The Founding Fathers of the United States could not have imagined such a scene ever taking place in this country.
The scene was played out this morning on the White House lawn. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, together with a US president of African heritage with a Muslim father and other definite Muslim connections.
Whereas the US was 98% Protestant at its founding, today there are arguably only two faiths that matter – Catholicism and Islam.
Certainly, these are the only two that dominate news headlines.
Just a few days ago, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked a question by a man who believed that President Obama is a Muslim. Because he did not correct the man, it is assumed he believes the same way and he has been greatly criticized for it. Of course, if there’s nothing wrong with Islam, why should anybody get upset if described as being Muslim!
A day or two later, Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, a quiet, reserved and respectful man who is a double minority, both black and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, was asked what he thought of having a Muslim president. He was not in favor of it and has since been accused of racism!
Fifty years ago, when Senator Edward Kennedy sponsored the bill, which became the new immigration law, he said Americans would not see any noticeable change in the fabric of the country. Here we are five decades later in a very different religious landscape thanks to that immigration act.
It doesn’t take a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson for Islam to make the news every day. Migrants moving into Europe from the Middle East and Africa underline the dysfunctionality of Islamic countries, racked with ethnic, ideological and religious strife. Under international law, when people flee one country they should register for refugee status in the first country they come to; but international laws are being broken every day as people push their way through borders and barriers toward their number one goal, Germany or Sweden. None seems to want to go to any oil rich Arab country, which speaks the same language. One migrant made it clear when he said: “Europeans have more compassion!”
That compassion stems from Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant. For centuries, monks and nuns provided the only hospital care available for travelers and locals alike. They also provided food and drink to the poor.
Yes, Christianity and Islam are very different. Only the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, seems to be pointing that out, saying his country does not want the migrants. Hungary suffered for almost two centuries under Islamic rule, so it’s not surprising that they don’t want Muslims back. Mr. Orban has said that the massive movement of migrants into the country threatens the nation’s Christian heritage. For this realistic comment, he is being condemned by the emotional majority more influenced by television images of people pushing further into Europe.
It is doubtful the enthusiasm for Muslim immigrants will last long. Then what?
Catholicism and Islam have clashed repeatedly throughout history – and could do so again. People in the West have largely forgotten this past history or don’t care. But that’s not the case in the Islamic world where the term “crusaders” is often used to describe westerners, a reference to the Crusades between Catholic Europe and the forces of Islam that began in 1095 and lasted for two centuries.
There were other less famous clashes between the two. In the eighth century Muslims invaded Spain and France, until they were defeated in 732 by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne was still fighting the North African invaders decades later. After the Crusades ended, there were other clashes as the Ottoman Turks advanced westward, conquering islands in the Mediterranean and moving fairly rapidly into the heart of Europe.
The historic rivalry between Rome and the Islamic world will likely be a part of the prophesied clash between the King of the North and King of the South in the last verses of the Book of Daniel, chapter 11. Earlier this year the leaders of ISIS threatened to invade Rome and kill the pope.
Islam has certainly succeeded in dividing the West in the early years of this century, as both Americans and Europeans hold different opinions on how best to deal with the migrant crisis. Some are fearful about security while others just want to help, not realizing there are a number of rich Arab countries, which could take the Syrians in. Not all the migrants are Syrians – a British newspaper revealed last Saturday that only 1 in 5 migrants is a Syrian refugee. The others are economic migrants and could be sent home under international law.
Is this the end of western civilization, as Mr. Orban fears? That’s not likely. What is more likely is that westerners will change their thinking when they experience the reality of greater numbers of Muslims. Anti-immigrant parties are likely to come to power, promising to do something to restore their countries to what they were.
Islam means “submission,” In spite of denials by national news presenters, this makes the religion incompatible with the US Constitution, which is based on freedom. And just as Islam is incompatible with freedom, so is Roman Catholicism, a religion that dominated Western Europe for over a thousand years, until the Protestant Reformation introduced an element of religious freedom. It was English Protestants who founded James Town and Protestants of mostly British descent who founded the United States. Today’s Protestants seem to have very little influence in the country, a fact that increasingly threatens religious freedom.
What we saw today on the White House lawn was, in a sense, a profile of three religions – Catholicism, represented by the Pope; Islam, represented by the American son of a Muslim Kenyan father; and Protestantism, represented by the White House itself, the US Constitution, and the soldiers in early American uniforms.
The first two are on the rise – the Church of Rome and Islam!