Friday, August 20, 2010

There is no such thing as a Christian baby

There are Muslim babies and Jewish babies, but no Christian ones...according to self-proclaimed national preacher, Franklin Graham, son of self-proclaimed national preacher, Billy Graham.

Really?  This must be news to tons of Christian parents out there, sending their ostensibly Christian kids to Sunday School and Bible camp, assuming all the while that their little ones are card-carrying members of the faith.  Turns out their baptism is a fig leaf -- an insurance policy...with an expiration date.  But at least they have a sporting chance.  Baptist kids are screwed, because they aren't even baptized until they're teenagers.

Where, you might reasonably ask, am I coming up with all this? The good reverend, himself, of course.  Last night on CNN, as reported here, he offered his take on why President Obama cannot seem to shake this notion that he's a secret Muslim.  Obama's problem -- and he called it a "problem" -- is that "he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim.  The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judiasm is passed through the mother."  He goes on to say that, unlike Islam or Judaism, no one can be born a Christian; you have to actively and knowingly accept Christ as your savior to become a Christian.

Well, this started me thinking, because I consider myself a Christian.  However, I am not a Christian to the exclusion of other faith traditions. I don't see a difference between God the Father, Allah and Yahweh, among others.  Christ's life and teaching, for me, is the path I choose to follow, but I do not believe it is the only path.  It's what many would call a "cognitive dissonance" that is simply not dissonant to me.  I ultimately "pulled the lever" for Christianity precisely because it is the faith tradition of my family. Some of my people in the last 400+ years have been Catholic and some Protestant, but to a person they have all been Christian.  If that doesn't make me born a Christian -- or at least favorably-disposed -- I don't know what does.

I think Graham and others still equate Judaism and Islam with race.  Christians like to think they've been an open tent since Paul was walking around the Mediterranean habitually getting arrested. But anyone who's been to Israel can tell you, Jews come in many hues and languages these days and Islam has stretched from its origins in the Arabian peninsula to the farthest reaches of Indonesia and "darkest Africa".  Try telling an Iranian he's the same race as someone from Saudi Arabia.

So, from where I sit, if Graham can pronounce that some infant born to an Islamic father in Honolulu, Mecca or Jakarta is, therefore, born a Muslim; or that some infant born to a Jewish mother in Brooklyn, Tel Aviv or Moscow is, therefore, born a Jew; I don't think it's such a stretch to say some can be born a Christian. Like all faith traditions, you must be schooled in it...or you can walk away from it, but it is still a tradition -- one that may have originated in a "race" but is now much, much more.

Barack Obama, as Franklin Graham knows full well, was born into a number of traditions.  His mother was agnostic with non-practicing parents of Baptist and Methodist backgrounds; his father was an atheist, born into both an Islamic and Christian family. The fact that our President had so many viewpoints and traditions from which to choose does not make his eventual choice of Christianity any more mysterious or surprising.  The fact that it is called into question at all is a function of ignorance and bigotry.

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