Sunday, May 29, 2005
The scariest thing in the world: To the American and European left nowadays, the thing they fear the most isn't "fear," nor is is nuclear war, famine or global warming. Islamic extremism that has killed more than 3,000 Americans over the past three decades along with thousands more in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Spain, Indonesia and the Phillippines.
Nope, the thing that makes brave liberals wet themselves is . . . Christians.
It seems like every week the media publishes yet another piece on how millions of evangelical Christians want to topple walls on homosexuals (a la the Taliban) put large crosses on the front lawns of atheists and force prisoners to recite the Ten Commandments before each meal.
Rolling Stone magazine had a particularly alarming piece that even took issue with "the bloodthirstiest tune in all of Christendom."
Seize your armor, gird it on
Now the battle will be won
Soon, your enemies all slain
Crowns of glory you shall gain.
This concern over musical lyrics seems oddly out of place in a magazine that regularly features heavy metal acts and gangsta rappers whose lyrics make "Soldiers of the Cross, Arise" seem quaint.
The Rolling Stone piece by Bob Moser doesn't even attempt to offer a realistic look at evangelical Christians' beliefs, instead highlighting the beliefs of a miniscule, lunatic fringe who call themselves "dominionists" and then tarring all conservative Christians with those beliefs. The truth is, you'd have a hard time finding a single dominionist in any of those megachurches that draw thousands of Christians on an average Sunday morning.
National Review's Stanley Kurtz offered a summary of the left-wing caricature of Christians in a recent piece.
What is the real agenda of the religious far Right? I’ll tell you what it is. These nuts want to take over the federal government and suppress other religions through genocide and mass murder, rather than through proselytizing. They want to reestablish slavery. They want to reduce women to near-slavery by making them property, first of their fathers, and then of their husbands. They want to execute anyone found guilty of pre-martial, extramaritial, or homosexual sex. They want to bring back the death penalty for witchcraft.
If you're a politically conservative Christian and have missed those Sunday morning sermons about making women property so you can buy yourself a wife or two at the local Wal-Mart, you're not alone. That's not what evangelical Christians believe, want or even dream of -- it's just some sort of sick projection by the loony left.
The San Diego Union-Tribune jumped on the bandwagon last week when they published this piece by investment brokerage founder Jack White and business professor Doug Ramsey.
White and Ramsey lament the damage religious fundamentalism has done to the economy. Yes, there was the hit to the American economy that came after Islamic terrorists decided to use passenger airliners as flying bombs four years ago, but that's not what really worries White and Ramsey. Yes, Islamic fundamentalists are bothersome, but it's the Christian fundamentalists who are really troublesome.
Yet never has religious fundamentalism played a more influential role than it does today in American society – and the White House. From federal funding for faith-based initiatives to the ban on stem cell research, this administration has repeatedly proselytized in favor of religious causes. George W. Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to attend the funeral of a Roman Catholic pontiff, and the White House made a show of waking him in the middle of the night to sign legislation that transferred jurisdiction in the Terri Schiavo case to federal courts.
I missed a "ban" when I was reading the story. The others were changed to "restrictions," since there is no "ban" on stem cell research, there's a restriction on the use of federal funds. And, wow, the bar for religious proselytizing has really fallen if going to funeral is being held against you.
The born-again president's overwhelming support from fundamentalist Christians in the last election was also emblematic of declining public allegiance to a central tenet of American democracy – separation of church and state – that has been a cornerstone of America's economic strength.
Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness . . . and making sure politicians don't talk about religion. How did our nation ever survive without the gag order on "church talk"?
The word "God" appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, and the word "religion" only once, in the First Amendment. Its authors mandated that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That clear separation of church and state laid the groundwork for one of the most change-oriented societies in history – and for all of its ensuing economic dividends.
Got me. The word "God" appears nowhere in the Constitution. However the phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the Constitution either. In fact, it appears only in one personal letter by Thomas Jefferson to one church 200 years ago. And that's the basis for calling it a "central tenet" of the American republic?
Nor is the United States the only country to benefit from keeping religion out of government's business. The fastest-growing economies of the past 40 years are countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and more recently China where fundamentalism is almost non-existent and where religion plays even less of a role than it does in U.S. public life.
South Korea, China? Are they really this ignorant? Or just because they haven't heard of Christianity in these places from the mainstream media, they assume it doesn't exist?
Much of White and Ramsey's article deals with complaints about President Bush's stand on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research -- an odd complaint coming from free-marketers. However where White and Ramsey really show their ignorance is in an attempt to conflate fundamentalist Christianity with fundamentalists Islam.
Islam shares much with Christianity and Judaism. They are monotheistic, with equivalent concepts of eternal reward and damnation, and they share sacred texts that are remarkably similar.
Ah, so that explains why Bibles are prohibited in countries like, say, Saudi Arabia, while you can buy a Koran in any bookstore in America? They're remarkably similar? Stupid probably isn't the word for this type of analysis -- blindingly ignorant is probably more accurate.
The role of religion in the Muslim world should be a cautionary tale for Americans. Religion has a role to play in our personal lives, but fundamentalism, proselytizing and mass movements that preach one orthodoxy above all others have no place in public policy and make for bad economics.
I'd like to remind Messers. White and Ramsey of the favorite Bible verse of the leader of one of America's two largest political parties:
"For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." -- Luke 18:25
I guess if you worship the almighty dollar, then White and Ramsey have a point. However, if you worship a different God, then making as much money as is theoretically possible isn't necessarily the best possible public policy.