Cambridge, MA. Really alert readers will notice that I studiously avoid current events, mostly because I have no great insights to add to what I hear on NPR or read in the New York Times. I instead focus on things I’ve read, studied, seen at Harvard and elsewhere; soon enough I will add a piece on a Jesuit missionary text from the 17th century, and get back to my Jesuit Yoga series for the final two installments. But I cannot resist a quick comment on the debate about Barack Obama’s religion, particularly regarding those who attack him by implying he is a Muslim, and those who defend him by vigorously assuring us that he is not a Muslim. Granting that we need to be sensitive to people’s religious commitments and make neither too much nor too little of their religious belonging, and granting that Mr. Obama definitely is a Christian, we should still be asking: why would it be a problem if he were a Muslim? I think it would be a fine thing for the United States, and for Christians in the United States too, if one day soon we elect a Muslim president. Yes, it goes without saying that Islam and the West have had a troubled history, some Muslims have not lived up to the best of their tradition, and some Muslims, however devout, should not be elected to high office. But yes too, it also goes without saying that the Christian West has had a troubled history with respect to the rest of the world, some Christians have not lived up to the best of their tradition, and some Catholics, however devout, should not be elected to high office. But good men and women of every faith should be welcomed to compete for and win the presidency. It would be a fine thing to have a Muslim president. Perhaps some day we will also have a Hindu president, a Jewish president, and presidents belonging to other larger and smaller faiths. But for now, while recognizing and welcoming the fact that Mr. Obama is a practicing Christian, let us not think or speak as if being a Muslim would somehow diminish a candidate’s readiness or worthiness for office. Being a Muslim politician is a good thing, needing no apology. In fact, I suggest that there are no good reasons for wishing to exclude Muslims from our highest office. Or am I missing something? I’d be happy to hear from readers on this topic.
So What, If Barack Hussein Obama Were a Muslim?