FAITH MATTERS: Where is the proper outrage?
I have a strong faith in God. ... However, these days I am not feeling so good about the leadership of people (including myself) who say that they try to follow God’s guidance. I feel this because almost everywhere I look these days, I see the “Abrahamic” Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders either failing to step up in the face of moral crises or being proud cheerleaders for people and policies that clearly contravene the sacred texts they profess to follow.
This is particularly distressing to me because I grew up in a time when home, school, church and the nation at least seemed to have similar standards when it came to what was honest. However, in 2019, we are witnessing committed Christian clergy, in particular, enthusiastically embracing political leadership that create “Twitter storms” that make a mockery of the truth, and what I used to think were the basic tenets of Christian civility.
What in the world has happened to the concept of Christian charity?
As a 1979 convert to Islam, I am similarly disappointed at what the Muslim-American leadership seems to tolerate. From sexual abuse scandals to the plight of the Uyghurs in China, our responses, to me, are somewhat muted. As a Muslim and an African American, I understand why a minority community would be reluctant to “wash its dirty linen in public.” However, sexual abuse and other forms of abuse by those who claim to be Muslim religious leaders has become an open secret in various parts of the Muslim-American community. Sadly, it seems that we have yet to mount the type of robust coordinated challenge to such behavior that this moment calls for. All we have to do is take a look at what the Catholic Church is going through right now in order to understand what happens when attempts by religious leaders are made to handle such issues “quietly” without inviting outside authorities.
Whatever happened to the Islamic concept of wanting for your brother (or sister), what you want for yourself?
Like the Muslim-American community, the Jewish-American community leadership often weighs in assertively on international issues, particularly when it comes to the Middle East. Consequently, I was taken aback at what I considered to be the less than robust American Jewish response to the overtly prejudiced overtones of the recent Israeli elections. It seemed that the frontrunners were trying to outdo themselves in who could be the harshest toward Palestinians. The incumbent prime minister even went so far as to align himself with the Otzma Yehudit party (which means “Jewish power”). The party clearly promotes the ideas of the late Meir Kahane, an avowed racist who called for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.
Whatever happened to the Jewish concept of repairing the world (tikkun olam)?
It is clear that many leaders from these communities have spoken up in the situations. However, I am not getting the sense of moral outrage that I believe we would have seen in the past against such blatant nativism, sexual abuse and racism. For the leadership of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities in particular, there is a need to step up and make it clear that the faith indeed does matter.
Jimmy E. Jones is chair of the World Religions Department at Manhattanville College and vice-chair of the board of The Islamic Seminary of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.