Union University
Union University Dept of Language


Accessorizing Faith

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

January 17, 2008 - As shocking as it may sound, genuine Christians and devout Muslims have a common enemy. The failure to recognize this common adversary is troubling. Yet, even more distressing is the extent to which well-meaning Muslims and Christians often actively support the adversarial advance.

Consider, for example, a recent interview by NPR with Ausma Khan, editor of Muslim Girl magazine. Understandably, the year-old publication has drawn criticism from traditional Muslims who view the magazine as “too Westernized.” When asked about objections to the publication from traditional Muslim constituencies, Khan responded:

“We treat it really as a non-issue; but that it’s a personal choice between a girl and God, and that it’s up to her to make that choice. But the reality is that Muslims come from all different backgrounds and different perspectives and approaches to faith. And the point of our magazine is to be as representative, as authentic, and as inclusive and pluralistic as possible.”

Khan’s response is indicative of the common enemy about which I speak. That enemy is the trivialization of religion that comes about by the complex interaction of increasing consumerism and the privatization of religious belief.

Christians are not immune. In fact, some sectors of Christendom arguably pave the way toward trivialization by creating consumer products that explicitly reinforce Khan’s suggestion that religious belief is strictly a matter of personal choice. Think, for example, of the 2003 release of the teenage girl magazine version of the New Testament, Revolve.

However well-intentioned, efforts like Muslim Girl magazine and Revolve tend to cause us to think of religious faith like an accessory. But Christ did not call his disciples to a faith that wears as lightly as the latest seasonal scarf.