Just when you think Oklahoma is truly on its way to becoming a more enlightened place, 17 lawmakers refuse to accept a copy of Quran. The best line belongs to Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, who said that he did not want to accept the holy book of Islam because it encourages Muslims to kill unbelievers. “I just didn’t want the thing,” he said, according to The Oklahoman.
Sounds like road kill, or cooties, or shaking hands with Hillary Clinton. If you touch it, people will think you are infected. The next thing you know, you’ll begin praying five times a day, facing Mecca, and hating your own way of life.
Duncan got about 100 e-mails concerning his principled stand: 87 in favor of his decision to remain pure and not let his Christian hands touch a Muslim holy book, and 13 that were critical. That settles it, because as Jesus said, “Count your e-mails, and if the majority are in favor of loving your neighbor, then it’s safe to do so. Otherwise, can’t touch that.”
Perhaps what we need is a remedial school for lawmakers on separation of church and state, tips on how to accept gifts from Oklahomans of other faith traditions, and a one-day intensive workshop on how to be a gracious public servant.
Rule number one: Some Oklahomans are Muslims (30,000 to 50,000 by some estimates). They work, pay taxes and vote. Their minority status gives leaders of the majority a chance to act like true Americans.
Rule number two: Christians have killed more unbelievers than anyone in history, and so it is always wise to be humble and contrite with regard to making otherwise hypocritical statements about the violent propensities of other faith traditions. At least 10 minutes spent discussing the Crusades would help drive this point home.
Rule number three: Accepting the holy book of another faith does not threaten your own, nor does it mean that your office is now contaminated. You don’t have to actually read the Quran, any more than you actually have to read the Bible ” but doing both is a good idea.
Rule number four: Knee-jerk stereotypes are mean and dangerous, whether they are about cowboys and Indians or every-Muslim-is-a-terrorist. You know how much you hate it when people call Okies dumb. So stop saying and doing dumb things.
Rule number five: If you accept a Bible provided by the Baptists, and permit every Muslim who checks into a hotel room to find a Gideon Bible in his or her nightstand, then what message are you sending when you refuse to touch the Quran?
Rule number six: Encouraging “peaceful, law-abiding Muslims to speak out against terrorism in the name of their religion” (as Duncan reportedly requested) will put you in a rather delicate situation. Those of us who opposed the state-sponsored terrorism of the Iraq war in the name of Christianity will remember how much encouragement we got from people like Duncan.
Rule number seven: Accepting a gift like the scriptures of another faith tradition is an act of graciousness, and in the Christian tradition, the final act of grace is to make a person gracious.
It’s not too late to reconsider, and accept the gift. After all, what would Jesus do?
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church of Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University. His forthcoming book is “Raising Yeshua: Christianity as Enlightenment, not Salvation.”