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.

Comments

Anonymous | 5/25/2008 - 11:37am
The article is well written and on one side very easy to agree with.However,to see Mr Obama as a "Practising" Christian would lead one to question what that entails.It is difficult to be a Christian and a Politician given the nature of the Gospel and the Nature of Politics.They clash all too often and in most cases the Politician must choose between them. In the America of today there are many times when the values of the Gospel are put to the test in very clear ways and most politicians shirk their Christian responsibilities for the sake of a secular vote or for fear of losing the mainstream they are prepared to make their "yes" a "depends" and their "no" a "lets see what the polls say".In this way we find out if one is a practising Christian or a Practising Politician.Also would it be so fine if the Muslim in questin held to the tenets of his Faith or is it true that the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim like the only Good Catholic seems to be a bad one.By good I mean acceptable.Thought provoking article nonetheless.
Anonymous | 5/24/2008 - 1:37pm
Father Clooney's editorial is very helpful, especially at this hour of jingoism and bigotry. We (American Christians) tend to 'remember' only the sins commited by persons of other faiths, forgetting their good deeds and good points, and, conversely, to cherish our own spritual strengths, hiding from our own view as well as from others', our own manifest and manifold sins. Do we remember that the modern practice of medicine was invented by Arabs, or that Arab scholars were the first to translate (into Latin) the writing of the greatest of the ancient Greek scientists, historians, and philosophers? While remembering 9/11, do we forget our own 'holy wars,' i.e. the crusades, in which we slaughtered so many thousands of Muslims in Jerusalem that their blood was so deep in the city streets that it came up to horses' ankles? Do we forget that our nation has blessed the European Zionist Jews who drove Palestinian men, women, and children from the homes to which they held legal deeds and from lands whereon their families had lived for centuries, many for an entire millinnium (and condemned as terrorists those Palestinians who have chosen to fight back)? Instead of applying an unconstitutional religious test when selecting candidates for office, we would be welcome to remember the prophetic standard: Do we ''Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [our] God''? Deeds, not creeds, would be a fairer principle to use when selecting candidates.
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 9:57am
I suggest you start with Robert Spencer's "Blogging the Koran" -- http://www.jihadwatch.org/articles/bloggingtheq.php A Muslim would need to disavow most of the religion to be suitably compatible with the values of a secular democracy.
Anonymous | 5/24/2008 - 7:50am
"Perhaps some day we will also have a Hindu president, a Jewish president, and presidents belonging to other larger and smaller faiths." I hope Fr. Clooney's magnanimity also extends to those of no faith. Postumus Luger says "A Muslim would need to disavow most of the religion to be suitably compatible with the values of a secular democracy." Would he/she apply this standard to candidates of all religious beliefs? http://timesonline.typepad.com/faith/2007/08/top-50-bushisms.html