Christian Sharia? A Call for Dean Obeidallah to Apologize

Dean Obeidallah is worried that the Christian influence on American law and politics will be the next sharia. (“The Conservative Crusade for Sharia Law”.)  But he so badly misunderstands American history and the Bible that he should be immediately discredited.

The most obvious criticism of his piece is that was written in a Christian country whose legal system and institutions are based on Christianity.  Mr. Obeidallah penned his article in a country whose foundations were laid on Christian principles.  Who can forget the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” made so famous by the American Founders?  Or George Washington’s admonition that “Religion and morality are indispensable supports…(for)political prosperity.”  Was George Washington seeking to implement sharia?  Hardly.  And if these Christian principles have been with us for more than two centuries, how is it that Mr. Obeidallah is so free to publicly criticize them?  Shouldn’t he have his typing fingers cut off, or something?

And Mr. Obeidallah is quick to cite Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists which contains the badly misused phrase, “separation of church and state.”    This author thinks that Jefferson means what Obeidallah thinks he means – and that is that Church and State should be totally separate.  The irony in this is that Jefferson, who at the time was the President of the United States, concludes his letter with a prayer!  No kidding.  A sitting President offered a prayer to the God of the Bible on official U.S. stationery as part of his official capacity as President.  Separation?  Really?  That is perhaps why historians refer to Jefferson’s comment as erecting a “one way wall” to keep the government out of religion while allowing the Christian religion in to the government.

And in what I find to be a truly humorous part of Obeidallah’s article, he turns his inestimable genius to the Bible.  Citing Deuteronomy 22:20-21 Obeidallah thinks that the coming Christian sharia will result in the stoning of women.  But what Obeidallah fails to realize by his cherry-picking is that Deuteronomy Chapter 22 is the foundation for the modern women’s movement.  No kidding  – and he thinks its sharia!  To understand this chapter you must first realize the historical context and that is that women in every other society not under the influence of the Book of Deuteronomy treated women as property.  Yet, in the very chapter Mr. Obeidallah cited the woman in question has a right to a trial, to have evidence presented in her defense (Deut. 22:15-17) and a fair chance at acquittal! (vs. 18)   In fact, her accuser is just as likely to be punished if he fails to prove his case to the tribunal.  And while the wording of the Old Testament prohibitions is sometimes harsh – you will look in vain for cases where these sentences were carried out.  The severity of the potential punishment worked to remind the people that God is not only loving but also just.  Obeidallah is entirely anachronistic in his analysis.

But a more general and more weighty  critique of this article is that Obeidallah’s Christianity is backwards.  What that means is that he intends to judge Christians by the Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy is know as the book of the Law) but Christ Himself claimed to be the fulfillment of that law.  And the entire New Testament is instruction to Christians to flee from the law.

Lastly, the fact that ultimately shows the foolishness of Obeidallah’s article is that Christ Himself was presented with an opportunity to enforce Deuteronomy 22:20-22 in the famous story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  If that story shows anything it is that Christ calls his people to a new way – a way so radical as to forgive sinners and love one’s enemies.

That is true Christianity.

In sum, Mr. Obeidallah’s piece reflects a total ignorance of historical context and therefore presents a sleight against Christianity.  He should apologize – but I suspect that concept is as foreign to Mr. Obeidallah as is true Christianity.

About Paul Bassett

I'm old enough to remember land-line phones and young enough to have 3 twitter accounts and two blogs. I'm Reformed in my theology, post-millennial in eschatology and therefore optimistic about the future. I'm grateful to be here...and that you are, too!
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2 Responses to Christian Sharia? A Call for Dean Obeidallah to Apologize

  1. John Bugay says:

    Hey Paul — I too suspect that an apology will not be forthcoming. I’ve tweeted this out to him @Deanofcomedy, so this may at least appear in his inbox.

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  2. John Bugay says:

    Paul — here are a couple of Twitter exchanges based on the article.:

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