I was really disappointed when I heard about what the republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, Ben Carson, said recently: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” In all fairness, Ben Carson also made another statement, which I do like: “If there’s somebody who is of any faith but they say things and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed and bring peace and harmony, then I’m with them.” (See CNN article about this).
What role should religion play in selecting a president? All the Coptic Christians in Egypt who voted, voted for, guess what, a MUSLIM president. The Coptic Pope urged everyone to vote; His Holiness did not specify a particular candidate to vote for (although his favor for one in particular was evident), but H.H. said: “Yet, everyone is free to elect who they find suitable” (Ahram Online news article). And they voted for a Muslim. Yes, the majority of the population is Muslim, and the only two candidates to choose from were Muslim, but nonetheless it happened. People were urged to vote not on religion but on issues that affect their daily lives, rights and freedoms.
Now think of it in the opposite scenario: what if in Egypt a Christian was one of the final two candidates for the Egyptian presidency, would Christians want the opposing Muslim candidate to say: “I would not advocate that we put a Christian in charge of this nation.” You know what, I bet that’s likely what many WOULD be saying in Egypt. And how many of us Americans, and conservative Christians, cringe at the though of such a statement! There would be so much backlash by the U.S.A. for it!
But in America this kind of thing is acceptable? The beacon of religious freedom?
In the U.S.A. we do our best to have a government that tries to refrain from theocratic rule and allow for democracy. So then, we are to look beyond a person’s religion and more closely peer into a candidate’s beliefs on relevant issues that belong to the presidency.
What’s funny is that many Muslims share a tremendous amount of core, common moral standards and beliefs that align with conservative Christians. You know, in Egypt, I can walk around the street and say “God Willing” out loud in conversation, and that would be NORMAL, but if I were at work in the U.S. and said “God Willing” they would look at me like I was “too religious.”
The problem with what Ben Carson said is it showed his ignorance, and his closed-minded view that all Muslims are the same. Are all people who call themselves Christians the same? Obama, and Trump, both call themselves Christians, yet look how widely divergent their views are. And even among the republican candidates, nearly all of which call themselves Christian, yet their views are quite diverse. So it is not about one’s religious affiliation so much as it is about their set of beliefs on the issues at hand that relate to the presidency.
I’ll tell you this: if a Coptic Orthodox Christian were running for president as a democrat, with extremely liberal views that did not align with my view of the world, I wouldn’t vote for them.
Having said all this, it doesn’t mean I don’t take into account the religious background of a person, because it is one clue into the stance a person may have on relevant issues. But it is one part of the total picture, not the whole part. Just as I take into account my own religious convictions inform most of my views on where I fall on issues and laws.
The ironic thing about all of this is that some people wouldn’t vote for Ben Carson simply because he is a Seventh Day Adventist, much like many were reluctant to vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon.
One thing that would be interesting though if a Muslim did become president: would they swear on a Bible? I bet they would just swear with no book at all, but it would be interesting to know what would happen.