Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, so a Muslim president may be coming sooner than later. But that’s not really the point.
Ben Carson made headlines last week stating, “”I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Later he “clarified” his statement saying, “I could never support a candidate for President of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central tenant of Islam: Sharia Law.” Carson later said he wanted to focus on issues that mattered and not hypothetical situations. While this may be a hypothetical question for now, it probably won’t be for long.
Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be an equal number of Muslims to Christians and the second half of the 21st century may see Muslims surpass Christians around the world, according to the Pew Research Center.
Religions seldom grow from conversions. In fact, most growth happens biologically, by having children. Children are born into families with a set of beliefs and then proliferate those beliefs through generations. Those with the highest religious beliefs tend to be uneducated and poor, according to a Gallup Poll research. Consequently, they also tend to have more children.
A United Nations report showed, “In general, among the 24 Muslim-majority countries for which data are available from the U.N., the more people who live in poverty, the higher the national fertility rate… The reverse is also true: As living standards rise, fertility rates tend to drop.” On average, Muslim women have 3.1 children, compared to Christian women, who have 2.7 children, while all non-Muslims average 2.3 children, according to research. A 2014 study found that 47.6% of American women, ages 18-44, didn’t have any children at all. What this means is that it’s not completely unreasonable to think that one day we could have a Muslim president. Certainly, the United States is not the same country today it was when our founders established it. We no longer own slaves or outlaw interracial marriage. Women are no longer property and families look different than they once did. People are getting married later and the divorce rate has actually declined to 40%, according to the New York Times.
Likewise, the religious makeup of our country has shifted dramatically since its inception. Even since 2007, research shows there has been a sharp decline in Christianity and an increase in unaffiliated and non-Christian faiths. A 2015 poll found that 44% of Americans “either have reservations about, or are very uncomfortable with voting for an Evangelical Christian.” Compare that to 37% who had reservations about or felt uncomfortable voting for an LGBT candidate.
The irony of Carson’s comments is that, while opposed to Sharia Law, he is a proponent of his own religious theocracy. He, like many of his fellow Republican candidates, believes his religious views are right and Muslims, along with everyone else (including Catholics), are wrong. Fundamentalism — Christian, Muslim, or otherwise — applies a set of strict standards to everyone across the board, regardless of whether or not people agree with them. Some human rights and freedoms are either greatly reduced or eliminated. There is usually a stiff penalty for failing to meet the guidelines, as determined by the ones who set the standards and interpret them.
For example, fundamentalist pastor Scott Lively took his anti-gay beliefs to Uganda stating that it was too late for America. He said, “The most important thing I have learned in my long career fighting for biblical values is that worldview dictates policy.” He successfully lobbied the Ugandan legislature to make homosexuality illegal, which included a death penalty clause before the Constitutional Court of Uganda Ruled the law invalid. Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible, the way they understand it, is inerrant, infallible, authoritative and literal. Muslim fundamentalists believe the Koran is the ultimate revelation from God to all mankind, containing no errors and even protected from errors by Allah himself. On what evidence do they base these beliefs? Their respective books tell them so (Bible – 2 Timothy 3:16; Koran – 2:136, 4:163, 10:94).
The problem with any religion in politics is that it is up for interpretation. Carson states on his website that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and then goes on to say, “The First Amendment enshrines our freedom to practice whatever faith we choose from any government intrusion.” But what about an intrusion of faith on to the government?
While it’s true that people with a primarily Judeo-Christian background founded our country, they most certainly did not exemplify the American fundamentalist, evangelical faith touted today as the ultimate truth. As I’ve written before, that concept didn’t exist when the United States came into existence. It is a notion that has evolved, primarily since the early 20th century. The current version of evangelical Christians believe that unless they and others closely follow their interpretation of the Bible, the United States will be abandoned by God. Fundamentalist celebrity, Pat Robertson, warned that if the United States kept pushing for compromise in the Middle East, “You’re asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation.”
Another irony of Carson’s fundamentalist position is that not all fundamentalists agree with him. In fact, the Southern Baptists seem to be as uncomfortable having him as a speaker as he is having a Muslim president. Christian Today wrote that after being invited to speak at the Southern Baptists Pastors’ Conference in 2015, Carson had to withdraw because the conference president, Willy Rice “faced criticism for appearing to endorse a candidate, particularly one who was not a Southern Baptist.” This reminds me of an experience I had years ago, while traveling with a dear friend and colleague. I asked if her husband was as organized as she was. “Oh, yes!” She assured me with great confidence. “But he doesn’t do it right.” The problem with judging someone else’s fundamentalism is that it’s never the right version, no matter how close it looks to ours.
The chances of having a Muslim president at some point in America’s future are quite probable. Just as no one could have predicted a black president 50 years ago, we probably won’t see this one coming either. Regardless of his or her faith, let’s hope the person voted into the office of president believes that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” And that no one is denied human dignity and equal rights are afforded to ALL Americans.
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