Many Americans today associate the word “evangelical” with white Republicans, especially the large number who voted for Trump in the 2016 election. How did the word “evangelical” become disconnected from vibrant Christian faith and connected, instead, in popular usage at least, to politics and ethnicity? In part, through the movement’s increasing politicization, ethnic misunderstandings between black and white evangelicals, and the rise of polling data tracking religious demographics. The term’s evolution presents a fresh challenge to American Christians, who cannot afford to mistake this-worldly political affiliations with our heavenly citizenship…
The majority of Americans’ opinions about Islam and Muslims were formed after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and even more so by the subsequent tragic events of 9/11. Prior to this, the American general public knew little about Muslims. Six months after the 9/11 tragedies, 2,652 attacks against Muslim Americans were reported, which was an unprecedented number.
After 9/11, the media’s role was significant in molding the opinion of the general population in regard to Muslims and cannot be understated. Studies have found that even watching a small portion of the media stories that negatively portray Muslims can lead to prejudice. Some of the news stories include portraying Islam as being “backwards,” by associating it with oppression of women and honor killings. One psychologist described the media’s portrayal of Muslims as “dehumanizing.”
Christians have their own form of media targeted specifically toward them in the forms of Christian radio, television programs, movies, books, and blogs. Many books that vilify Islam have been marketed toward Christians.Christian media outlets, have not always been helpful either. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) actually pulled Hal Lindsey’s program from its station in 2005 because they felt it would derail evangelism efforts to Muslims. The president of TBN, Paul Crouch, said that he was unaware of any instances where, “Making inflammatory, derogatory anti-Muslim statements has led a single follower of Islam to Christ.” It is also important for Christians to realize that these programs are not just directly damaging to Muslims, but they also taint Christians’ perception as well.
In the end, certain influential Christian leaders have painted a negative and even derogatory picture of Muslims, but other Christians have resisted this approach. When one Christian leader referred to Muhammad as a pedophile and demon-possessed, Kidd reports, “Southern Baptist missionaries in Muslim countries anonymously pleaded with American leaders to ‘concentrate on sharing Christ in love…instead of speaking in a degrading manner about [Islam or the] prophet.’”
In answer to this question, therefore, we can never get away from the contrast between the lives of Jesus and Muhammad. One of the temptations during the 40 days in the wilderness (‘all the kingdoms of the world in their glory … I will give you, if you will only fall down and do me homage.’ (Matt 4:8-9 REB) may have been the temptation to seek political power. But if the kingdom of God, the kingly rule of God, means anything, it can’t simply be about me and my relationship with God. Jesus said to Pilate ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’ (John 18:30). But if his followers are called to be salt and light in the world, how are the values of the kingdom to be expressed in communities and in society as a whole? If we are critical of the political agendas of some Muslims, we dare not abandon the public sphere to secularists and Muslims. Christians must have a clear vision of the kind of just and caring society we want to live in. And this must have something to do with public life and politics.
Whereas non-Muslims in the west may joke that there are only two things we can count on–death and taxes, Muslims, as a rule, do not joke about such serious matters lest such levity invite a premature occurrence. But as to its universal and unavoidable reality, there is no doubt, for in the Scripture of Islam death is called “the certain.” The Qur’an says: “And serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the hour that is certain” (Surah 15:99).