Mike Huckabee thinks Islam is wrong and evidently the chattering classes think this is a serious issue.
The Christians of Constantinople cannot use one of the ancient churches of Christendom, because Islamic rulers will not allow it, but Mike Huckabee said something harsh about Islam so he must be rebuked.
The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch, cannot open a seminary, because the Muslim rulers of his nation will not condone it, but a Fox news commentator said something that offends Muslims so we must attend.
There is no land where Muslims are the majority and Christians are not second-class citizens, but a former Baptist minister publically disagrees with Islam and we must ponder the pain Huckabee may have caused Muslims.
I have friends doing humanitarian work in nations where Islamic tribes enslave Christians, but a former governor of Arkansas was politically incorrect, so Americans must discuss Christian tolerance of Islam.
This year Christians have been martyred all over the Islamic world, whether they were from families that have been Christian for centuries or were recent converts to Christianity, but Mike Huckabee may not understand Islamic history well so we should educate him.
Forgetting the Christians, God help Jewish people dwelling in majority Islamic lands.
Southern Baptists like Mike Huckabee are fighting in nations all over the world and have liberated millions of Islamic people from the tyranny of Islamic rulers. Southern Baptists like Mike Huckabee may not fully understand Islam, but no mainstream American Baptist, including Mike Huckabee, would deny the right to vote or hold office to Muslims.
Millions of Baptists voted for a man named Barack Hussein Obama and millions of Baptists who did not, including Mike Huckabee, loyally follow our Christian President. There is no majority Muslim land where a Muslim with a Christian name will be elected to lead anything, but we worry that Baptists, and Mike Huckabee, may be bigoted.
There are surely Baptist bigots, but there is no Baptist nation or state where Islamic people are denied the right to hold office, vote, or go to the school of their choice. There is no Islamic state that grants Christians the same rights that every Christian nation on the planet grants to them. A Muslim can build a mosque in Rome, Wheaton, Geneva, Canterbury, or Constantinople, but no churches are being built on the Arabian Peninsula and God help the man who tries to build one in Mecca.
But Mike Huckabee and his comments must be commented on and rebuked, though as a member of a Church that has suffered millions of martyrs over centuries of Islamic rule and whose members have existed with segregation and second-class treatment for hundreds of years, it is hard to want to take the time from working for the lives of Copt Christians in Egypt to tut-tut Mike Huckabee's off the cuff remarks.
Is Huckabee right?
A good defense against a charge of bigotry or ignorance is being right. Mr. Huckabee said one thing that is obviously true, though he also said something else that is false.
Huckabee says that Islam is the "antithesis of the gospel of Christ." This is as shocking as discovering that capitalists are opposed to communism. The gospel of Jesus says that Jesus is God in the flesh and that this bridged the gap between God and humanity. Islam thinks this is exactly wrong.
It is not offensive to point out differences.
I am not offended when my Muslim friends tell me I am wrong. That is, in fact, a basis for great conversations and great conversations lead to deeper friendships. It would be offensive to me if they did not disagree openly with me, because it would deprive me of the joy of dialogue!
Evidently Mike Huckabee also said "that churches that share worship space with Muslims are caving to a religion ‘that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated.'" This is wrong and uncharitable. It is wrong because Muslims have a very high regard for Jesus and do not (ideally) believe that Christians should be killed. In fact, in some periods of history Islam was more tolerant of Christians than Christians were of minority religions in their own lands.
So Mr. Huckabee should go home, read the Quran, and a bit more Islamic history. His comments about Islam and Jesus are particularly offensive and so he probably owes his Muslim viewers and voters an apology. Practically speaking, however, he is emotionally reacting to the situation in Islamic countries today and not to the situation in Spain in the thirteenth century. There is something perverse in Christians renting space to Islamic groups when there is no Muslim nation where Christians do not find their historic churches converted entirely to mosques and find it almost impossible to build any buildings.
Still as a group called to love and prayer for those who disagree with us, I can see where Christian groups might rent to their Muslim neighbors.
Ideal versus Reality
Some commentators act as if the present reality for Christians in Islamic lands is what should be and not what is. They take the most charitable view of Islam and do not deal with today's murder of Christians and Jews.
All Christians, including Mike Huckabee, have a great deal to learn from Islamic civilization and people. That isn't incompatible with thinking Islam is false and isn't on the whole at peace with republican values.
Christian philosopher John Locke helped synthesize Western civilization with modern values in a manner compatible with his Anglican theism. The United States was overwhelmingly Christian at the founding and has remained so throughout its history. The Christian majority agreed that Locke was right and that a balance between liberty and law was best achieved by granting (comparatively) large amounts of religious freedom to diverse groups.
Christian groups have labored for centuries to develop these ideas. On the way, we have learned from secular, Islamic, and particularly Jewish thinkers. Christians have not always been consistent about their implementation of these ideas as the horrific case of race-based slavery and the treatment of American Indians demonstrates. However, we have learned our lesson and there is no Christian leader from Moscow to Rome to Colorado Springs who does not embrace the notion of liberty and freedom of conscience.
These ideas sprang from Christendom in the West and we love them as our own children. Like any parent, we don't always like what our children do and are not perfect in our love, but we always love liberty!
There is no present evidence that any present Islamic society has come to peace with Locke or liberty. Until one does embrace republican values then most Christians will be less worried about what Mr. Huckabee says, even if he is president, and more about what he does. Mr. Huckabee will condone no violence against Islam and would prosecute anyone found perpetrating it. I will publically honor the Islamic leader of a nation that does the same for his Christian minority.
Until then I worry more for the bleeding Christians in Indonesia, Turkey, and the Sudan, than I worry about Mike Huckabee.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.
Publication date: March 1, 2011