Frankie, Craig and I spoke to a religious leader of a small group of committed followers in Texas who really got me thinking. I won’t reveal his name or sect right now but wanted to share some of the things he said.
We met the bearded man in his traditional clothes inside his small and non-descript place of worship. Most people in the area would not even know it was there. The group, though a registered faith based group, refuses to take government money for their small school of 16 students. “God,” he said, “takes better care of us than Uncle Sam.” They don’t vote as policy and will not participate in any politics. He didn’t seem to be attached to America at all as a country or as an idea.
He was not happy with the relativism of American culture. “Everyone says this is your opinion, this is my opinion—each person chooses. But what about right and wrong?”
“Justice will come”, he said. “Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t survive and I don’t believe America will either”.
He said that they appreciate the freedom in this country—they obey our laws, pay taxes, pray for others. But if they were told to do something that violates the Holy Book, they would not do it. He said they were not anti-government but that, “we feel like we are an ambassador here, just temporary. Our citizenship is in heaven”.
He told us that his religion was distinctive. He was talking about the his sect but it was also a strong commentary on other sects—not adhering to the Holy book and adding things to it or innovating as it is sometimes called.. He sees too many compromises and not recognizing the authority in the Holy Book.
He faith can be described a simple but strong– ‘Take the Holy Book and add nothing else to it, no politics, no other influences’.
Women are encouraged to stay at home as housewives. He complained that there is a breakdown of home and that is one of the problems in America.
On other religions, he said “at the core, some of their beliefs concern me”. He said they are “fundamentally flawed”. He called tolerance, pluralism, and the idea of a “world system” “satanic”. This included interfaith dialogue, which he dismissed as a “conglomeration of religion.”
His solution to improving relations between different religious groups is to convert all Americans to his religion. He also believes that his religion is spreading in America and strengthening all over the world. He said the key to relations with the Jews was to “convert as many of them as possible” but acknowledged that it “won’t happen,” smiling. “Man,” he said, “is still man, self centered and sinful”.
He talked about being ready to die for his faith and that he would welcome martyrdom. We asked him which book he would recommend for us to learn about his beliefs and the book he recommended was one that celebrated the stories of martyrs.
So who do you think this man is? A Muslim? A Jew? A refugee or immigrant?
Nope, he’s a Pennsylvania born Christian, a Mennonite.
Mennonites are a sect of Protestants that fled Europe after the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries seeking religious freedom in the US. This history can help explain why they are so distrustful of government.
The quotes above would have scared a lot of people and caused a panic and a frenzied slew of hysterical (and nonsensical) blog posts by people like Robert Spencer and Michelle Malkin had it come from the mouth of a Muslim. They would be labeled a threat, called a Wahhabi, and maybe some other nonsensical name (jihadist, Islamist, etc). We’ve met some Muslims who have been investigated for less.
So why is it okay for a Christian to say these things but not a Muslim?
Some Muslims have said similar things to us, but most would have vehemently disagreed with the Christian Pastor’s philosophy. The majority of Muslims that we’ve met have taken a much stronger approach to being a part of this country. They want to live here, they are patriotic, they participate, and they cherish the opportunity and religious freedom offered in America.
Personally, I was impressed by The Pastor’s humility and obedience to God even though I disagree with him on a few of his ideas. I brought him up simply to point out a double standard. We are applying much more strict codes of patriotism to Muslims than to non-Muslims and making contradictory demands of the Muslim community.
It’s definitely something worth thinking about.