If the headline of the Tribune’s Nation & World section is any indication, there is either a conspiracy to promote moderate Islam or the time has come where the voice of rational Muslims is finally being heard.
That seems to be the Christian’s world’s principle complaint about Islam: that it is a violent religion at its core. Certainly the headlines dominating the presentation of Muslims in the media don’t the help the public image any. In an arc that began with the spiteful terrorist attacks on 9/11 to the most recent murder of cartoonists in France, the influence and obvious intolerance of jihad has been on frequent display.
The Tribune story finally captures the frustration of those representing the sane aspects of Muslim faith. “Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian, called on the country’s Muslims to renounce extremism if favor of tolerance,” the story stated. Then it quotes the leader: “The responsibility of all of us is to raise the voice against extremism. Against violence and terrorism. Against the confiscation of truth and righteousness, and the violation of rights and dignities,” Derian told a crowd.
Surely it is good to hear such advocacy for sanity in faith. But before those in the Christian world get too high and mighty about the struggles of Islam to find balance and promote peace, it is important to cast an eye back toward Christianity and its own forceful expression in the world.
We should not forget that George W. Bush allied himself closely with his Christian faith while in office. His public expressions of that faith were noble in many ways. But they did reveal a not-so-hidden determination to promulgate that faith on the world. When asked about his faith and his politics, Bush replied:
“Religion is an important part. I never want to impose my religion on anybody else. But when I make decisions I stand on principle. And the principles are derived from who I am. I believe we ought to love our neighbor like we love ourself. That’s manifested in public policy through the faith-based initiative where we’ve unleashed the armies of compassion to help heal people who hurt. I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That’s what I believe. And that’s one part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can’t tell you how encouraged how I am to see freedom on the march. And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me. And religion is a part of me.”
One cannot help but notice the inclination toward militaristic terminology when Bush spoke about his Christian faith. Christians often blame Muslims for wanting to invoke sharia law in nations where it either boasts a majority or seeks to convert people to its vision of the one true faith. And yet here we witnessed the leader of one of the world’s greatest nations stating in bold simplicity the fact that his faith drives his decisions.
How is the Muslim world supposed to read such language? Coupled with actions such as the invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of Iraq and pursuant torture of Iraqi citizens, there is no question why Muslims concerned about the power and influence of Christian faith in America’s actions.
At the very core of Islamic extremism is a fear that the United States is a corrupting, aggressive power in the world. The United States is considered an aggressor simply through export of its popular culture. In that regard the Christian faith is highly contradictory in its response to the expression of so-called American values. On one hand Americans decry the fact that some Muslim sects seem to oppress women with requirements of dress and behavior. At the same time American Christians struggle with the consistent objectification of women in sexualized ways.
Yet the Christian faith is embroiled in a similar struggle over control of women’s lives. The website Alternet documents the movement known as “Quiverfull” in which women are given a strict role in society. Author Carol Joyce explains this challenge over central doctrine and Christian faith:
“When Americans think of patriarchal societies, female submission, or extreme gender inequality based on religious teachings, visions of Muslim women in burkas or Hindus in poorly arranged marriages may come to mind. The reality, though, is that a growing number of American Christian fundamentalists also have rejected feminism and egalitarianism, embracing instead male dominance and what they call the “Quiverfull” belief system. Picture the Massachusetts Bay Colonies before Hester Prynne‘s day. The women in such communities live within a stringently enforced doctrine of wifely submission and male “headship,” including a selfless acceptance of possibly constant pregnancies and as many children under foot as God might bring. They reject not only “reproductive rights” of any kind, but also higher education and workforce participation for women.”
The right to criticize or even question such practices is almost verboten in the Christian world, where calling fellow Christians to task somehow seems to be considered bad sport. Or, where there is criticism, Christians of many stripes seem to hide behind the flapping banner of persecution for their beliefs.
But let’s consider the issue of persecution in a full light. There is genuine persecution in which Christians are captured, killed or slaughtered in nations where the faith is not accepted. That is an undeniable challenge, exacerbated by the current fact that in many nations it is the so-called Christians still doing the killing.
However the claims that Christians are being isolated for persecution may not be so accurate as some would lead us to believe. “I am very disappointed by the response of the U.S. government and State Department in the protection and advocacy for persecuted Christians,” he said. “The power and leadership vacuum within the United States has created a very dangerous situation in Iraq for Christians,” said Open Doors CEO David Curry to The Christian Post.
Okay, let’s examine that statement in its full context. American invaded Iraq on the very slim premise that there were weapons of mass destruction being produced by then-leader Saddam Hussein. We barely provided protection to the nation’s resources except for its oil, and then turned around and in the process of war, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis, openly tortured suspected terrorists (many of whom were innocent) and actually drew Islamic terrorists to the nation through these actions.
To turn around and complain that it is Christians who are being persecuted and that the Obama administration is responsible is so grandly false a contention it begs genuine criticism from within both Islam and Christianity. America as a nation is deeply conflicted by its own acts of aggression and the response of terrorists in return.
There is also a softer yet no less damaging claim of persecution that uses religious freedom as a form of shield against questions within the Christian faith community.Witness the reaction to Pope Francis by the likes of Fox News, which does not like the Pope’s politics or his faith. These hit pieces demonstrate the fact that Christianity has become a political tool for American conservatives. As the Fox News contentions demonstrate, American conservatives consider Pope Francis a “radical” for the simple fact that his views express the socially liberal aspects of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Fox News does not like liberalism in any form, including that of the faith’s leading modern representatives or its progenitor, the one and only Jesus Christ.
The effects of cloistered Christian faith are evident in public surveys showing that between 30-50% of American Christians do not believe in the scientific theory of evolution and thus refuse to grasp or understand even the basic science driving modern medicine, business and the ensuing effects of industrialization such as climate change.
These comprehensions are inherently linked to worldview, and Christians are the absolute worst at promoting the most basic appreciation for cause and effect. Many prefer instead the magic explanations of creationism and intelligent design, both of which are not science but elaborate confabulations of religious denial. They are complex as a defense mechanism against modernism, and that is all. But they poison the public dialogue and even America’s reputation in a world that has grown to value science as a great human equalizer in the fabric of international decisions. American conservative Christians advocate a worldview that is aggressively ignorant, stubborn and selfish. That makes the world hate us and leave Islam room to question whether Christianity really has its act together or not.
Thus the principle complaints against Islam by conservative Christians and their political allies display deep internal conflicts in the worldview collectively known as Christianity. Like Islamic terrorists married to the ideal of jihad as a means to change and control the world, politically conservative Christians fail to see their own contradictory visage as a threat to the world.
There is a sickness at the heart of Christian conservatism that has infested the heart of the faith all the way back to the people Jesus Christ fought for control of the narrative of the Judaic tradition. And by way of that mention, we should consider the persecution of Jews by so-called Christians over the ages as an example of the hypocrisy Christians like to claim in their complaints against Islam.
It is extremist religion in all cases that produces such grand horror in this world. To point a finger at another faith as the principle cause of such persecution and terror in the world is not just ironic or hypocritical. It is dangerous and wrong.