On Facebook the other day, I made a joke about this story out of Middleton, Wisconsin, where a school district is upset about an off-campus event with a Christian religious focus. The specifics are kind of odd, but here’s the controversy as I understand it.
This school allows students to eat their lunch at an off-campus public park. A group of students and parents enjoy meeting up at this park at lunchtime to discuss their Christian faith. The administration is upset about this, because they feel it amounts to an impermissible religious service on school property. The crux of the matter seems to be the ambiguous status of this park. It’s a public park, open to the public at all times, but the school “leases” the property, so they consider it part of school property, even though it still functions as a public park. So: If the park is actual school property, then the administration is free to bar students and their parents from holding religious services or discussions there, at least during school hours. But if it’s an actual public park, the school has no say in the matter.
At any rate, I posted a joke suggestion on FB that the Christians here ought to switch the name to “Mohammed Lunch” and claim they were discussing Allah and the Holy Q’uran. They could even wear patches with ISIS logos. Then let’s see how many brave secularists stand up to challenge them. 🙂 (I wish I could claim this was an original insight, but I have to confess that I sort of swiped the idea from a throwaway line I saw on the Ace of Spades blog.)
It was just a dumb joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought something like this could kind-of-sort-of work. Not seriously, of course, but as a type of Saul Alinsky style monkeywrenching for Christians to engage in. There’s actually a precedent for this: Atheists have invented joke religions like Pastafarianism and The Satanic Temple to poke fun at what they see as society’s inappropriate deference to, and accommodation of, serious religious believers.
Well, that sort of thing can work both ways. Most Christians have, of course, noticed that the culture of political correctness has a serious double-standard when it comes to Islam. This, of course, is because Christians — even the off-the-wall freaks at Westboro Baptist Church — do not have a mysterious tendency to spontaneously explode in public places, killing dozens of innocent bystanders. Leaders of the Religion of Peace, meanwhile, repeatedly make clear that insults to their faith will result in body bags stacking up at the morgue. True, those morgues usually aren’t in America — they’re likely to be in some benighted Third World locale that doesn’t even have a Starbucks, the result of “uncontrollable” protests erupting in countries which normally don’t flinch from controlling protests with liberal applications of machine gun fire. More recently, the body bags have been stacking up in Europe, but with the exception of 9/11, the U.S. has largely escaped the brunt of the Spontaneous Muslim Detonation problem.
Still, the fear is real enough that many progressives who are happy to spew toxic venom at Christians can barely stir themselves to mention Islam. (There are, of course, some honorable exceptions — Bill Maher is particularly notable for refusing to give Islam a pass.) Progressives are also loath to criticize Islam because of their reflexive deference to cultures exploited by “colonialism.” (Islam’s long tradition of colonial oppression doesn’t count, of course.)
Seeing the indulgent treatment often granted to Muslims, it occurred to me: What if traditionalist Christians decided to “convert” en masse to Islam? I don’t mean a real conversion, of course. Instead, these Christians could claim to be founding a “new sect” within Islam, one which affirms all traditional Christian doctrines, but claims to recognize the Prophet Mohammed as a kind of religious reformer, along the lines of John Calvin or Martin Luther.
These new “Muslims” could approvingly recite the Islamic shahada, or confession of faith: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” The difference, of course, would be in how they defined those terms: “Allah” in this case would be the traditional Christian triune God, and “Mohammed” wouldn’t be a “prophet” in the sense of the prophets of Hebrew Scripture; he’d just be an inspired evangelist, a kind of C.H. Spurgeon of Arabia. For full effect, these new “converts” could grow out their beards and adopt traditional Islamic dress, take on Arabic names, only consume halal food, and pray five times a day — to Jerusalem, instead of Mecca, because that’s what Mohammed originally taught his followers, ya know. 🙂 Basically, it would be a Christian version of Crypto-Judaism, only wearing a clown nose. (Although if things keep going the way they are in Europe, the Christians over there might have to do this whole “pretend Muslim” thing for real.)
Oh: These new “Muslims” would also be sure to talk approvingly of martyrdom and suicide bombings. They’d sport ISIS patches and talk about the glories of jihad.
I confess I don’t know enough about Christian theology to know if this is realistic. Can the Great Commission be stretched to include inventing joke religions to highlight the inconsistency and hypocrisy of unbelievers? My guess is: Probably not, which is why I described this as a “semi-joke suggestion.” Still, it IS very amusing to think about the creative ways this could be used needle progressives and separation-of-church-and-state absolutists, the way they use Darwin fish logos and the Flying Spaghetti Monster to make sport of Christians. It’s right there at No. 4 on Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals”: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If Christians are fair game, but we have to bend over backwards to respect and honor Muslims, what happens when Christians present their faith under the guise of “Islam?” Will public schools start uncritically presenting Christian doctrines as if they are perfectly neutral facts? How do you think the restless “Arab Street” will react to worldwide reports of a “Muslim” coach who’s forbidden to pray at a high school football game? (I work in the news media, so I am confident you could rely on the press to mangle the distinction between Christian pseudo-“Muslims” and real Muslims when this news got reported in Muslim countries.) Think of the demonstrations!
Like I said: Probably not realistic. But it’s fun to think about, regardless. 🙂