Islam


The Usual Suspects* joined this week with a host of Roman Catholic pacifists to issue a fatwacalling on President Obama to stop opposing genocide, rape, slavery, and murder in Iraq:

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even when tactics of violent force yield a short term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary” to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the “suicide of humanity.”

The disregard for human life found in this statement is extraordinary even by the standards of the Christian left. Incapable as they are of understanding the kind of evil that ISIS embodies, or the kind of danger they pose to the Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds of northern Iraq (not to mention the countless people they’ve slaughtered in Syria), these people dismiss “short term displacement of the adversary’s violence” as if it were of no consequence, when in fact it could easily mean the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people. There is something genuinely despicable about safe and comfortable Westerners dismissing the deadly peril of terrified people on the ground while they play their abstract academic game of “Who Wants to Be Secretary of State.”

Of course, being the kind of deep thinkers for whom the real world of blood and death is just an annoying, fleeting image on a TV screen, they are full of suggestions for how to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq:

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace” ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United States should take the following steps:

Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence among its supporters.

Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. Provide food and much needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.

Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq. Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with influence on key actors in the Islamic State.

Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.

Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts have suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic non-cooperation.

Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.

Bring in and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.

Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.

Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace will require peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

I could critique each of these ideas, but there’s no need to deal with them one by one. They are all based on the same willful ignorance of the nature of the enemy and the nature of the current conflict. The fact is that Islamic fundamentalism is the third great totalitarian challenge to Western civilization in the last hundred years, and ISIS is only the latest and most brutal version of it. What the signatories of this statement refuse to understand is that Islamic fundamentalists do not want reconciliation with civilization, do not want a “place at the table” (as another eyes-wide-shut academic put it recently), do not want to live in peace with their neighbors, do not want an “inclusive” Iraqi government or more economic development. They want total control over aspect of life. They want everyone to either convert or die. They want complete submission to their insane god. They want war, suffering, pain, and death inflicted on all who do not hold to their views. And they are willing to do pretty much anything, no matter how barbaric, to achieve their goals.

The best thing that can be said about this statement is that it will be paid no attention whatsoever outside of the black hole that is mainline Protestant and Catholic left leadership, except perhaps in some segments of that other bastion of hyper-unrealism, the academy. The worst thing that can be said about it? Your tithes and offerings–if you are a member of the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, the Church of the Brethren, or the Quakers–may well be helping to keep the titles behind the names of these enemies of human flourishing.

*You know who I mean: Gradye Parsons of the PCUSA, the new head of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the American Friends Service Committee (headed by the appropriately named Shan Cretin), the Global Ministries agency of the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ, UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, the head of the Church of the Brethren, and the execrable Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite. Oddly enough, no participation from the Episcopal Church, Mennonite Church, or ELCA.

PS–I should add here that I was surprised that the National Council of Churches didn’t sign on to this, since it is currently being led by the man who’s name would have been on it but for having moved from the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society to the NCC. But as it happens, James Winkler and friends manage to echo the language of this revolting statement in one of their own on the NCC web site:

While the NCC commends the US Administration’s desire to end this aggression, it is hesitant to endorse the military campaign underway that is intended to do so. As NCC president and general secretary, Jim Winkler, said, “There is no true military solution to resolving the crisis in Iraq. But as it is necessary to halt the assault of ISIS on the Iraqi people, and to help the displaced return to their ancestral villages, it would be better for the United Nations to undertake this task. The world community is horrified by this violence; the world community must share the burden of ending it.”

Even with the present need to end this particularly insidious extremist aggression, moving forward the continual reliance on military action as the default solution to conflict must be called into question, and alternative, more far-reaching solutions to the vicious cycle of violence must be found. As we reflected on the war in Iraq eight years ago, “we believe that freedom, along with genuine security, is based in God, and is served by the recognition of humanity’s interdependence, and by working with partners to bring about community, development, and reconciliation for all.”

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After months of waiting, there is news from Iran about our brother Pastor Yousef, and it isn’t good. According to the American Center for Law and Justice:

We are hearing reports from our contacts in Iran that the execution orders for Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani may have been issued.

Pastor Youcef’s situation – an innocent man convicted and sentenced to death for becoming a Christian – has not been this dire since we first brought his case to your attention last year.

It is unclear whether Pastor Youcef would have a right of appeal from the execution order. We know that the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, must approve publicly held executions, but only a small percentage of executions are held public—most executions in Iran are conducted in secret.

There has also been a disturbing increase in the number of executions conducted by the Iranian regime in the last month.

Iran is actively violating its human rights obligations by sentencing and detaining Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. We call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Youcef immediately.

Sad to say, Pastor Yousef may at this point be a pawn in a game of international political chicken, with the Iranians trying to show Israel and the United States that it will not be coerced on anything, from its nuclear weapons program to its human rights obligations.

Now more than ever we need to be praying for him, and to join efforts to step up the pressure on Iran to do the civilized thing. You can go to the ACLJ and sign their petition asking Congress to get back in the fight. You can also go to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and use their form to email Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, the Chief Justice of Iran, who is in a position to save Pastor Yousef. Faster, please!

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group with past ties to Middle East terrorists, is warning Detroit Muslims that a dangerous and potentially violent mob of people are about to descend on their fair city. Bar the doors: the Christians are coming! According to the Detroit News:

The local head of a national Muslim civil rights group says a Christian prayer summit to be held at Ford Field next week promotes anti-Muslim sentiment and is warning local mosques to step up their security.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — Michigan, met Wednesday with Muslim activists to voice his concern over the rhetoric he fears could be at the center of the event Nov. 11.

“There’s a bigger force or movement behind this prayer summit and how they’re literally demonizing Muslims,” he said.

The entire basis for this paranoia seems to be found in this quote, taken from here:

The Call is being promoted as a 24-hour long prayer event aimed at lifting the city out of its “greatest darkness.” Its website says attendees will “gather to this city that has become a microcosm of our national crisis — economic collapse, racial tension, the rising tide of the Islamic movement, and the shedding of innocent blood of our children in the streets and our unborn.”

Given that The Call is operated by people who believe that Islam is a false religion that leads people away from God, it kind of makes sense that they would gather to pray for Detroit to be delivered from it, as well as from violent crime, economic collapse, abortion, etc. That doesn’t make The Call violent, or in any way a threat to Muslims, any more than the previous Call assemblies have been. But CAIR is nothing if not willing to be The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and gain some attention for its agenda, whenever it can.

The Call is led by Lou Engle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, home of the notorious “Kansas City Prophets” for whom I have little use, as I think them heretical on several levels. But being Christian heretics hardly qualifies them as anti-Muslim terrorists. The idea that CAIR would try to whip up fear about a prayer gathering only shows how far it will go to prevent or discourage anyone from saying anything that could be construed as disputing the superiority of Islam.

(Via Weasel Zippers.)

If there is any doubt that the leaders of the World Council of Churches have learned nothing from the last ten years, General Secretary Olav Tveit dispels it in a statement he has made on the anniversary of 9/11. After starting out with a call to prayer for those effected by the events of that terrible day, he continues:

Terrorism in all its forms – whether committed by individuals, groups or states – is to be condemned. But one may reasonably ask how best to respond. Perpetrators should be brought to justice and security measures devised to prevent the repetition of such trauma. Many of us remain convinced that nonviolence can be the most helpful long-term response to violence and the most effective means toward a lasting peace based on justice.

“Perpetrators should be brought to justice.” And how exactly is the victimized nation supposed to do that? Should the NYPD have been dispatched to Tora Bora with warrants for the arrest of al-Qaeda leadership? Should we have perp-walked the leadership of the Taliban through Kabul (on their way to Riker’s Island) and charged them with being accessories after the fact? Ten years on, and Tveit still doesn’t understand that terrorism is not about crime, it is about asymmetrical warfare, and must be dealt with as such.

As for nonviolence, if he was talking about a Christian witness to the ethics of the Kingdom in the face of sin I would agree whole-heartedly. As it is, he’s talking about national policies. Last time I checked, the kingdoms of this world were charged with protecting their citizens from evil-doers, if necessary through the application of the sword (Romans 13:1-7). If Tveit believes that participation in such sword-wielding is contrary to Kingdom ethics, he may abstain. For him to advocate that worldly governments act as though the Kingdom of God has come in its fullness is a category error that, if followed by those governments, would result in a much more dangerous and ultimately more violent world.

We in the ecumenical movement have dedicated ourselves to dialogue among people of different faiths, and in this context especially to dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. There is great power and importance in religion, yet on this anniversary we must admit that belief can be twisted and perverted to fuel hatred, terror and war. The World Council of Churches is preparing for its 10th Assembly in 2013 and has adopted an assembly theme in the form of a prayer: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” Life, justice and peace are high ideals in every religion deserving of the name, and we appeal to religious leaders and people of goodwill to join us in building strong relationships based on human dignity and mutual respect.

This is commendable, certainly (though it also does not take into account that Muslims have differing definitions of “justice” and “peace” from Christians and Jews). It also has nothing to do with combatting Islamic extremism, which is an effort that, religiously speaking, has got to be undertaken by Muslims alone, though we can offer our prayers and moral support for their efforts.

In October 2001, the World Council of Churches commissioned an ecumenical “Living Letters” team to visit the United States and help to comfort its grieving people. At the conclusion of this visit, the team spoke in a pastoral letter of building “a culture of peace”. On this anniversary we re-dedicate ourselves to dialogue and cooperation in search of Just Peace. Establishing peace is the surest path to true victory over those who on 11 September, 2001 sought to inaugurate an era of division and death. Together, let us proclaim that their aims have been rejected.

Well, of course their aims have been rejected, but let’s be clear what those aims are. They do not seek “division and death” for their own sake, but in the service of a religious ideology that requires them to seek the imposition of an Islamic regime on the entire world. They particularly oppose with every fiber of their being the very existence of what is usually called “Western civilization” as it is defined by its political, economic, moral, and social arrangements. To speak of “rejecting their aims” without at the same time resolving to use whatever necessary and moral means to defeat them is to demonstrate the fundamental lack of seriousness with which the WCC takes the threat.

All right, I have to admit it: I snickered when I saw this. On the blog of the mainline church-supported U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO), I came across this article:

Victory: LGBTQ Student conference withdraws conference from Israel!

Following successful campaigning by Palestinian queer groups such as alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Aswat — Palestinian Gay Women, and Palestinian Queers for BDS, the international lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth and student umbrella organization IGLYO has withdrawn their annual conference from Israel, in line with the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).

Palestinian queer groups welcome the decision by the board of IGLYO to withdraw their annual General Assembly conference from Tel Aviv, Israel. Since June 1st, a campaign to get ‘IGLYO Out of Israel’was launched by Palestinian Queer Groups to protest the organization’s decision to hold its General Assembly in Tel Aviv, and accept funding from the Israeli government, followed by a call to boycottthe conference after IGLYO declined to change its location. We take this opportunity to salute IGLYO Member and Associate Organizations who took a principled and moral stance in support of our rights and headed our calls, including NUS-LGBTQ, Kaos-GL and Pembe Hayat from Turkey; BelonG To, the Ireland LGBT youth organization; and Helem — Lebanese Protection for LQBTIQ, and IGLCN — The International Gay and Lesbian Cultural Network. This can only be seen as a continuation of the beautiful spirit of global solidarity, dominant during the South African anti-apartheid struggle and ongoing in solidarity with the rights of the Palestinian people, and oppressed people everywhere. We also call on other member organizations, and IGLYO to fully respect the Palestinian civil society call for BDS until Israel ends its oppression of the Palestinian people.

Did you know that there were “Palestinian queer groups”? Me neither. But I applaud their efforts to get Israel, the gay-friendliest country in the Middle East, out of the Palestinian territories. That way, the Palestinian queer groups can go mano-a-mano, as it were, with this guy:

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, has criticised the West for telling Hamas how to govern, and openly denounced homosexuality.

Both the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz posted articles based on Zahar’s interview with Reuters. Zahar made his comments in the context of his criticism of Europe for giving support to Israel. Zahar said that Europe “promotes promiscuity and political hypocrisy”, and in a further attack against Western culture said:

“You do not live like human beings. You do not [even] live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

Zahar has previously said that murdering Jewish children around the world was legitimate in the wake of Israel’s war against Hamas last year:

“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”

Zahar is a senior official in the governing party of a territory where 82% of the population believes that homosexuality should be punishable by law. By the way, the site from which USCEIO took this wonderful news about the IGLYO, “Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,” says this on its “About” page:
As Palestinian queers, our struggle is not only against social injustice and our rights as a queer minority in Palestinian society, but rather, our main struggle is one against Israel’s colonization, occupation and apartheid; a system that has oppressed us for the past 63 years. Violations of human rights and international law, suppression of basic rights and civil liberty, and discrimination are deeply rooted in Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, straight and gay alike.
Good luck with that struggle against social injustice. Anticipating any help from Hamas (or Fatah, or the population at large, for that matter)?

I thought that I would only have to write one post on the exploitation of the tragedy in Norway for ideological purposes. Silly me.

Th execrable Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite has been a frequent target of mine, but she hits a new low in the Washington Post this morning. Seems the mass murder in Norway was all about “right-wing” Christianity:

Anders Behring Breivik has now “acknowledged” that he carried out the horrific series of attacks in Norway that have left at least 76 dead. He has been described by police there as a “Christian fundamentalist.” His rambling “manifesto” calls for a “Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination.” Christians should not turn away from this information, but try to come to terms with the temptations to violence in the theologies of right-wing Christianity.

Let’s clear the field right away: Breivik is not, and does not claim to be, a Christian in anything but a cultural sense. He writes in his incoherent “manifesto” (3.139):

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.

Even someone as far removed from orthodox Christianity as Thistlethwaite would reject the claim of someone who wrote something like this to be a Christian. This, in fact, is much more akin to what the so-called “German Christians” of the Nazi era claimed, that they were Christians by virtue of blood and soil, of ethnic heritage, of cultural patrimony. To the extent that they understood what Christianity is about, they rejected it, as does Breivik, for all his pseudo-Christian ramblings.

Breivik’s chosen targets were political in nature, emblematic of his hatred of “multiculturalism” and “left-wing political ideology.” This does not mean that the Christian element in his ultra-nationalist views is irrelevant. The religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing, and ignoring or dismissing the role played by certain kinds of Christian theology in such extremism is distorting.

In fact, trying to discern a coherent political ideology in Breivik’s rant is next to impossible. He certainly doesn’t fit into anything like the convenient category that Thistlethwaite wants to put him. Oh, and I’ve got to say that for someone as thoroughly down-the-line left-wing in both her politics and her theology as Thistlethwaite to talk about how “the religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing” is the height of pot-kettle irony.

Christians are often reluctant to see these connections between their religion and extreme violence. They will dismiss it as “madness” rather than confront the Christian element directly. As a woman interviewed in Oslo observed, “If Islamic people do something bad, you think, ‘Oh, it’s Muslims,’ ” she said. “But if a white Protestant does something bad, you just think he’s mad. That’s something we need to think about.”

Ah, moral equivalence. Hey, it worked with the Soviets, right? Rather than drawing facile comparisons between apples and oranges, Thistlethwaite ought to learn something about the subjects she writes about. The connection between political and religious realms was built into Islam from the beginning. The early centuries of Islam are all about military conquest and the establishment of empire. Recognized, popular schools of Islamic thought, such as that of Ayatollah Khomeini, advocate a tight bond between state and mosque, and not only acquiesce to violence against non-believers, but positively encourage it. Followers of those schools applaud when they see infidels struck down (think of the reaction in parts of the Muslim world to 9/11, 7/11, 3/11 the Bali bombings, and others). When stuff like Norway happens, the reaction in even the most conservative Christian circles is universal condemnation.

Yeah, I know–details, details.

Exactly right. Christians do need to think about that, both in Europe and in the United States. Examining your own religion in its historic as well as contemporary connection to lethal violence is something Christians tend to shun. Stephen Prothero describes this dynamic in his students: “When I was a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I required my students to read Nazi theology. I wanted them to understand how some Christian bent the words of the Bible into weapons aimed at Jews and how these weapons found their mark at Auschwitz and Dachau. My Christian students responded to these disturbing readings with one disturbing voice: the Nazis were not real Christians, they informed me, since real Christians would never kill Jews in crematories.” Prothero confesses he found their response “terrifying.”

I’m not sure why their response is “terrifying,” though it may be wrong. These students evidently understood something that Prothero and Thistlethwaite don’t: that no authentically Christian theology or worldview could possibly countenance actions like the Nazi campaign against the Jews. The only way to get from Christianity to Nazism’s racial beliefs is to so distort the faith that it was no longer Christianity. The German Christians were, among other heresies, Marcionites (they rejected the Old Testament in whole or in part) and Pelagians (they reject the inherited sinfulness of humanity), and rejected most if not all of Paul’s theology regarding the breaking down of walls between Jews and Gentiles. Many of them essentially rejected the historicity of the Gospels by declaring that Jesus was an Aryan. Is it any wonder that people like this would approve of the Nazis’ anti-Semitism? Is it really any wonder that Prothero’s students had a hard time identifying this as “Christianity”? The truth is that the only way that the ideology of the German Christians could be supposed to be Christian is if the words “Christianity” and “Christian” have no intellectual content, so that they may be twisted and shaped into whatever form one wishes. The fact that the German “Christians” wanted to hold on to that word is no more morally significant than Theodore Kaczynski identifying himself as an “environmentalist.”

When I consider the theological perspectives that “tempt” some Christians to justify hatred and even violence against others, such as, in this case in Norway, the following perspectives seem especially prevalent: 1) making supremacist claims that Christianity is the “only” truth;

So holding to biblical faith, as well as the orthodox faith of the church through the centuries, “tempts some Christians” to hate and murder others. You might as well say that believing in the crucified Christ encourages violence. Oh, wait–some “theologians” on the loony left do say that. (I should mention that she seems to be doing a weasel by using the expression “only truth.” What she means is the view that Christ is the only way of salvation.) In any case, Thistlethwaite has obviously not bothered to look at Breivik’s rant, which makes clear that his beef is with Islam–he says nothing negative about any other religion, and supports Christianity because of its place in European culture, not because it is the “only” truth. She simply assumes that Breivik must believe this, because a police official (!) called him a “Christian fundamentalist.”

2) holding the related view that other religions are not merely wrong, but “evil” and “of the devil”;

This view of other religions may or may not be true, but the fact is that there are countless people who believe this, including an awful lot of atheists who believe that all religions are evil, but who don’t go around indiscriminately killing people. In any case, Breivik never says this.

3) being highly selective in the use of biblical literalism, for example ignoring the justice claims of the prophets and using biblical texts that seem to justify violence;

Not surprisingly, selectivity in the use of “biblical literalism” is universal, which makes sense given that there is a variety of types of literature in Scripture, some of which is meant to be taken literally, some of which isn’t. Even Thistlethwaite takes some of it literally. Generally, those who use it to justify violence are those who would be violent anyway, but grab hold of some text or another justify what they want to do, rather than discovering a call to do what they wouldn’t otherwise.

4) identifying Christianity with a dominant race and/or nation;

See “German Christians” above.

5) believing that violence is divinely justified to “cleanse” or “purify” as in a “holy war”;

This idea used to be common within Christendom (as it has been and still is common in certain segments of Islam). But the only people who hold to this now are either the “German Christian” types or people who are so unhinged that they hear voices or see divine messages in the butter patterns on their English muffins.

and 6) believing the end of the world is at hand.

That must refer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his threats to wipe Israel off the map to facilitate the coming of the 12th Mahdi, because it has nothing to do with Breivik at all.

Such theological views, I have found, are more accurate predictors of where political extremism and certain interpretations of Christian theology will mutually contribute to justifying lethal violence. This kind of specificity is more helpful, in my view, than the term “Christian fundamentalism.” Fundamentalism is a more historical term, dating from the “fundamentalist-modernist” controversy in the early part of the 20th century in the United States, and I find it is less helpful today in understanding right-wing Christianity.

This kind of specificity would be more helpful if it had any kind of link with actual examples, since Breivik doesn’t fit this mold. He doesn’t claim to be Christian in any sense other than the cultural; he has no interest in whether the theological claims of Christianity are true, much less exclusively so; he has no apparent problem with any religion other than Islam; his apocalypticism is cultural rather than theological; etc. But other than that he’s a textbook case of what Thistlethwaite is talking about.

I also think it’s funny that she gets all scholarly on the use of the word “fundamentalist,” considering she uses it all the time as a synonym for “right-wing Christianity,” but hey, maybe she was looking at her doctoral sheepskin when she wrote this.

The real point is this: she doesn’t show that there is any connection between violence and “right-wing Christianity” because there isn’t one. A handful of deranged people, many of whom don’t even fit the stereotype, do not make a “connection”–they make an excuse for religious leftists to throw slime at Christians with whom they disagree.

UPDATE: Here’s the aforementioned Stephen Prothero at CNN’s “Belief Blog” today:

He affirms Christianity. He describes himself as “100% Christian” in his apparent manifesto….

If he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist.

Yes, he twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.

Here’s Breivik in his manifesto:

At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I consider myself to be 100% Christian. However, I strongly object to the current suicidal path of the Catholic Church but especially the Protestant Church….

As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science and it must always continue to be that way.

Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.

Yeah, that sounds like a Christian to me. In some ways, he’d fit right into Thistlethwaite’s United Church of Christ.

UPDATE: Yet another academic, Marc Jeurgensmeyer of Southern Cal, weighs in at Religion Dispatches:

The similarities between suspected mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh are striking.

Both were good-looking young Caucasians, self-enlisted soldiers in an imagined cosmic war to save Christendom. Both thought their acts of mass destruction would trigger a great battle to rescue society from the liberal forces of multiculturalism that allowed non-Christians and non-whites positions of acceptability. Both regretted the loss of life but thought their actions were “necessary.” For that they were staunchly unapologetic. And both were Christian terrorists.

Thereby demonstrating (as if further evidence were necessary) that some academics would rather be politically correct than factually accurate. McVeigh explicitly said he was an agnostic. I know–details, details.

Jeurgensmeyer’s point seems to be that if you are going to call Osama bin Laden a Muslim, then you have to call Breivik a Christian:

Is this a religious vision, and am I right in calling Breivik a Christian terrorist? It is true that Breivik—and McVeigh, for that matter—were much more concerned about politics, race, and history than about scripture and religious belief; with Breivik even going so far as to write that “It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)).”

But much the same can be said about Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and many other Islamist activists. Bin Laden was a businessman and engineer, and Zawahiri was a medical doctor; neither were theologians or clergy. Their writings show that they were much more interested in Islamic history than theology or scripture, and imagined themselves as re-creating glorious moments in Islamic history in their own imagined wars. Tellingly, Breivik writes of al Qaeda with admiration, as if he would love to create a Christian version of their religious cadre.

If bin Laden is a Muslim terrorist, Breivik and McVeigh are surely Christian ones.

So here’s what religion is in the hands of one sociologist:

In case you can’t make out that warning in the corner, it says: “May be dangerous when used for political purposes.”

It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths to which some people will go to justify themselves and their beliefs. Front Page magazine has a story about a Muslim author who claims that the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the 7th century was about liberating Muslims. Raymond Ibrahim first tells us who this author is:

Consider the case of Fadel Soliman, a celebrated Sharia expert and Arab media darling, who regularly appears on al-Jazeera. Director of the Bridges Foundation—which teaches Muslims “how to present Islam” to non-Muslims—Soliman also lectures at Western universities, churches, and governmental agencies, including the U.S. Dept. of Defense.

He was also the Muslim chaplain at American University in Washington from 2001-2004, so it’s not like he’s some semi-literate tribal imam in Waziristan who makes stuff up because he doesn’t know any better. Keep that in mind when you read this:

His new Arabic book, Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad, asserts that, at the time of the Muslim conquest of Egypt (c. 640), the vast majority of Egyptians were not, as history has long taught, Christians, but rather prototypical Muslims, or muwahidin, who were actually being oppressed by Christians: hence, the Muslim conquest of Egypt wasreally about “liberating” fellow Muslims. Soliman’s evidence is that the Arian sect, which rejected the claim that Jesus was coequal with God, was present in 4th century Egypt. Therefore, according to Soliman, the indigenous Egyptians were practicing Islam hundreds of years before it was founded in the 7th century.

This would come as a major surprise to the Copts, who are not now and never have been Arians, but who rather are Monophysites who rejected the Chalcedonian declaration regarding the two natures of Christ. (They do not dispute that Christ has both a human and a divine nature, but there are disagreements over how to express the relationship between the two.) That the Arian heresy arose in Egypt, and that it held the allegiance of some portion of the population for some period of time, if of course true; it’s also true that by the time of Cyril of Alexandria (Patriarch, 412-444), Arianism in Egypt had been essentially crushed and the church had moved on to other issues. It is also the case that “Arianism” was hardly a united, single theological school or idea, and to correlate the philosophical meanderings of the Arians and semi-Arians with Islam is only possible if one ignores all but the superficial similarities between the two. For instance, the Arians certainly accepted the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and salvation in His name, as true and historical, which Islam does not. Finally, even if one wanted to ignore these differences and say that the Arians were proto-Muslims and that Islam came to liberate them from the oppression of the Trinitarian Christians, the Arians weren’t Copts!

So on pretty much any level, this claim is nonsensical. So why make it? Ibrahim suggests a couple of possibilities:

Needless to say, no historian has ever suggested that Muslims invaded Egypt to liberate “proto-Muslims.” Rather, the Muslim historians who wrote our primary sources on Islam, candidly and refreshingly present the conquests as they were—conquests, for the glory and empowerment of Islam and its followers at the expense of unbelieving infidels.

Of course, with the weakening of Islam in the modern era, embarrassed Muslims began to euphemize their imperialistic history, portraying jihad as “defensive,” “spiritual,” etc.—culminating with Soliman’s fairy tale. Even the unapologetic Sayyid Qutb, the sheikh of “radical Islam,” interpreted jihad and the conquests as “altruistic” endeavors to “liberate” mankind.

The question remains: Are Islam’s apologists disingenuous or deluded? When it comes to “bridge-building” Soliman—who provides “sensitivity training” to the FBI and Pentagon—one is inclined to answer in the former: his book contains academic crimes, including flagrant mistranslations to support his thesis and wild, but undocumented, assertions (for example, that the Arians, like the Muslims, used to proclaim “There is no god but Allah and Jesus is his prophet”).

That said, Muslim self-deception—typified by the impulsive need to always exonerate Islam—is a very real and widespread phenomenon.

Whether it’s self-deception or deliberate falsehood, either way it say something sad and unfortunate about at least some Muslims. Not that there aren’t Christians who are detached from reality, but this kind of thing is all too prevalent in the Muslim world, as a periodic perusal of sites such as the Middle East Media Research Institute will demonstrate.

 

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