Moderate Methodism, Yes; Moderate Islam, No

Lots of chatter about Duke University’s revoking its decision to allow Muslim students to use the University Chapel to call fellow believers to prayer:

Days after announcing that a Muslim call to prayer would echo from its historic chapel tower, Duke University changed course Thursday following a flurry of calls and emails objecting to the plan.

Instead, Muslims will gather for their call to prayer in a grassy area near the 210-foot gothic tower before heading into a room in Duke Chapel for their weekly prayer service. The university had previously said a moderately amplified call to prayer would be read by members of the Muslim Students Association from the tower for about three minutes each Friday.

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said it would be up to the students if they want to use some sort of amplification.

The original plan drew the ire of evangelist Franklin Graham, who urged Duke alumni to withhold support because of violence against Christians that he attributed to Muslims. Schoenfeld said emails and calls came from alumni and others in the community.

It used to be that Methodists were some of those “hot” Protestants who met daily in small groups and employed all sorts of methods to cultivate holiness. Now they sponsor universities where Gothic structures occasionally hold religious services of some kind.

After the events in Paris last week, why wouldn’t we want to happen to Muslims what happened to Methodists? After all, the university only approved one call to prayer on one day of the week. Real Islam has five calls to prayer every day, a circumstance that could well disrupt classes and sleep at Duke. But if Muslim students are willing to settle for one call on one day, wouldn’t that make them as compliant and unthreatening as the United Methodist Church?

We missed a real opportunity here, people.

37 thoughts on “Moderate Methodism, Yes; Moderate Islam, No

  1. When I was an undergraduate at Duke in IVCF, we used to hold a daily prayer meeting in the crypt of the chapel at 5pm. One year, Monday was “Monday Runday.” Some of us would gather at the bus stop about 100 yards from the chapel, and when the tower bells rang 5 o clock, we would all run to the chapel, trying to get their before the fifth chime.

    I guess the difference is that we did not ask permission of the Methodists. We just did it. I also remember from those days the Methodist chaplain, Will Willimon, calling Duke a “pagan place.”

    Point is, I don’t really care if they call Muslims to prayer once/week. And I really rather doubt that the Muslims at Duke are remotely connected to terrorism in anyway, so what a dumb argument. Perhaps we should outlaw all mosques? But Duke is not meaningfully a Christian school, if it ever was, in my opinion. A very good school, and I owe it a lot (I even got to study under George Marsden there) but as multi-cultural as they come, so why not let them be who they already are?


  2. Duke 63, Louisville 52 -the two white coaches got paid, and Pitino lost

    At least Franklin Graham is not promoting his false gospel this week–instead he is attempting to show his power by making comments about what Duke should do. And then maybe next Graham has enough influence to be a factor in deciding who is going to be president of the american empire. No need for him to repent of any killing done by self-righteous American “Christians”. If Graham and father couldn’t get Romney elected last time, one wonders if his father was the one who got nixon and bushes….

    maybe the influence runs in two directions. If we won’t “re-baptize” Roman Catholics, why not be catholic enough to send them back to their own churches where they got their “baptism”?

    Godfrey: Both of these theological weaknesses surface in Billy Graham. His Arminianism is clear. His weak doctrine of the church is seen in his sending inquirers back to false churches—a fault that even he seems to recognize in his setting up Bible study courses as part of the follow-up for the inquirers.

    Billy Graham in a recent interview with Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral sounded remarkably liberal:
    Dr. Schuller: “What I hear you saying [is] that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?”
    Dr. Graham: “Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.”
    Dr. Schuller: “This is fantastic. I’m so thrilled to hear you say that. ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.'”
    Dr. Graham: “There is. There definitely is.”


  3. I find it sad that Duke changed its policy because of the response Graham called for. Graham not only vilifies all of Islam using inaccurate generalizations, his call simply appealed and reinforced a tribalism that only furthers the divide between the West and Islam.


  4. I can’t believe you guys. God forbid that this country ever starts promoting public broadcasts of the Muslim prayer call. What a demonic and oppressive thing to call neutral or good. It probably will happen one day, given the twisted and evil trajectory our public policy is on. But at least for now, I’m grateful that Franklin Graham rallied up the alumni.


  5. When Christian private schools give up ground to contrary religions, it destroys the unique objective of a what it means to receive Christian education. Why not give up Duke to the state of North Carolina?The tution would be cheaper, and religious tolerance could work in a secular univerisity with each religion having their own groups much like Intervarsity or Newman Centers.

    Would Duke University also allow any Catholic students to commonly pray the Divine Office, I wonder?

    Pluralism fail.


  6. Witches as chaplains is as depressing as a Muslim prayer call from Duke’s tower would be. I can’t believe people here are giving Franklin Graham sh*t. That after plugging Micharl Sean Winters. You guys are good at identifying evangelicalism’ little heresies, but you are lousy at identifying orthodoxy’s cultural foes. Duke still at least feigns a Methodist heritage. Hey, I know, let’s start a Pearl S Buck literature lecture series at Wheaton!


  7. I did not call a Muslim call to “prayer” neutral or good. I am simply putting it in context. If Duke disallows Muslim “prayers,” in the name of preventing the demonic, well then, there is a lot more they will need to root out to continue that holy campaign, and I am not talking about tobacco. One must have some capacity to distinguish between the Church/the Holy and the world, or these conversations never make sense.


  8. I take it that you gentlemen have never lived or have never been exposed to a society that broadcasts the Muslim prayer call. This is not even remotely comparable to allowing people of other religious backgrounds to exercise their faith. Muslims are already free to do so at Duke. As I said, may God forbid the public broadcast and amplification of the Muslim chants/prayer calls.

    DGH– I totally dislike the idea of a witch being a military chaplain, but the chaplaincy already has a structure set up to deal with diverse religious practice. There are Rabbis, priests, reverends, etc, but the way they carry out their office would always be exercised with descretion and not imposed on the entire battalion or brigade.

    That an amplified, broadcast Muslim prayer call on campus would have even been considered by Duke is tragic. That Christians cannot discern why this is so is grievous imo.


  9. DGH: Not at all. Rome is just as screwed up. My ‘point,” I think, is that Duke is a Methodist school not a public one. The chapel was built using Methodist funds, not Moslem ones. Whatever institutional loyalties it has are Methodist. Why on earth shoiud it allow a call for Moslem pray from its Methodist chapel, no matter what else it allows. They may have made lots of nonsense decision in the past, but so what? The have balls for 5 seconds, even if only after Graham helps them unhang them. Good for them. As for Popes who pray with Moselns, witness the hemorrhaging of Roman Catholicism, much like what is happening in Evangelicalism as they get helpful cues from Peter Enns. It is not politics to cling to a Chrisitian tradition that actually is ones tradition: its a cultural survival instinct. At lest how I see. All the accommodation will just get us much fast to COEXIST and ONE PEOPLE ON PLANET. Ok, now let me get back to my episode of “Ellen”


  10. ” One must have some capacity to distinguish between the Church/the Holy and the world, or these conversations never make sense.”

    As someone who gave lots of his allowance and grass-cutting money growing up to UMC offerings, I still say it makes perfect sense for a Methodist school to tell the Moslems they can’t have the run of the chapel tower. And the fact that is made fun of here just shows that theology can make people navel-gazing obliviots. A secular school does one thing that conforms to san thinking, and they are taken to the woodshed for inconsistency. Sheesh. Re: Duke, sure they are post-Methodist moderns, but making sense even a little, even once, is preferable to never making sense. The loose-as-a-tramp daughter who finally says no to one guy, because he has a reputation for especially rough sex…what, are her Baptist parents going to tell her she was a hypocrite not to this time spread her legs? A good decision, even for mixed reasons, can still be something to be thankful for.


  11. Jay R., I’ve been to Istanbul twice. First night of each trip involved getting to the hotel by 7 or so, having dinner, then retiring to bed and at around 10:00 hearing calls to prayer echo throughout the city. And Turkey is a secular country.

    How different is that from the local Methodist church playing recordings of chime-played hymns everyday at noon? And the U.S. is a secular country.


  12. Duke is not as a rule Christian in any meaningful way; is liberal, gospel-denying Methodism really that much better than moderate Islam? How about promiscuity in the dorms and atheism in the classroom? I went there and experienced all this first hand. I also know that Duke finally acknowledged all this when they significantly changed their mission statement away from the (liberal?) Christian statement from the early 20th century. See:

    So, why pick on the Muslims when judgment should start with the house of the Lord? And yes, I have lived in Istanbul also (for two months), and in Saudi Arabia (for six months), though most of the latter was in the desert. And at Duke, I studied both Islam and Arabic pretty extensively. I know what the Muslim call to prayer sounds like (at 5am no less).

    So yeah, let all the Christian Duke Alumni rise up against this, but then let’s also also write letters opposing all the heretics who have preached in the Chapel pulpit, all the worldliness and materialism of the Duke culture, and all the drunkenness and sexual sin that goes on there daily while we are at it. Where would it end? Or we can just let the world be the world.

    At what point does Jesus just become a banner we wave in the culture wars instead of our Lord who first and foremost makes His church holy and humble? What are Muslims really hearing when we allow all these other things but then have the boldness to call them out on their false religion?

    Don’t get me wrong — in my view, Islam is just a cult that took off, and is entirely false, and in many places in the world leads to satanic violence (see northern Nigeria). But it is also populated by sinners like us who need to hear about grace. And the Church, historically at times, has also resorted to satanic violence when it imitates the world in its attempts to win a culture and define itself by geographic borders and campuses. One more call to false prayer on the Duke Campus is not going to significantly change Duke culture. The problem lies far deeper than that.


  13. Chris, I agree with most of what you write (just covering my 2k base in case). So I don’t understand how a call to prayer for Muslims at Duke would hurt anything. Why single out Islam (though I know certain reasons for the temptation)?


  14. DG: You asked: “How different is that from the local Methodist church playing recordings of chime-played hymns everyday at noon? And the U.S. is a secular country.”

    I don’t see how that matters. No one is arguing for or against the playing of hymns at noon in a secular country. This is red herring and has nothing to do with the issue at hand – as I believe I have already pointed out.


  15. Also, Turkey is a truly horrible example for making your case of pro-Muslim prayer calls. After all, their Prime Minister is doing everything he can to re-implement full Sharia law and turn it over to the Sunnis and the ISIS caliphate. Erdogan views himself as the rising leader of this new Sunni Caliphate and he’s doing everything in his power to ensure their success in Iraq, Syria, and next Jordan.

    I do agree with Chris that it is strange to only make a big deal about this Muslim issue at Duke, when there are truly so many others that could and should be addressed as well. But it is a logical fallacy to argue that we should do nothing about one atrocity just because another one already exists. Address each issue as the opportunity arises. The one about broadcasting and amplifying the prayer call is the one at hand.


  16. Todd,

    Willimon is so good on this stuff. He was chaplain when I was there and he was always very kind to me and my brother, despite our Calvinism. 🙂 Have a few more stories, but that article speaks for itself.


  17. Isn’t it a matter of Christian liberty and wisdom which causes in the public square we take up or not? Must we always flock to the sound of the horn that the media trumpets any given day? I guess that is part of what is motivating my comments here.


  18. Chris, those are excellent questions, but my point is that those who are able to excercise good discernment shouldn’t have had to even bat an eye over this issue. The right outcome prevailed – so far.


  19. All valid points. Although I can’t imagine even rich funders swaying Duke, , knowing the Methodist educators I do. Still seems like a minor miracle to me, LOL, even if it makes little difference overall.


  20. So here is the letter from the Dean of the Duke Divinity School, which I thought was well-reasoned, both in its explanation of why a Christian chapel should not host a Muslim call to prayer, and its call for moderate, informed discussion of the matter. I may now switch sides on this.

    I suppose I was conflating the Duke Chapel with the Duke Campus in general, since they are well, millimeters from one another. I had not considered that the Chapel (according to the Dean anyway) is something — in theory anyway — of an Christian Oasis within the Pagan Desert of the campus.

    Take a read:

    Click to access Duke-Chapel-Decision-1.15.15.pdf


  21. Willimon being published in Modern Reformation along with the Lutherans and others who teach some form of universal atonement is nothing to get excited about. Indeed, it could be that Willimon and Hauerwas are more dangerous in the long term because their sincere anti-liberalism gains them influence. It’s time that we recover from the relativism of saying that since the liberals are not Christians, this must mean that the anti-liberals are closer to teaching the gospel in which Christ actually saves every person for whom He died. The Barthian dialectic is still not Christian, either in confessional or biblicist terms.

    Even though I am not excited about 1000 wins for coach k, I do look forward to another Duke win over St Johns…..

    Influence runs in two directions. If we won’t “re-baptize” Methodists why not be catholic enough to send Methodists back to their own churches where they got their “baptism”?

    Godfrey: Both of these theological weaknesses surface in Billy Graham. His Arminianism is clear. His weak doctrine of the church is seen in his sending inquirers back to false churches


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