It turns out that from a hard-right American evangelical point of view, the US public may have a choice between two Muslims, or two ‘may as well be Muslims’ for president this fall.
Dr. Richard Land, a major leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has told Newsmax that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is not an orthodox form of Christianity and is “charitably speaking” an Abrahamic religion like Islam He compared Mormon prophet Joseph Smith to the Muslim prophet Muhammad, and the Book of Mormon to the Qur’an. He says that the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon both are built against a biblical background but go beyond and contradict the Bible.
He underlined that the fact that someone is not a professing Christian (sliding over from Mormons not being orthodox Christians to not being Christians at all) should not disqualify him from running for president. He quotes Martin Luther that “I would rather be governed by a competent Turk [i.e. Muslim] than an incompetent Christian.”
[Everything Land says earlier about Ahmadinejad, Iran and Israel is factually incorrect by the way.]
Ironically, Land’s quotation of Luther, which is historically without any basis in fact, actually points to another analogy that Protestant leaders once made, between Islam and Roman Catholicism. Throughout history, evangelicals have used Islam to represent “the other.” Now it is Mormonism, but once it was the papacy.
The rumor that Luther felt this way about accepting Muslim rule was actually promulgated by Leo X. George W. Forell, “Luther and the War against the Turks,” Church History, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), pp. 256-271, explained,
“It was at that time that Luther published his first major statement in regard to the Turkish danger. It appeared in 1529 under the title On War against the Turk, and was written to counteract the prevalent opinion that Luther considered the war against the Turks a war against God. This impression of Luther’s position had been fostered by the notorious papal bull, Exsurge Domine, in which Pope Leo X had condemned Luther’s theses as heretical. In his fifth thesis Luther had said that the pope cannot remit any other punishments than those which he or canon law had imposed. He had claimed that the pope cannot remit God’s punishments. And in his defense of the ninety-five theses of 1518 he had tried to make his point even more emphatic and had added that if the pope was as well able to remit divine punishment as he claimed, he should stop the advance of the Turk. Luther said that he must indeed be a poor Christian who does not know that the Turks are a punishment from God, and invited the pope to stop that punishment.
The pope had countered by condemning as heretical the following sentence of Luther: “To fight against the Turks is to fight against God’s visitation upon our iniquities.” In this misleading form, Luther’s attitude toward the war against the Turks had been widely publicised. This had given the general impression that Luther considered a war against the Turks sinful and preferred the rule of the Turks to the rule of the emperor.
Luther had to answer this accusation. He did that in a detailed reassertion of all the articles condemned by Leo X. In regard to the Turks he said that unless the pope were put in his place, all attempts to defeat the Turks would prove futile. The wrath of the Lord would continue to be upon all Christendom as long as Christian nations continued to honor those most Turkish of all Turks, even the Romanists.
But this answer merely showed that Luther’s pronouncements in regard to the Turks were not a defense of the Turks but an attack against the pope.”
Actually, Luther believed that Muslims were being allowed to advance into Central Europe in the 1500s as a punishment on European Christians for being Roman Catholics. He understood that Muslims often lived moral lives and had mystics among them, but considered them ‘saints of the devil.’ He saw both the pope and Islam as ‘anti-Christs’. Forell explained,
‘Luther’s identification of the Turk with the Antichrist sounds confusing in view of his frequent claims that it is the pope in Rome who is the real Antichrist. But for Luther two Antichrists presented no problem. He said, “The person of the Antichrist is at the same time the pope and the Turk. Every person consists of a body and a soul. So the spirit of the Antichrist is the pope, his flesh is the Turk. The one has infested the Church spiritually, the other bodily. However, both come from the same Lord, even the devil.” ‘
Luther rejected the idea of a crusade or a religious war as blasphemous. Human beings are too sinful to wage war in the name of a holy cause. But he did believe that Germans had a civil obligation to fight the Ottoman advance to defend their homes. The idea that he would have accepted an Ottoman ruler is absurd.
Yet another irony is that the Ottoman Empire was interested in Protestantism as a way of dividing and ruling Christian lands, and perhaps they knew enough of it to know its leaders often rejected holy war against the Ottomans or even that some had pacifist tendencies. They also viewed it as closer to an Islamic sensibility. Ultimately Protestantism in eastern Europe sometimes benefited from Ottoman protection. Luther himself was aware of this tendency, and rejected it. Forell:
‘a little episode reported in the Table Talk. At one time Luther was informed by a member of an imperial mission to the Turkish Sultan that Suleiman had been very much interested in Luther and his movement and had asked the ambassadors Luther’s age. When they had told him that Luther was forty-eight years old, he had said, “I wish he were even younger; he would find in me a gracious protector.” But hearing that report, Luther, not being a realistic politician, made the sign of the cross and said, “May God protect me from such a gracious protector.” ‘
Land’s position is therefore actually much more tolerant and admirable than that of Luther himself, insofar as he says, at least, that he would accept a non-Muslim president and he lacks Luther’s animus toward Roman Catholicism. But in likening Mormonism to Islam (to the detriment of both in his own mind), Land is deploying the same intellectual gesture, of amalgamating the internal Christian Other to the external Muslim Other, that Luther engaged in. And while Land believes that evangelicals will in the end prefer Romney to Obama, so far they are not voting that way, and they may well stay home on election day. What with having only Muslim or Muslim-like choices.