Rumors can be a dangerous thing in an atmosphere or paranoia and mistrust. During the 1780’s, for example, gossip about the royal family of France helped lead to a calamitous decline in the trust that the French political population had in the monarchy, with catastrophic results. All kinds of lies were believed, from the casual cruelty of Marie Antoinette to various pornographic stories involving corrupt elites that was all too easy for a cynical population to believe. I say this because I believe that we in the United States are in a similar position where our elites are judged as so corrupt and so unworthy of the benefit of the doubt that stories can be believed that may not necessarily be true, and not being the sort of person who desires to pass along gossip without comment, I feel it necessary not only to talk about a story, but also to talk about its context, a context in which I find myself a somewhat unwilling and unhappy part.
Earlier this evening I received a chain message on Facebook which urged people to pass it on to ten people. The person I received it from was what I would consider a generally reliable person who thought the news sufficiently alarming and serious to pass it along. I chose not to pass it on, but as is my habit from time to time , I considered it the sort of news story of dubious but nonetheless interesting nature that it deserved some sort of reflection on my own part, which is why I am writing this. So let us set the stage here. We are dealing with a rumor of dubious but possible reality and of an alarming nature whose spread depends on the general unreliability of contemporary elite politicians in the United States that involves questions of culture and religion, with somewhat inflammatory results in terms of the way that certain people are viewed.
The rumor, and this is one that appears to have circulated several times over the past few months, is that certain states or school districts within them (Maryland, Michigan, and Arizona, among other states) have given Muslim students the right to pray in schools without giving that right to Christians. At least a few sites  have weighed in one on side or another of the larger cultural debate, and at least a few elements appear to be at the base of the dispute. For one, there is widespread concern over double standards that make certain religious worldviews more acceptable to practice in certain parts of the United States than others, as well as serious tensions between Muslim minorities and the majority population of certain areas of the United States. The fact that it can be easily believed that there is special treatment for Muslims at the expense of Christians (and Jews) does not tend to make it easy for others to attempt to moderate the concern by efforts at fact-checking, and is certainly one important element in appeals to various forms of demagoguery.
The United States is rare, and perhaps unique, in claiming itself as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian ethics. Besides the obvious and diverse nature of Christian groups from Separatists and Puritans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and many other smaller groups seeking religious freedom in the United States from European oppression, the Old Testament and its focus on freedom from slavery and the importance of a just legal order have long been important touchstones in the American political experience. The fact that the United States faced war with the Barbary pirates in the early 19th century in a particularly formative experience with an aggressive strain of political Islam only adds to the concern that attempts by contemporary Muslim immigrants to turn the Judeo-Christian ethic into a supposed Judeo-Christian-Muslim ethic will make the United States an area that is amenable to the barbarities of Sharia law. It would appear that any concessions given, no matter how fair and just, to the sensitivities of Muslims of whatever age, only exacerbates these cultural concerns of a minority that simply does not seem to be able to dwell at peace with their host countries.
I must admit that I do not know what conditions exist regarding the availability of places for prayer for students of various religious beliefs in all parts of the United States. I do know, from my own personal experience as well as what I read from others, that there is a significant feeling that having a public identity as someone who takes the Bible and biblical law and a Christian worldview seriously is not a popular position in some parts of the United States and is a ticket to fairly pervasive misunderstanding as well as ridicule and scorn, if not active persecution. Likewise, there is a perception that progressives who despise the biblical worldview pander to Muslim worldviews out of a belief that they will profit (at least in the short term) politically for acting in such a fashion. Similarly, those who oppose treating Muslims with respect pander to fears of creeping Sharia as well as certain xenophobic tendencies among other groups of Americans, also for political purposes. Being neither a progressive nor someone who is particularly xenophobic, I feel somewhat melancholy that no one seems to desire to pander to me and to my own interests. In this atmosphere, my concern is simply that people be treated fairly and with justice, and that those who defend biblical law and its application should at least have as much freedom to do so as those who speak highly of any other body of religious law. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all.
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