Christian Hospitality and Muslim
Immigration in an Age of Fear
Abbreviated from the review in
our Lent 2018 magazine issue.
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In recent years, refugees from Muslim-majority countries have risen on the list of threats we are instructed to fear. We have seen the videos of ISIS beheadings; we have seen what havoc car bombs wreak on people and property. Who’s to say the Somali family down the street doesn’t have sinister plans for the neighborhood? Who’s to say the Muslims in our city aren’t angling, through reproduction and supernatural patience, to become a democratic majority and eventually to impose Sharia law?
In the face of these fears, we have seen two polarizing responses in the United States. On the right, many have lauded President Trump’s calls for “extreme vetting” and even his (unconstitutional) attempts to ban all Muslim refugees from entering the country. Meanwhile, many on the left have seemed content, in the name of acceptance and tolerance, to turn a blind eye to legitimate cultural and security concerns.
Matthew Kaemingk, a Christian ethics professor at Fuller Seminary, believes there’s a better way forward. In Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear, his first book, Kaemingk is not content to espouse some “amalgamation of two broken approaches.” Instead, he articulates a distinctly Christian response—a response he calls “Christian pluralism”—that takes its cues not from right-wing nationalism or left-wing multiculturalism but from “the justice, hospitality, and grace of Jesus Christ.”
In response to the secularizing pressures to assimilate or moderate unique expressions of faith, Christian pluralism insists on the right of religious communities—including Muslims—to maintain their religious distinctiveness. In response to the expectation that religious minorities will retreat into the shadows, Christian pluralism insists on the right to practice their faith openly in the public square. And in response to calls to “take back the country” and restore one group’s previously dominant status, Christian pluralists argue “for the formation of a state and society in which all worldviews could publicly flourish and advocate for their own unique visions for the common good” (82).
Christian pluralism, in other words, is an antidote to fear. It is an antidote to ruthless tribalism. It tears down the walls between neighbors while safeguarding the rights of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other faiths to truly hold onto our most precious convictions—at home, in our houses of worship, and in public.
I have not done justice to Kaemingk’s masterful work in this book. His prose is elegant yet eminently readable—two descriptions that don’t always apply to academic writing. Most of all, however, at a time when our social and political discourse is being torn apart at the seams, Kaemingk models for us a posture of winsomeness, generosity, and hope. And when the smoke clouds of fear swirl all around us, that’s a breath of fresh air.
Tim Hoiland is a writer with an interest in community development, migration, and faith. He lives in Tempe, Arizona. You can follow him at @timhoiland.