The U.S. Is More Than a Christian Nation

Article excerpt

Recently, South Carolina State Board of Education member Henry Jordan advocated discrimination. Among other things, he said, "Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims." Jordan's remarks were made to advance a proposal allowing students to display the Ten Commandments in South Carolina schools. "What I want to do is promote Christianity as the only true religion. This nation was founded to worship, honor and glorify Jesus Christ, not Mohammed, not Buddha," he said.

Left unchallenged, Jordan's statements threaten religious freedoms. He is oh so sure he is right, declaring that he represents the one true political faith, whereas Buddhists and Muslims are godless, intolerant beings.

Sadly, Jordan fails to understand that we clearly benefit from our nati on's marvelous mix of peoples. The United States is a microcosm of humanity. No other country in the world is peopled by a greater variety of races, ethnic and religious groups, and nationalities. Our collective differences unite us. Educators and civic leaders have a special responsibility to their constituents. Their actions and rhetoric should foster tolerance, not escalate intolerance. Left unchallenged, statements perpetuating racism have a lasting impact. Functioning as powerful agents of influence, words advancing bigotry teach youngsters whom they should avoid, ridicule and hate. So why would a man responsible for the education of South Carolina's children vilify Muslims and Buddhists? In part, Jordan's racist epithets may be attributed to the fact that reporters overlook Buddhism. Another reason is that discriminatory images of Muslims as stereotypical bogeypeople prowl media systems. Say the word Muslim and many Americans think "Arab terrorist." "Neighbor" is a more accurate term. From the Crusades to the fall of communism, Islam has been vilified as the enemy of Christianity. Image makers express their disdain in newspapers and magazines, as well as in scores of textbooks, comic books, documentaries and motion pictures, i.e., "Jihad in America!," "True Lies," "Executive Decision" and HBO's "Path to Paradise." Ignorance is the word burning beneath all the brouhaha over Jordan's racist rhetoric. Only ignorance, the handmaiden of bigotry, could propel him to declare: Muslims are "hellbent upon conquering the world by the sword. It's written in their doggone religious book." Most likely, Jordan does not interact with Buddhists or Muslims; nor does he know a whit about Buddhism or Islam. Muslims, for example, recognize the Ten Commandments; and Moses is one of the prophets honored in Muslim tradition. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Jordan, an educated Christian, also applies little of his Christianity. …