Last December, two Muslim college students visited an upstate New York megachurch as part of an assignment to learn about different faiths. After the service, some congregants shared stories and offered hugs. One called Homeland Security.
The incident was an anomaly. But it still made national news, because it played into stereotypes of American evangelicals’ unfamiliarity with Muslims and tendency to conflate Islam with terrorism.
Surveys suggest that what evangelicals think Muslims think is quite different from how Muslims in the United States and abroad describe their beliefs. White evangelicals are also the least likely Americans to know a Muslim.
This concerns evangelical experts on Muslim missions. Because as more Muslim migrants flee unstable and violent homelands, the mission field that was once half a world away has made its way into many American communities. Last year, the US admitted about 39,000 Muslim refugees, a record high.
“This is the best chance we’ve had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims,” said David Cashin, an intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University.
But survey after survey indicates that white evangelicals are the least excited about their new neighbors. They show the highest levels of support for restrictions on Muslim immigration and the most skepticism toward Muslim Americans.
Case in point: President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on travel, which temporarily halts the refugee program and restricts entry from several Muslim-majority countries. Self-identified white evangelicals support the policy by a 3 to 1 margin (Pew Research Center) and are the only religious group in America that has grown more supportive of ...1