Paul Griffiths, “Allah is my Lord and Yours” (2006). I’m pretty sure I’ve posted an excerpt from this before, but I had occasion to revisit it today (of all days!) and thought it was worth posting again. I love being back in America, and God bless this place, but I agree with Griffiths: “Among the principal problems of American Christianity is that it finds America altogether too interesting…”
Unfortunately, we’re likely to be deaf to this aspect of Ahmadinejad’s letter because we live in a world in which transnational religious solidarities make almost no sense. We Americans may call ourselves Christian or Jewish or Muslim, and some few of us may even think and say that this is the most important thing about us, and that the solidarity we share with our coreligionists goes deeper than any other. But in fact almost none of us really believes this, as is evident in the fact that almost none of us would do — or even thinks we would do — for our coreligionists what deep solidarity demands. And what is that? It is to be ready to shed blood, our own or that of others in their defense or service.
We might, some of us, be ready to do these things for our families, especially our spouses and children. Rather more of us will do them for those with whom we share citizenship. Over 3,000 U.S. servicemen and women have died for their fellow citizens since 9/11, and many more have killed. Some have done so eagerly, no doubt, and some with deep reluctance. But they’ve done it, with whatever feelings and under whatever constraints. This shows deep solidarity, and we can all understand the kind of solidarity it exhibits. It seems natural: the world we live in is one in which this kind of deep solidarity makes sense. It does not seem natural — it seems fanatical, fantastical, crazed, primitive — for Christians to shed blood for other Christians, Jews for other Jews, Muslims for other Muslims, without respect to citizenship or national boundaries.
For us, and for a long time now, citizenship rather than religion has provided the principal bond of solidarity in the service of which we shed our own blood and that of others. In the great slaughters of the past century or two in Europe and America, Christians have killed Christians and Jews have killed Jews because they were separated by citizenship in time of war. It would have seemed odd — treasonably, seditiously odd — for an English Christian in 1914 or an American one in 1941 to have refused to kill or die for his country because he might have to kill his coreligionists on the other side. A very few did object on these grounds, but what they had to say could be taken seriously as little as we are able to take seriously Ahmadinejad’s appeal to Bush. We American Christians all know, deep in our bones, that when it comes to the shedding of blood, citizenship trumps baptism.
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