Saturday, November 21, 2009
Good For Business?
I have frequently used 'god' instead of 'God.' This is not a printer's error, nor is it a deliberate irreverence; rather the opposite, in fact. The modern usage, without the article and with a capital, seems to me actually dangerous. This usage, which sometimes amounts to regarding 'God' as the proper name of the Deity, rather than as essentially a common noun, implies that all users of the word are monotheists and, within that, that all monotheists believe in the same god. Both propositions seem to me self-evidently untrue.
N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God
Today a billboard in Wheat Ridge, Colorado questions President Obama's citizenship and religion [let alone, character]. It is apparently an ad for a car dealership owned by Phil West who explained:
Everything I have read about Mr. Obama points right to the fact that he is a Muslim. And that is the agenda of what Muslim is all about. It's about anti-American, it's about anti-Christianity.
I wonder how many Americans, let alone American Christians, believe in this line of reasoning? For one, West is a businessman trying to sell cars during a recession. He wouldn't put a message on a billboard that his customers wouldn't completely concur with, would he? It supports the hunch that I have that many conservative Evangelical, religious right Republicans have strong inclinations [or utter indifference] towards this ethos. Anger is generated or stoked through media outlets like Fox News or Limbaugh and then supported by their local pastor-hero.
Like the collective horror immediately following 9/11 that led to most Americans calling on moderate Muslims to denounce the radicalized form of their faith, Christians of all other stripes should firmly stand against this kind of bigotry, fear and manipulation. The American Body of Christ is not united, worshipping the same God. Instead, we have a variety of competing gods vying for who God really is. West's purported Muslim conspiracy against the US and Christianity is problematic on many levels, but most importantly, it assumes that all Muslims are against America and that all Christianity is the same.
The irony is that my faith in Christ has far more in common with most Muslims living in the States and abroad than it does with West's [and the silent hoards of others] version of Christianity. When I read the Gospels, I could never imagine Jesus nodding in approval as his disciples ignorantly and arrogantly speculate and name-call [with all evidence to the contrary]. This God of the New Testament looks like a father who runs to his wayward son, filled with gut-wrenching compassion [Luke 15] and a son whose self-expenditure for broken humanity and obedience to his father got him murdered by the agenda of the powers-that-be. In other words, Christian faith is about a Middle-Eastern prophet who gets killed on a Roman cross to expose a counterfeit combination of fear and manipulation, not about using a combination fear and manipulation to construct a counterfeit Middle-Eastern jihadist on an American billboard to make a profit.