>For those who don’t know, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently experienced a new first. Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota is Congress’ first Muslim. His recent election has caused something of a stir, primarily because he chose to place his hand on a Koran in his private swearing-in ceremony. (the mass, public ceremony in the chamber is one were all members merely raise their right hands).

In response to this event and an inquiry made by one of his constituents, Rep. Goode of Virginia expressed his less than righteous indignation. His letter, and all the subsequent statements and interviews are a prime example of what is wrong with today’s politics. Here is an excerpt:

“I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

“We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

It is interesting to note that Goode does not mention what “values and traditional beliefs” seem to be at risk in his personal view, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. This is the new, acceptable face of prejudice in the 21st century. The social/political invention called “whiteness” has always been an illusive, shifting monster that has more to do with who you stand against than who you are or where your people come from. Unfortunately, there are still many people who feel they must allay their insecurities by vilifying others. The easiet target in a post 9-11 world? Muslims.

Never mind that Goode’s comments are as flawed factually as they are morally. He uses Ellison’s election to attack immigration of illegal and legal immigrants, though Ellison is a black American convert to Islam who traces his own family roots back as far as Louisianna, 1742.

In good old boy style that is reminiscent of David Duke, you can view this CNN video of Rep. Goode responding to the suggestion he ought to apologize for his bigoted words, written in his letter: “I’m not apologizing to anyone for what’s in the letta, I stand by what’s in the letta, and I support the positions outlined in my letta.”

The truth is, the whole thing doesn’t surprise me much, but it does get my ire up. Particularly this part of the letter:

“Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. … The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office.

For once – just once (is that too much to ask?) – I wish bigots, fear mongers, and the proudly prejudiced could leave Jesus out of it. Here is another classic example of citing “Judeo-Christian values” to bash true Christian values. If Rep. Goode would worry less about whose hand was on the outside of what book and more about what is in the pages of the book he put his own hand on, we would not be once again traveling down this well worn path of ignorance, division, and sin.

Yes sin, that is real issue as I see it. I know that many are trying to hold Goode’s feet to the constitutional fire, and I hope they do. I know that our government is founded on religious liberty, and that some people, like Michael, are arguing persuasively that our core American values are being trounced. I sympathize and even agree, but want to point out something else that Goode and those of his religious ilk so often forget. The reason Christians should embrace strangers, welcome the alien, love the neighbor, dialogue and respect the Muslim or people of different faiths is BECAUSE of Jesus, not IN SPITE of him.

Anything less bashes, denigrates, slanders, and dishoners true Judeo-Christian values.

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