In his recent appearance at Ahavath Torah Congregation, the new executive vice president of the Family Research Council, Jerry Boykin, ably demonstrated why his new employer is a hate group of the first order. By even taking a question from an audience member asking if President Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Boykin legitimated this conspiratorial inquiry, engaging in an act of profound disrespect for the President of the United States and his publicly professed Christianity. President Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. No other response is appropriate. (You can watch the question, and Boykin’s response here.)
Boykin went on to attack pioneers of black theology and crumble them into a hate-fest designed to terrorize his audience, by nurturing their fear of black folk—particularly black scholars and black religious leaders. Even if his claim about black liberation theology and Islam being “parallel” were correct (and they are not), whatever the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright did after college has no bearing on the question of whether the President is a Muslim. He is not. And for the record, Dr. Wright was never a member of the Nation of Islam. I checked. (With him.)
The influence of Black Theology on Black Nationalist movements, including the Nation of Islam, is not proof of a Muslim identity. Boykin invokes these movements malignantly, demonstrating that, in his eyes, only his white Christianity is a valid religion. By doing this, he actually makes the case for the continued work of theologians of liberation among all of the black, brown, and beige peoples of this country and the world.
Boykin’s insistence that James Cone’s theology is not Christian and was adapted for Christian use by Dr. Wright is both ignorant and slanderous. His dismissal of the Trinity United Church of Christ as being Christian in only the “loosest” sense is idolatrous. The god Boykin constructs and worships is something other than the God Incarnate in Christ Jesus worshipped at TUCC and by Christians around the world.
Boykin’s demonization of Islam for professing “that there is no God but Allah” is ignorant of the fact that his Jewish hosts in the synagogue share the monotheistic confession of the One God, and not his Christian Trinitarianism. He is also ignorant of the fact that the name Allah is the name of God for Arabic-speaking Christians, whose churches date to the very Day of Pentecost.
Boykin does have one thing half right: social justice is at the heart of liberation theology and can be seen in some Marxist and socialist philosophies. However, he is ignorant of the role of social justice at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the ethical imperatives of Judaism—and within Islam. In none of these contexts is social justice a threat; the idea of a threat is, again, one imagined by Boykin.