I’m at the Faith Angle Forum in Miami Beach. On Monday, the group of journalists assembled here heard from scholars Shadi Hamid and Altaf Husain, talking about Islam and American life, and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, on the subject of Judaism and American life. I can’t remember where I heard this — I think Shadi said it — but it remains on my mind: American Muslims are socially conservative, in general, but have turned firmly to the Democratic Party because they don’t trust Republicans to look out for them.
I get that. It’s also true, though, that there are Christian conservatives who would be willing to vote Democratic, if only out of frustration and even disgust with the GOP today, if they could trust the Democrats to respect religious liberty (read: not to try to shut down our colleges and institutions because we’re insufficiently woke on LGBT rights).
I don’t see any way out of this impasse for either Muslims and Republicans, or conservative Christians and Democrats.
But here is some good news. At least I think so. We have to start thinking beyond politics, to cultural engagement.
Shadi Hamid and I have been e-mailing for a short while, talking about the prospect of finding common ground between traditional American Christians and traditional American Muslims. We planned to talk about it in person when we saw each other at this conference. On Monday night we had a good conversation about it. Shadi is not a conservative, but he’s a Muslim-American political scientist interested in the intersection of interests between Christians like me and Muslims.
We agreed that it would be worth trying to organize a conference at which traditional Christians and traditional Muslims could talk about issues of mutual interest. We agreed that it’s pointless to get together a group of right-minded liberal Muslims and liberal Christians to talk about blah blah blah. The thing we’d like to see is a serious exchange between trads on both sides, to talk about issues of mutual concern in ordinary life — and to explore ways we might support each other.
It’s like this. It’s not easy to be a Christian who dissents from mainstream American consumer life. I hear about Muslim families who want to raise kids to respect God and the traditional family, and to share their faith in community, then hey, if they want to live peaceably with me and my people, then I want to be a blessing to them. In all seriousness, I would rather have them live next door to me than unbelievers, or Christians who didn’t take the faith seriously. It’s not that I think all religious faiths are the same (I certainly don’t), but that I feel a natural sympathy for men and women who are trying to live in a countercultural way out of traditional religious conviction.
Altaf Husain told the gathering today that he and his wife homeschool their kids. Hey, we’ve done that! It’s been difficult, but great. What has the Muslim experience been like? I’d like to know. How can we work together to protect the liberty of parents to homeschool?
We really need to talk.
The clash between Islam and the mainstream in Europe is very different from what we’re dealing with in the US. Maybe if we engage with each other now, here in America, we can head off some of the seemingly irreconcilable problems that Europe now faces. Mostly though, I think we are far enough past 9/11 to where traditionalist Christians and traditionalist Muslims can meet for constructive dialogue. How can we help each other be faithful in a post-Christian, post-religious America? How can we stand together to defend religious liberty?
Are Modern Orthodox Jews interested in joining the conversation? I hope so.
Robbie George, what say you? Let’s put something together.