The white nationalist fantasy of ancient Christian-Muslim conflict would get an ‘F’ in history class

When I first heard the tragic news of the shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was preparing a lecture for my Introduction to Western Religions course on Jesus in the Qur’an. This lecture asks a deceptively simple question: How was Islam different from Christianity in the 7th century? As a historian of religion, I like to use questions like this to challenge my students to interrogate the definitions of religion that we use and how we understand the borders between religions like Christianity and Islam. Who built these borders, and when did they first appear?

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Netflix’s Iranian ‘Messiah’ is a gift to Trump and his evangelical base

Amid horrific natural disasters and a global refugee crisis, an Iranian menace emerges. This might summarize the news cycle at the start of 2020, but it’s also the premise of Netflix’s controversial new series Messiah. Critics have blasted the series for its slow pace, meandering and inchoate storylines, and lack of a clear theological or political message. Beyond its post-truth smokescreen (it’s unclear whether the central character is the Messiah, the Antichrist, or a con-man), however, the show advances a clear and dangerous geopolitical narrative that panders to the Christian Right: America must team up with Israel to defeat Iranian terrorists whose influence permeates the Middle East.

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