“I come in the name of Allah, Allah and the prophet Mohammad blah, blah, blah, pass the ammunition, all that good stuff”" Samuel Rodriguez mocking an imam’s prayer
The original article I did on Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and the Oak Initiative is leading to necessary questions about the level of Samuel’s participation in anti-Muslim bigotry. For instance, the Faith in Public Life is a significant group seeking to provide a faith-based alternative to the Religious Right. They have viewed Rodriguez’s work positively in the past but they are now understandably concerned about my account of Rodriguez’s involvement in the Oak Initiative. They posted a report about my article at their website that included this challenge to Rodriguez: “although Rodriguez indeed left the Oak Initiative, we haven't yet seen a public denunciation of their extremism.” This is a legitimate request because other than the statement Samuel gave to me that was quoted in my original article he has given no public statement about his resignation at any of the variety of publicity sites available to him. Furthermore, the statement that Ricky Joyner, President of Oak Initiative, has sent to media confirming Samuel’s resignation challenges Samuel’s account of why he resigned from Oak. Here is Joyner’s complete statement that he emailed to media that inquired:
Sam Rodriguez did recently resign from the board of The Oak Initiative citing as the reason being that his increased responsibilities with editing a new Spanish version of Charisma Magazine would prohibit him having time to give a meaningful contribution to The Oak. We have a deep appreciation for Sam Rodriguez and will miss his contribution to The Oak, but congratulate him for this new endeavor. (emphasis added)
Joyner’ account of Samuel’s reasoning for his resignation is consistent with the fact that Joyner continues to post at his Morning Star Ministry website two videos of Rodriguez endorsing and explaining the Oak Initiative. In fact, it was while visiting this website that I found what was for me the first clear evidence that Samuel himself has publicly engaged in precisely the kind of anti-Muslim bigotry that he claimed was such a shock to him when I first spoke with him about the Oak Initiative. You will recall that at the time Rev. Rodriguez professed surprise at the Oak Initiative’s extremism towards Islam in America. He made it seem as if this was not the Oak Initiative vision he had endorsed when he was more actively involved in it and he claimed that this turn towards Islamaphobia must have occurred during the ambiguous period of time that marked Samuel’s supposed withdrawal from active participation (throughout this whole time he was listed as the organization’s vice president). While Samuel’s account of his involvement in the Oak Initiative has been challenged by others, no one to this point has ever reported on Samuel’s own involvement in speech that fuels the very disrespect and fear of Muslims that Samuel has in other contexts expressed horror at. You will recall that in the Christianity Today article he did for the recent 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks Rodriguez wrote movingly about how those attacks profoundly changed his views and focused him on the dangers of extremism. No evidence of that change can be found when Rodriguez spoke at a HarvestFest Conference in 2010. In a speech entitled “Holiness, Freedom and Power” that is widely available on You Tube and elsewhere, Rodriguez recounts a prayer that he was asked to give at a Washington DC rally of over 350,000 people. Rodriguez relates how he was the third person to pray at the opening of the event. Rodriguez describes how the first two people prayed.
“The first came up and said ‘God of many names’, that was the intro, ‘God of many names’ and this very ambiguous, amorphic kind of prayer. The second person to come up and pray was an imam and he said “though I come in the name of Allah, Allah and the prophet Mohammad blah, blah, blah, pass the ammunition, all that good stuff’”.
After this demeaning description of the other two prayers Rodriguez goes on to express great pride in the prayer that he offered up in Jesus’ name. To fully appreciate the profound disrespect of Rodriguez’s statement about the imam’s prayer, you must watch the video and at around the six-minute mark you will hear his description. You will see how his “pass the ammunition” joke was so clearly intended as the kind of classis Islamic-bashing comment that you would expect from some one comfortable with portraying Muslims in the worst possible light and as inherently violent “others”. Sadly, it also fits within the broader narrative that Rodriguez has adopted regularly in his efforts to convince conservative Christians that they should be comfortable with increased Hispanic immigration. The argument he makes in talks he has given is that because Hispanics are Christians they should be welcomed not feared, whereas Muslims should be feared because they are taking over Europe by their immigration there. In other words, he explicitly calls for compassion towards Hispanics while playing up fear of Muslims. This is perhaps an argument we would expect from a politician representing a community or a talk show host making a provocative point, but when it comes from a major Christian leader who mocks Muslim prayers while simultaneously presenting himself as a voice for religious tolerance it adds up to a disturbing lack of consistency. At the very least it makes a person wonder why a leader with this kind of track record of bigotry towards Muslims is a contributing editor at Sojourners, on the board of trustees of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Evangelicals and on the board of directors of Christianity Today International. Rodriguez’s statements about Islam certainly give context to his participation in Oak Initiative and legitimate the wording of Rachel Tabachnick’s original article that got me interested in Rodriguez in the first place: “Samuel Rodriguez and the Oak Initiative—Marketing Religious Supremacism as Social Justice”.