If certain people in the GOP could have their way, Abrahamic religions would lose that dominance, since they would lose about 22% of the worldwide faithful by disqualifying Islam. The latest to advance the idea that Islam is not a religion is Republican candidate Jody Hice, running for a US House of Representatives seat in Georgia. He claims that it is, instead, “a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”
Jody Hice is not alone in this assertion; such luminaries as Pat Robertson have advanced the idea before, and even the local geniuses in my state have said it in opposing a Islamic cemetery in nearby Murfreesboro. They even brought it up in court to oppose the mosque the cemetery would serve.
I could lie and say this is an interesting point of view, but it isn’t. It’s rampantly stupid, and smacks of “I don’t like it, thus it couldn’t be anything like my cherished religion”, which is specious at best and childish and bigoted at worst. It also neatly undermines their own goals, which generally involve a greater role for Christian ideals and strictures in American life. You see, if Islam isn’t a religion, then neither is Christianity.
I can just about hear the thunderous “NUH-UH!” being panted forth from innumerable slack-jawed mouths, as well as the slightly more erudite “Blasphemy!” from the more intelligent-but-blinkered hyper-faithful. To quote Mandy Patinkin, “Let me explain. *pause* No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” (And if you don’t know that quote, shame on you; I sentence you to watch the Princess Bride and drink a iocane-powder smoothie afterward.) There are a few major points that make this true, despite the objections.
The first is that Christianity and Islam come from the same source, Abraham. Islam even reveres Jesus as a prophet. To negate one is to negate the other. They, and Judaism as well, share many similarities and are inextricably entwined by their common ideological and geographic point of origin. I can pretty well guarantee that most everyday adherents of each could not distinguish between random excerpts from the Bible, Koran, and Torah translated into plain speech.
The second relates to the claim from Jody Hice that “it’s a geo-political system that has governmental, financial, military, legal and religious components. And it’s a totalitarian system that encompasses every aspect of life”. This description also describes Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Judaism. Christianity, in all its separate sects, descends from Catholicism; no matter if you call yourself a Baptist or a Episcopalian or a Mormon, your sect was a part of Catholicism before ol’ Martin Luther took hammer to nail on the front door of Castle Church in Wittenberg and the Reformation started. As such, your faith never would have existed without a political entity with governmental, financial, military, legal, and religious components, as well as totalitarian control that encompassed every aspect of life. The Catholic Church was, and still is, its own state, with armed forces, political influence, banks (and its own money, prior to switching to the euro), judges, etc., and that’s at its current low-ebb of influence. In Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Church could literally destroy monarchs and countries, not by military power, but by political influence and by the wielding of religious faith in the political realm. “King by the Grace of God” wasn’t the formality it is today, and if that grace was removed (via the infallible Pope), well, good luck, because you’d need it. People below the level of royalty were doubly under its power; their overlords were Christian, and the local church most often had equivalent power to a noble when it came to enforcing religious rules on the populace.
Judaism also exists in a similar state of power today; Israel’s governmental power is intricately entwined with the Jewish faith, and many of its political positions are driven and directed by conservative Jewish religious positions. The fact that ultra-conservative Jews can except themselves from the otherwise-universally-required military service to their nation for religious reasons is just one of these.
The third is that, even if you don’t accept the second point (which I fully expect, since facts tend to be rejected by religious types when they’re inconvenient), the end result of actions of the religious right/GOP/Tea Party are such that Christianity in the USA would be indistinguishable from that description if they had their way. Already, we exist in a circumstance where the idea that the President is a non-Christian (even though he most certainly is one) is seen as making him unfit for office. Therefore, we have de facto control of at least one branch of the government by Christianity, if not all three, since it’s unimaginable to so many that a candidate (be they for president or the judiciary or even, in a majority of cases, a seat in the legislature) not be a Christian.
The efforts to use US power to push Christian interests abroad, to use legislative power to make Christian doctrine part of the law of the land, to ensure that only Christian attitudes are welcomed in our military, these all point to an imperial faith that seeks to fuse itself to the state, and the intent of the Founders be damned. For a group of people who decry the supposed insinuation of Sharia law into the US, they are awfully cozy with the idea of the Christian version, laws requiring even the nonbeliever to toe the religious line. Maybe it’s just that they don’t want any competition.
I doubt that Mr. Hice has put that much thought into his statements; he is likely simply seeking to foment religious hatred and strife to buoy his chances of taking a House seat by riling up his red-state constituency. Reality is inconvenient to his purpose; hyperbole and hatred are much more electorally valuable to him than the truth. After all, isn’t getting elected ever so much more important than living up the American ideal of freedom of religion? But I guess, in his mind, you DO have freedom of religion… as long as it’s the right one.
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