An Open Letter to Ben Carson from a Fellow Adventist: Stop the Islamophobia

Dr. Ben Carson,

As a clergy-trained fellow Seventh-day Adventist, I urge you to stop singling out Islam and Muslims. This upcoming weekend there are anti-Muslim rallies planned across the country—some of them calling for armed protesters—fueled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are helping advance in mainstream America. You are profiting in fundraising and in polls off the backs of a marginalized religious minority in our country.

Your singling out of a marginalized faith community is ironic, perhaps hypocritical, on many levels. As a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, I am well aware (and assume you are, too) of the fears held by many in our community of the possibility of persecution for beliefs that differ from mainstream Christianity, such as a Saturday Sabbath. Holding membership in what many view as a small, fringe faith community, it is surprising that you are giving voice to religious discrimination.

Recently, when talking about “American values,” you raised concerns over Islam pertaining to discrimination of women, LGBTQ people, and subjugation of those with different religious beliefs. As a presidential candidate with a public platform it’s puzzling that, in addition to calling out a marginalized religious community, you would be singling these issues out in another faith group and failing to call out discrimination within your own.

Let’s take a closer look at these issues in Seventh-day Adventism.

Church leadership recently changed its “Marriage and Family” Fundamental Belief from the language of “partners” to specifying “a man and a woman” when speaking about marriage. Such discriminatory language counters the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage from earlier this year, requiring that same-sex couples be allowed to marry anywhere in the country. Given your expressed concerns about this issue it seems like you might have similar concerns about faith-based discrimination from fellow Christians. You didn’t sound concerned over whether government employee Kim Davis’s religion was “consistent with the Constitution” when she was defying the Supreme Court by denying marriage licenses to gay couples. I would expect this kind of consistency from someone who prides himself on making choices based on values rather than political expediency.

Earlier this year, our Seventh-day Adventist church leadership once again voted against the ordination of female clergy. Without ordination, female pastors can’t lead out in regional conferences or establish churches. This stained-glass ceiling and other forms of faith-based gender discrimination run counter to American values of equality and opportunity for all.

Or perhaps your statement of concern about Islam reflects a change of heart from your previous comments about women and LGBTQ people. If that is true, I invite you to join the growing chorus of Seventh-day Adventists denouncing the moral authority of Adventist church leadership as a result of its choices to perpetuate discrimination against women and LGBTQ people.

In my current role as director of the interfaith Community Organizing Residency at Bend the Arc, I have the privilege of knowing many Muslims who are working in the non-profit sector on issues such as healthcare access, housing affordability, and public education, throughout our country. We would all be fortunate to have any one of these Americans run for president one day.

Your anti-Muslim rhetoric is not only ironic, but also immoral. I can assure you that it is not in line with our faith tradition. Our sacred texts call us to love our neighbor as ourselves—this includes our Muslim neighbor. I implore you to be a better representative of our faith community. You could start this weekend by visiting a local mosque and engaging in peaceful dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

If you want to fight faith-based discrimination, start within our own Seventh-day Adventist faith community, not with our Muslim neighbors whom we’re called to love. As a presidential candidate you are not responsible for every individual’s words and actions toward Muslims, but you are responsible for your words and actions that set a tone for conversations and actions across our country.

Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, studied to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and is now director of the interfaith Community Organizing Residency at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. This article first appeared in Religion Dispatches, and is published here with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore from Wikicommons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7116

My dear colleague minister, I don’t think Carson is Islamophobic. I’ve followed all of Dr. Carson’s remarks about Muslims but I don’t see any Islamophobia in them. It’s the media that keeps dragging the issue on him. Perhaps we can advise Carson to be careful with some statements on Islam. And I don’t see what you intend to achieve with the connection with the Adventist church because it doesn’t fit.

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Oh, come on. This is one of the most ridiculous and inaccurate pieces I’ve ever read at Spectrum. What religion is the biggest threat to freedom-loving people all over the world right now? It’s certainly not the Anglican Church; the Buddhists; the Hindus; the Animists; or even the Southern Baptists (although I’m suspicious of them sometimes :wink: ). Radical Islam wishes to take over the world and impose Sharia law on everyone. We’ve seen how they are torturing and murdering Christians in the Middle East. They would love to do the same thing here in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Carson is not “Islamophobic.” That’s pure nonsense. He’s saying what too many cowards among the PC crowd are afraid to say. He’s being realistic.

And what does any of this have to do with the vote on women’s ordination or the church’s relation to homosexuals? It appears as if this author needed to vent on several subjects, but chose to pick on Carson as an entering wedge. Is the author maybe racist? Would he say the same things if Carson were white?

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Dr. Ben clearly explained that he would support any presidential candidate that was willing to adhere to the US Constitution. Period. That would obviously include one with an Islamic background as he or she would fall under the “any” category!

What he wouldn’t support is a Muslim who adheres to the entire Koran, (like, for example, the parts that say to destroy anybody who won’t convert.) Is that being unreasonable? And Dr Ben is most likely very tolerant and nondiscriminatory in general… consider that he was being asked if he would support one as the leader of the free world- a “relatively” significant individual!

Personally, I am proud of this SDA thinker and healer. What a great American. Newsflash: he won’t be perfect.

And the Adventist Church has every right to tweak it’s description of it’s values, as the culture diverges from the unchanging Word of God. We should offer a safe place for SSA people to gather with fellow believers and we should not treat homosexuality any differently than any of our other sins.

Without, of course, promoting openly erotic relationships between same sex believers. Paul said “that’s what some of you were”. Not "some of you are."

Get a broad perspective on Dr. Ben. If somebody only watches CNBC exclusively, one might contract Carsonphobia.

I will add via edit that these “alliances” between Muslims and Christians are actually quite creepy. The biggest whale in the swimming pool is the cold hard fact that Muslims deny Christ. If they are pressed, they will admit that he was a really swell guy and a good teacher and all, but definitely didn’t die on the cross, didn’t rise on the third day, and he he ain’t no Mohammed.

Please wake up. Anyone who actively denies Christ and willfully gives their hearts allegiance to another is NOT a brother or sister! Seems like the trendy thing to do these days is to keep one foot in something that resembles SDA, and the other foot goes into this type of unholy alliance.

And I think some of these Muslims that have inserted themselves into American culture, and then start demanding that it become more like the Arab world they left behind have way too much nerve. I’m referring to ones such as the family whose son brought the lookalike bomb to class, and to those who think Carson should be removed from the presidential race. Please! This is post 911, this is the age of ISIS!

It is not “Islamophobia” this is Muslimreality.

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The left wing media distort and paraphrase Carson’s comments as they do with other Republican presidential hopefuls. I do not find Carson Islamophobic.

However Adventists, Catholics, Mormons, and Southern Baptists are ALL vehemently anti-gay and relegate women to second class status. So the “pot should not call the kettle black” to use an old proverb.

That said, ONLY the Muslims are throwing gays off ten story buildings, or stoning them. And the second class status of women in Muslim societies is legendary. Even in USA, when I see Islamic women swathed from head to toe, in claustrophobic garments, on the hottest of days, while their male escorts are in tank tops, shorts and sandals, I read DISCRIMINATION loud and clear!

Also Adventists, Catholics, Mormons and Southern Baptists are not preaching hate in their local houses of worship, as are some Imams.

Homeland Security will no time soon, be “profiling” Adventists and Southern Baptists when searching for terrorists!

Glenn Beck’s recent book IT IS ABOUT ISLAM is an illuminating eye-opener, quoting precisely from the Koran and other Islamic texts, to show the ultimate aspirations of True Islam and now it regards religious liberty for “infidels”.

Even a most basic understanding of Sharia Law shows that Carson is right on, when he proclaims SHARIA is incompatible with the US Constitution.

Let us show love for our neighbors, but not be ostrich-like when religious liberty issues are at stake, in those lands where Muslims become the majority (Europe soon?)

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The real problem with what Ben Carson said abou Islam, is that he doesn’t understand the constitution and that there should be no religious test for office.

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When there is a comparison between Islamic practices with the Torah there are many similarities: Adulterers were to be stoned; Sabbath breakers, also. God ordered wholesale slaughtering of “foreign” tribes because He had “given” His Chosen People the land (a.k.a. by military force) and killing all, including babies and animals; and in one instance, warriors were told to take all the “beautiful” women as their own booty. Women were considered as property and had no rights, much like Sharia Law

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Ben Carson doesn’t have a real grasp of policy nor the Constitution, nor for that matter, Islam. Sharia law is simply guidelines for moral living to Muslims, and the reality, and the problem, comes with the fact that there are about as many interpretations of Islam as there is of Christianity, not to mention interpretations of Sharia.

Granted, Mr. Carson walked back from his less than well thought through comments and qualified with “if they deny Sharia” then they are electable. The problem here is that Mr. Carson has no understanding of Sharia and its complexities due to various interpretations. Most Muslims in America practice Sharia and most are NOT, in doing so, living in any threatening way towards the Constitution. There is no agenda for overthrowing the Constitution, etc. This broad brushed labeling are mostly coming from ignorance and fear that accompanies said ignorance. Plenty of right winged folk, including Carson himself, imbibe the fear mongering of Muslims without really learning what they believe, etc.

America have done this her entire history. From shunning American Germans during WWI, as well as attacking JW’s who didn’t salute the flag or say the pledge, and putting American Japanese into concentration camps during WWII. All of it fueled by fear and paranoia.

Let’s remember that when it comes our turn.

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“Let’s remember that when it comes our turn.”

It is a good thing to remember- especially when one’s words and actions are memorialized for eternity via social media, etc. I am positive that he will have Muslim constituents and foreign countries who will remember as well.

My only consolation is that Ben Carson has zero chances of becoming US President…

Do Adventists really believe that he can be a “faithful” and “in good standing” member of the church AND be President??

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Well the more Carson seems to speak a little too quickly, and lets face it, he did speak a little hastily there and probably should have added those words in he did later on for extra clarification. The more his numbers seem to go up (neck and neck with The Donald atm). Why is this? Because people are tired of the same ole same ole, polished, fake words that tend to come out of Western Governments. And even though Carson sometimes says things he should have been a little more careful with, people dont care. Because its not scripted; its real.

P.S. Of course he’s not Islamaphobic.

Edit:

See what I like about you “enlightened” people, is that you dont refer to yourselves as enlightened, or resort to name calling,

Never mind…

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Thank you Geoffrey for your very sane and humane observations, you make a lot of sense to well informed enlightened people.

Carson told Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press”
that he would not support a Muslim candidate for the White House.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
But Todd had a follow-up. “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?” then Carson went off the rails. “No, I don’t, I do not,” he said.
Indeed ,daffy Ben Carson doesn’t want a Muslim as president because that would be “incompatible with the Constitution.”
Would sane Americans want as president, an ignorant person who thinks the Constitution sanctions barring people from office because of religion?
The US constitution expressly states the opposite. “[No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Article VI, paragraph 3. It appears that if there is anything incompatible with the Constitution, it’s Mr. Carson.

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If you look at the Spectrum blog page at this time (Oct 8, 9 PM EST), you will see two articles below this one, one about watching your speech. The article says this:

“Reminder on Christian Dialogue: The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes in respectful, Christ-like dialogue between Christians, and indeed, all people. There is no place for disrespectful statements, unfounded accusations, and hatred to exist on our social media pages.”

So why does Spectrum allow such a letter as the one posted above after telling us to stifle the rhetoric? Carson has clarified his statements. He objects to those embracing Shiria law. And mind you there are those that embrace such laws, and there are muslims that terrorize others with beheadings, oppress women so that what happened at San Antonia looks like a Feminist Rally, and fly planes into buildings belonging to the infidel. To gloss over such behavior and criticize your fellow Adventist for his horror at such actions shows a certain blindness in itself. The muslim faith is not a religion full of folk that will work to bend the arc as you strive to do, but embraces those who kill and maim in the name of Allah. And the rest do not protest their fellow believers actions enough. And here the author has the gaul to go after an Adventist who is uncomfortable with Shiria law! Last I checked he hasn’t beheaded anyone. I am keeping a careful eye, though, he is a surgeon after all, has a knife, and knows how to use it.

And by the way, homosexuality is a capital offense in muslim countries. We SDA’s haven’t killed anyone for that…yet.

The answer to the question in the first sentence of the paragraph above is that there is bias here against conservative causes and candidates. And you can call them names (Islamophobes etc.) and say they are “immoral haters”, but woe be to you if you call out a liberal.

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Wouldn’t it be appropriate if Spectrum were to hold their editorial contributors to being “germane to the topic” too?

Why just us?

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Dr. Carson is not “daffy,” although he may have misunderstood what was clearly intended (assuming the interviewer has been quoted accurately) as a “have you stopped beating your wife” question. Had he answered “yes,” the headline would have been “Ben Carson defends Islamic theology as consistent with the Constitution.” Having instead replied “no” he has earned only mockery from the writer here.

Insofar as it advocates theocracy and the application of Sharia law, Dr. Carson is correct that traditional Islam is not consistent with the mandates of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In reply to an earlier comment: while it is true that the old testament mandated stoning for certain violations, the genius of modern Judaism and Christianity is that they have largely moved past that primitive system in response to “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Anyone who has seen photos of the penalty recently meted out to the elderly middle eastern archaeologist can see that Islam - or at least a growing and violent sub-group of Islam - has not. And the moderate Islamic community’s response to this, and to other horrors perpetrated by the violent sub-group, has been muted at best.

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I am afraid that this pastor is too politicized and affected by PC that he ignores and glosses over the religion of Islam…May be being involved in an ecumenical group leader has affected his value system///

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I agree that Dr. Carson speaks off the cuff without considering how his words can be misconstrued. Then he has to go back and try to explain what he meant. But most of all, I am surprised at how he criticizes his own people and others who live in poverty when his own family lived on food stamps and welfare growing up

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Dr. Carson is my childhood hero; but, his presidential bid has left me wondering which one of us changed (likely both of us) as I have lost a great deal of respect for him. I’ll list just two examples to demonstrate why.

In the last debate he was asked about Trump’s opinion that vaccinations cause autism. As a Pediatric physician with an autistic child I was glad he would have the chance to set the record straight. He started off by correctly stating that there is no scientific evidence that vaccinations cause autism (the one article that made the connection has been refuted). But, then he suggested there might still be a connection with autism by saying that we should delay and space out vaccinations. All that this would accomplish is to leave more children vulnerable for longer periods to devastating childhood illnesses and potential death. Dr. Carson missed a perfect opportunity to put Trump in his place, failed to encourage families around the world to appropriately protect their children, and undermined the standard of evidence based medicine.

Then, with regard to the question of whether a Muslim should be president, he said he would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. Even his qualifications of this statement reveal an anti-Islamic sentiment when he says a Muslim must deny Sharia law to be electable. This forces a single story on all Muslims and misses the important nuance of diverse practices and interpretations within every religion including Islam. In creating a monolithic Muslim community Dr. Carson and other political conservatives have a convenient Girardian enemy to organize around; but, in sacrificing our neighbors who are Muslims, the damage to our diverse nation far outweighs any temporary consensus. What he should have said is that the constitution forbids a religious test for anyone seeking public office in the United States. Period. It is up to us the voters to decide who should be President.

As Geoffrey said, “As a presidential candidate you are… responsible for your words and actions that set a tone for conversations and actions across our country.” For all his talk about eschewing politics as usual, Dr. Carson’s statements nearly always appeal to the extreme elements of the religious right.

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it is clear that Dr Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon, with a global mission for which his passion does not match his grasp of a rational world view. he seems to have a fatal foot in mouth disease. He demonstrates time and again a high school under standing of government. He should be honored for what he has accomplished and let him take an office within his competence. Tom Z

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He has not suggested that there be a religious test for office. He is speaking his own personal belief. This has nothing to do with the constitution. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that” . . . I, not the nation! Per the consitution, every citizen has a right to vote and support or not support any candidate.

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Unfortunately Ben Carson is daffy. All you need to look at are his recent comments on the debt ceiling to understand that he is rather clueless. He didn’t even comprehend the question. His comments on guns of recent only makes it worse. But this is a long ways before the first primary, and for whatever reasons, Republicans like their silly season…

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