I am always interested in what other people have to say about faith, be it their own or that of others. In this regard I recently came across two interesting views on religion, one from Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg and the other from American President Barak Obama.
Wahlberg was interviewed in the Guardian where he spoke briefly about his Catholic faith and what being a believer means to him. Obama was asked at a CNN town hall meeting about the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ and why he feels unable to bring himself to say this.
More details are presented below, as well some additional commentary of my own. As always, enjoy!
The Catholic faith of Mark Wahlberg is well known. It is something he has openly spoken of in many interviews, including this one with Piers Morgan:
Wahlberg spoke again about faith in a recent interview with the Guardian, in which the following interesting exchange took place:
Wahlberg was suffering from drug addiction by the age of 13 and, while still a teenager, racially abused a group of black schoolchildren and beat a Vietnamese man with a stick. He also assaulted another Vietnamese man, punching him in the face. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery and served 45 days in prison. He sums up that period of his life as one in which “a lot of things happened and I made a lot of mistakes. But you try to live in the moment and look to the future.”
The good thing that came out of it, he says, is that he connected with his Catholicism. “Everybody goes to jail and gets on their hands and knees and says: ‘Please God, if you get me out I promise I’ll never do it again.’ And of course, by the time you’re out, you fall back into the same habits. But something just kept me wanting to go a little bit more into it,” he says.
Catholicism is still a major part of his life. He has a daily prayer routine “which I absolutely cannot miss” and any movie shooting schedules must accommodate his weekly trip to mass. “Everything good that has happened to me in my life, whether it’s meeting my wife or the births of my children, happened when I started focusing on my faith,” he says. He grins: “I sound like I’m in the recruiting office, don’t I? Here, I’ve got some brochures for you.”
You’d have to work hard to recruit a New York Jew, I say.
“Jesus was a Jew,” he replies with mock solemnity, enjoying switching from talking about himself to teasing banter. “I got a lotta New York Jews with me on this trip. Where’s Mr Weinstein? Bring him in! He’s my bubelah!”
– Mark Wahlberg, 29 Sep 2016, from an interview with the Guardian
Wahlberg speaking of falling “back into the same habits” reminded me of certain verses from the Qur’an that describe a similar concept, that of begging for the help of God when in dire needs, but then going back to bad old habits after God delivers you to safety:
When you are rejoicing in a boat, a favorable breeze and a violent storm arises with waves surrounding you from all sides. Thinking that you will not survive, you start to pray sincerely to God. In prayer, you say, “If You rescue us from this we shall certainly be grateful”. When We saved you, you started to rebel unjustly in the land. People, your rebellion will only harm yourselves. You may enjoy the worldly life but to Us you will all return and We will let you know all that you had done. – Qur’an, Chapter 10, Surah Yunus (Jonah), Verses 22–23 (translation by Muhammad Sarwar)
For several months now Donald “Sexual Predator” Trump (who John Oliver recently described as “America’s wealthiest haemorrhoid”) has accused the mainstream media, the political left wing, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama of point-blank refusing to say ‘Islamic terrorism’. In previous interviews Trump has said:
They [the media] want to go in and they just don’t want to say that because that offends some people, including our president…They don’t want to mention the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ under any circumstance, including Hillary Clinton…We’re led by a man [President Obama] that either is not tough, not smart, or he has got something else in mind. And the ‘something else in mind,’ people cannot believe it. They cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts, and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. – Donald Trump
You can add to this tirade the following tweet:
Whilst Trump and his cohorts are desperately trying to link the peaceful religion of Islam with the violent act of terrorism, Obama is desperately trying to break this link. Last year Obama tried to fracture the association between Islam and the vast majority of Muslims on one side, and violent protagonists such as ISIS on the other:
We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. – President Barak Obama
Even more recently at a CNN town hall event a Gold Star mother directly asked Obama why he doesn’t use the term ‘Islamic terrorist’. I found the response from Obama both enlightening and encouraging:
TAPPER: Our next question comes from Tina Houchins. She’s a gold star mother here in the Fort Lee community. Her 19-year-old son, Corporal Aaron Goteer was killed in Baghdad in 2007.
TINA HOUCHINS: Hi, Mr. President. As a gold star mother, my son gave his life for acts of terrorism. Do you still believe that the acts of terrorism are done for the self-proclaimed Islamic religious motives? And if you do, why do you still refuse to use the term ‘Islamic terrorist’?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I want to thank your son, obviously, for his service. I spent a lot of time with gold star moms, as does Michelle, and it’s always one of the most profound things we do in office, is just spending time with families and hearing about not just the sacrifices, but also the incredible life and patriotism and talent that these men and women live their lives with.
The truth of the matter is that this is an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because there is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly that where we see terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse, for basically barbarism and death. These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do.
But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who in this country, are our fellow troops and police officers and firefighters and teachers and neighbours and friends.
And what I learned from listening to some of these Muslim families both in the United States and overseas is that when you start calling these organizations ‘Islamic terrorists’, the way it’s heard, the way it’s received by our friends and allies around the world is that somehow Islam is terroristic. And that then makes them feel as if they’re under attack. In some cases, it makes it harder for us to get their cooperation in fighting terrorism. So do I think that if somebody uses the phrase Islamic terrorism that it’s a huge deal? No. There’s no doubt that these folks think that and claim that they’re speaking for Islam.
But I don’t want to validate what they do. I don’t want to…if you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said ‘we’re on the vanguard of Christianity’, well I’m not, as a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say you’re killing for Christ. I would say that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do, is to make sure that A, we don’t validate their claims that somehow they speak for Islam, because they don’t. And B, making sure that we do not make Muslims who are well-meaning and our natural allies on this fight, because these groups are killing more Muslims than they’re killing anybody else, make sure that they don’t feel as if somehow this is some contest between the West and Islam.
And, you know, I think that, I’ll just be honest with you, the dangers where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president or people aspiring to become president, get loose with this language, you can see in some of the language that we use, in talking about Muslim-Americans here and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether “The Bill of Rights” applies to them in the same way.
And that’s a slippery slope. And the way we’re going to win this battle is not by betraying our ideals, it’s by making sure that we hold true to our ideals and one of our core ideals is that if you’re an American and you are subscribing to the ideals and the creed and the values that we believe in as a country, then we don’t have a religious test in this country.
TAPPER: Just to interject…
TAPPER: …you were clearly talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, just then. You think his…
OBAMA: No, I wasn’t. But…
TAPPER: You weren’t?
OBAMA: …I…because…no, I…
TAPPER: Well, you just said…
OBAMA: …I would just say this, Jake, because…
TAPPER: …aspiring to this office…
OBAMA: …no, but it’s not unique to the Republican nominee. And again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this. I think that there have been a number of public figures where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.
When I go to Arlington Cemetery, mostly I see crosses. Sometimes I see stars of David. And sometimes I see Islamic crescents. And those families are just as proud regardless of their religion that a member of their family who they love just as much as anybody sacrificed for this country. And I want to make sure that we, as a nation, stay unified because that’s how we’re going to achieve our missions.