Yes, you read that correctly.
No, this is not a joke.
The powers-that-be over at Concordia University Irvine (CUI) have hired an active pagan who once publically renounced the doctrines of Christ Alone and Scripture Alone, and who believes, “Religious pluralism is an asset not a liability.” He is the current Executive Director of CUI’s Master of Arts in International Studies: Africa, which puts him in a position of substantial influence over the program, his colleagues, and CUI’s unsuspecting students.
This controversial cleric is Dr. Salim Faraji, a man whose career reflects his opinion that spiritual diversity is a strength. He previously served in Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist Churches; he is currently a licensed preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and he was both initiated in the Mami Wata tradition of Ghana and as a priest in the Sacred Order of the Sons of Ra.
If you take a quick look online, you can see that Ra is the falcon-headed sun deity whom the ancient Egyptians worshiped as creator, who was later merged with the gods Horus and Amun. According to Faraji, Ra is also the creative power behind all things, and has both a goddess wife and a son. Though to be fair, the “wife” is really just Ra’s feminine qualities, and the “son” merely represents the divine union between the two—meaning, they don’t seem to be actual persons, but rather expressions of the harmony, balance, and love of Ra. Regardless, this remains a far cry from the Christian Trinity.
Additionally, Faraji has claimed there is a direct connection between Amun-Ra and Jesus, with the Bible supposedly assimilating beliefs from Afrikan spirituality all over the place. Yet the New Testament clearly makes a distinction between the one true God who revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ and all other deities. The latter have been called “false gods” and “demons” at least since St. Paul (1 Cor. 10:19-22; Gal. 4:8), labels that apply to Ra as well. Equally, identifying foreign deities with the God of Israel and/or worshiping them is strictly forbidden throughout the Bible.
But here is where things get really interesting. Whatever the circumstances were behind the hiring of Faraji at CUI (one could envision a scenario in which he failed to disclose his pagan and pluralistic leanings—though that would still speak volumes about the administration’s incompetence when it comes to vetting its faculty), what appears virtually inexcusable is the decision to retain him after his beliefs were made known. After we asked around, faculty (who were pretty tight-lipped about the whole affair) let it slip that various professors expressed their concerns to the school’s administration about having hired a non-Christian. And what was the response to these conscientious objectors? They were first ignored, and then rebuffed. That’s right, the administration actually hardened their decision to bring Faraji on board CUI’s faculty.
This was not done without some attempts at damage control, however. Whereas Faraji’s Facebook page had Previously contained material that revealed his questionable and problematic views, much of this has since been scrubbed. (The first attachment above used to be accessible online as well, but magically disappeared about a week ago.) It is difficult to interpret this as anything other than a willful attempt to deceive.
Now we know some of you are thinking. “No way. Concordia Irvine would never do something like this—something so clearly at odds with the teachings of Scripture and the doctrines of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.” That’s what we thought, too, until we did some simple searching online. In fact, Faraji has said, posted, and published so much (some of it as recent as last year), and his affiliations are so recent (there is no indication he is no longer a pagan priest), that any excuse along the lines of “Oh, that’s what he used to think and believe, but he has since repented and now holds traditional Christian beliefs” seems naïve at best or disingenuous at worst.
The good folks over at CUI claim to be “guided by the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and the Lutheran Confessions.” Yet how can this remain true when the administration is employing a known pagan whose work serves to contradict and undermine the gospel? Are we really to believe that Faraji won’t affect the faith of anyone he interacts with on campus? Is this the sort of mentor for which parents are sending their children and their dollars to CUI?
If you find this troubling, then consider adding your voice to ours and making a few calls and sending a few emails. Because if this is allowed to stand, there is no reason to think CUI won’t defy its own heritage and behave like a secular institution on other matters as well.