My phone chirped letting me know someone had sent me a text. As is usually the case it was one of my amazing church members.
The text read, “Hey Preacher, have you seen this?” I get those texts a lot. Usually it is something along the lines of “Why women live longer than men,” which will be a picture of a man doing something incredibly stupid, like using a tall ladder which is propped on two chairs … which are on the hood of a vehicle … in a tornado.
This time, though, it was a meme which no doubt someone felt incredibly clever putting together.
It was comparing Islam to other things. The first section was a picture of a bearded Jewish man beside a picture of a bearded Muslim man. The second section was a picture of a nun beside a picture of a Muslim woman. The third section was a picture of George Washington beside a picture of a boy throwing a rock at a tank.
The meme read, “Why is it … a Jew can grow his beard to practice his faith, but when a Muslim does the same, he is labeled an extremist? A nun can cover herself from head to toe to devote herself to God, but when a Muslim does the same, she’s considered oppressed? When this person defends his land he is labeled a hero, but when a Muslim defends his land, he is labeled a terrorist?”
Proverbs 26:7 says, “The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.” In other words, foolish people have a habit of making unequal comparisons. The meme I described is one of the best examples of that I have ever seen. Let us dissect it briefly and then close with a word about sound reasoning.
On the first point, the beard of a Muslim is not an issue, unless the beard becomes a prelude to bad behavior. Beards do not make a person dangerous. A man could grow his beard long enough to earn the nickname Rapunzel face, and it would not warrant the term extremist. It is suicide bombings, televised beheadings, punishment rapes, honor killings, burning people alive, things of that nature that are currently earning the Muslim men who engage in them the title of extremist. I am unaware of any bearded Jewish men currently engaging in the above list of activities.
On the second point, the comparison between a nun and an Islamic woman is enough of a stretch to make yoga blush. Nuns wear what they wear completely voluntarily, make up a tiny fraction of women in Catholicism, and could cast their habit aside at any time without the slightest fear of having violence leveled against them for doing so. She could even go so far as to become a Hooters girl if she chose, and the worst thing that would happen to her would likely be having people “tsk tsk” her decision.
Does anyone think that to be the case with Muslim women? The covering of Muslim ladies is not simply a religious guideline, it is compulsory under Sharia Law, and many times ladies face violence for not submitting to it. “It is a condition for the permissibility of her going out that she take no measures to enhance her beauty, and that her figure is concealed or altered to a form unlikely to draw looks from men or attract them. Allah most high says, ‘Remain in your homes and do not display your beauty as women did in pre-Islamic periods of ignorance.” (The Reliance of the Traveler, page 682)
On the third point, George Washington actually defended his land. He did not, however, kill everyone who disagreed with him, even his own people, as is so often seen in the sectarian violence in the Middle East. Nor do children throwing rocks at tanks qualify as terrorists, as the meme suggests people think. But when those children have explosive bombs strapped to their chests, their parents have become terrorists, no matter what reason they do it for. And when other children grow up to calmly slit the throats of bound, kneeling, helpless “infidels,” yes, they are terrorists.
I am grateful for Muslims who hate barbarity, and I am especially grateful for those with the courage to speak out against it. As I have said so often, I do not believe for a moment that every Muslim is violent and repressive. But those who are should not be given a pass by faulty meme makers or anyone else.
And now, as I promised, a word about sound reasoning. We have entered the age where memes and tweets carry more weight than lengthy, reasoned discourse. That is not just a shame, it is also dangerous. Learn to slow down, make equal comparisons, and talk things through.
It doesn’t make a good meme, but it does make good sense.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. Dr. Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.