Friday, August 13, 2010

The Racist’s God

Late last year, I was saddened to hear that the Malaysian government had declared a Muslim monopoly over the word Allah. How ridiculous is it for them to forbid Christians to use the Name passed down from their Arabic religious forbearers long before the advent of Islam. But what distressed me even more was the response from some fellow American Christians. Their reasoning was that, since allah had a pre-Christian pagan usage, it was inappropriate for Christians to use it.

This infuriated me. Many terms for a pagan deity – theos, deus, god (and other Germanic forms) – were and are used for the true God in common speech, Bible manuscripts, and vernacular translations. Even the origin of elohiym is suspect since it was commonly used for pagan gods as well. The thought that English-speakers who wouldn’t think to give up God would criticize Christians of other cultures using Allah disgusts me. Is linguocentricism a word?


  1. The thing is, the name Allah is not merely a word for a god, capitalized into God, but is a name for a specific pagan deity; unlike theos, deus, gott, etc. It would be like the Germanic tribes saying, "Can we call the God of the Bible Odin, or Thor?" or the Greeks Zeus, the Romans Jupiter, etc. Our ancestors didn't let the Greeks, Romans, or Germans pick a name of one of the gods from each of their respective pantheons, and let them use that for God; why should we let converts from Islam use the very same pre-Islamic deity name that was preserved by Islam?

    I don't see racism at work here; rather, I actually perceive consistency of principle. Not sure where you're coming from, on this. But I believe you're mistaken, sister.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this. My response was too long, so you can find it here.

  3. The Hebrew people applied the Canaanite general term for God, 'El', to their God Yahweh, even though that was a pre-existing name for a specific Canaanite deity before it became the generalized term that, like 'Allah' in contemporary Arabic, it had become. So I suppose Will would advocate excising all uses of it from scripture in a way reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's famous holey Bible.

  4. I really don't know. He never replied to my second blog post.


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