ELGIN, Ill. — “Do you know what your children are being taught: Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews?” That’s the question a school board member in Illinois recently posted online after her daughter came home with an assignment that included an article claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Jeannette Ward of the U46 School Board posted the text of the assignment to her social media page to show others the kinds of messages that are being presented to students, and to outline why she voted no on the curriculum the previous year.
“Judaism, Christianity and Islam are three of the world’s major religions. While they have many differences, they all believe in the same God,” the assignment read.
“In each religion, God is ‘revealed’ by a chosen messenger, called a prophet. Some of the prophets that Jews follow were Noah, Abraham and Moses. Christians follow these prophets too. They also think that Jesus was another prophet of the same God,” it stated. “Later, Muhammad founded Islam by declaring himself a prophet. He said he was the next in the same line of prophets. He also said that he would be the last.”
The article also claimed that Jews, Christians and Muslims simply assert that their teachings about that same God are the most accurate and that these groups have brought violence into the world by seeing others as being “beyond saving.”
“Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same complex God. But each religion believes that its books and teachings reveal the true nature of that God,” it read. “This disagreement has shaped the course of history. The followers of each religion believe that only they will be saved by God. They see all others as damned. This way of seeing people, as damned by God and beyond saving, has led to violence and hatred. It is why these religions both unite and divide.”
The assignment also included quiz questions that featured answers such as, “Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the same God; in all three religions, prophets revealed that God is complex and that only certain people will be saved by God.”
Ward became concerned about the lesson that her daughter, who is in the sixth grade, brought home from school as she called it “utterly incorrect and false on many levels.” Her post drew much discussion, and a number of clergymen have weighed in on the matter during the December and January U46 School Board meetings, including even just this past week.
One group of religious leaders stated that while they “sympathized” with Ward’s concerns about the article, they also disagreed with Ward’s “approach” in expressing concern.
“Each of us believes our own traditions are holy and true. Each of us also believes that each person, regardless of religious tradition is valued by God and is therefore worthy of dignity and respect,” they said in a joint statement. “We believe that honoring these holy teachings of our varied traditions means engaging in respectful dialogue and using care when exercising the responsibilities and privileges granted to us as leaders.”
Ward replied that she saw nothing wrong with her approach as she simply shared the assignment and advised others about what children were being taught in the district.
On Monday, a number of other clergy members and citizens spoke in support of Ward, stating that she should be commended for bringing the matter to light.
“To say that Allah of the Quran and the God of the Bible are the same is simply absurd,” said Art Ellingsen, founder of the trademarked outreach Talk 2 a Pastor, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“It’s not just something flying in the wind, it’s not just a political issue, it is a faith issue, and faith issues are very important to a lot of people in this community,” also said Mark Frusti of Faith Lutheran Church.
Frusti was one of 12 pastors who also submitted a letter to the board, which served as a response to the statement from the other clergy, and also a means of support for Ward.
“Without proper guidance, this type of article can do nothing but foster confusion and undermine the work of parents and faith leaders as those responsible for the spiritual health and wellbeing of our children,” they wrote. “For that reason, we strongly advocate for its removal from use within the curriculum.”
As previously reported, in 2016, then-Wheaton professor Larycia Hawkins drew concerns after she posted to social media a photo of herself wearing a hijab and claimed that she was doing so to stand in solidarity with Muslims.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins asserted. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
Hawkins eventually left the college after controversy erupted, not about her hijab, but her assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Some used the opportunity to outline why the concept is flawed in light of Scripture.
“Muslims hold that ‘God is one.’ Allah has no partners and assigning partners to him is shirk, the highest blasphemy,” explained Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., in a blog post for the Gospel Coalition. “Christians believe ‘God is one in three Persons.’ Each Person in the Trinity is fully and eternally God. Yet there is one God.”
He noted that as Muslims do not worship Jesus, who is God, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.
“No one knows God who does not know the Son, who is the only mediator between God and man,” Anyabwile said. “The goal of Christianity is the salvation of sinners through the righteousness, substitutionary atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”