Home Away from Home
The West's relationship with Islam is likely to remain a major issue in coming decades, and perhaps well beyond that. This struggle will have many dimensions, and Lamin Sanneh's story, analysis, and confession can be an indispensable aid in our attempts to understand it.
Rejection and Honor
One of Sanneh's many themes is rejection—rejection from the academy because of his beliefs, and rejection from churches because of his race and his conversion. Many in the universities, especially in the Ivy League, were apparently uncomfortable with his clear devotion to the truth of Christianity. And because of his race and culture, he did not fit their New England ethos; he was not one of them. In American churches, he often faced raw racist paternalism. Both African and American Christians frequently regarded him as a potential source of embarrassment. As a convert from Islam, they worried he could pose an obstacle to their programs for interreligious dialogue.
Sanneh closes with words from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress: "[A]nd though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am …. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who will now be my Rewarder."
Of course, Sanneh wears not only scars of rejection, but laurels of honor. It is a testimony to the depth of his oft-embattled faith that, having experienced both rejection and honor in great measure, he perseveres in his homecoming journey.
Paul Marshall is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.