Whenever the subject of faith comes up in politics — if the subject is allowed at all — you can bet that the conversation will inevitably turn to “which faith” should be allowed. Given the recent elections then, it’s not surprising that the Contrast du Jour would be Christians and Muslims.
A favorite presumption in this theme would be that Christians blindly vote for Christians, or that we’d blindly vote against qualified atheist candidates or… *gasp*… qualified Muslims!
The thing is, for every baseless assumption, there’s still a kernel of truth. We do disagree with atheists and (gasp) Muslims, but our disagreement is by no means blind. By the same token, our support for Christians is by no means a blind guarantee. Many of us are far more intentional than that, and informed by sound reasoning.
In fact, we actually agree with our detractors. There should be no difference between electing a Muslim and electing a Christian. That said, there is a fundamental difference between the two that I think often gets overlooked or talked around without ever being directly addressed — the question of authoritarianism.
See, this country was founded on a very basic principle, that of individual sovereignty — self-ownership, or more simply, “I am the boss of me” — and detailed by a constitution that recognizes, affirms, and protects this principle.
The government that this constitution created wasn’t “born” with power and authority, but rather its power and authority is borrowed from, and by the consent of, the governed. This fundamental principle of self-ownership is a dynamic that generated a lot of tension with the slavery industry of the day and eventually led to its downfall, as slavery could not co-exist with “all men are created equal”. Same with women’s suffrage.
So how does this dynamic find its way into the conversation about Christian voting practices? Particularly as it touches upon the faiths of our elected officials?
When a Christian representative exerts undue authority over another person — as with, say, Prohibition — he has to do so in spite of Christ, not in agreement with Him. Such an individual votes in opposition to the founding principles of this government, as explained above, and against the commandments of Christ to love (not conquer) those who stand in disagreement with them.
Islam is fundamentally different, leaning away from “I am the boss of me” and toward “I am the boss of me and you“. Rather than the individual being principally sovereign, the individual is recognized as being inferior to the society that they are a part of. Slavery is common in Muslim society, and exists without tension with Muslim doctrine. Non-Muslims in a Muslim society can expect to pay a fee for not being Muslim. In various ways, Islam teaches a very different view of the individual (one where all men are not created equal, and where one cannot expect equal representation under the law) and a very different view of government (where the government has power regardless of the consent of the governed).
So to respond to the “favorite presumption” of those who would accuse Christian voters of hypocrisy, let me say this. I as a Christian would have no problem electing a libertarian Muslim over an authoritarian Christian. I see “qualified candidate” as very subjective, but I personally don’t qualify a candidate by their religious affiliation.
That said, I personally find Islam to be far less agreeable to libertarian thought than Christianity is. As such, it’s less likely that I’d consider an observant Muslim to be more “qualified” than an observant Christian — again, not because of their understanding of the job of representation, but because of the views of authority that their faith suggests.