this number is expected to grow to 2.8 billion by 2050. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

So here’s a question: Out of those 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, how many have committed terrorist attacks?


And even if you believe that out of the terrorist attacks that do occur, most are done by Muslims, how does that justify the banishment of the more than billion others who do not commit such acts? By the same logic, the majority of lynchings in America were/are done by white people. Should then all white people have been banished for such atrocities?


Maybe for some, Graham’s words are a completely natural call for protection.  But that is exactly the problem. Graham’s comments reflect a reactionary, carnal response when what the Body of Christ—the world—really needs is spiritual, Christ-centered leadership. His words show a lack of wisdom and understanding regarding the nuances of diplomacy, immigration policies, and the Islamic faith in general—wisdom being a principle call of Jesus to those who claim to be his disciple (see Matthew 10:16). Additionally, Jesus called us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (see Matthew 5:43-48). If Jesus thought like Graham, then the Samaritan woman at the well would have never received the living water of the Messiah. So how exactly does one love a neighbor and banish them at the same time? 


My co-writer on this post, Dr. Tina Opie, is an Assistant Professor of Management at Babson College.  She is a thought leader on issues of identity and diversity and an advocate for social justice.


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