I read this in today's Post Intelligencer. This is not my prose, but I wanted to preserve it because I agree with it completely, I find it an extremely cogent and intelligent take on certain PC theories about the Religion of Peace.
Posted by thezorg at 8/14/08 9:18 a.m.
ajd_ind wrote, "Here in the U.S., however, the bigger threat to our democracy is Christian fundamentalism, particularly with people like Ken Hutcherson and Scott Lively and groups like the Watchmen on the Walls.
Americans need to stop being such weenies about criticizing fundamentalist Christian beliefs, particularly those that give perpetuate sexism and homophobia."
I can't agree with the points in either paragraph. Some Christian fundamentalist groups certainly advocate laws, policies and values that many of us consider opposed to constitutional values (though I don't know of any Christian groups that oppose democracy). Most of the issues raised by the likes of Hutcherson don't involve threats to democracy, they are threats to equality, equal protection and the like.
But those groups, while vocal, are more than balanced by other groups - many of which are also Christian, and others hail from other religions and from secular life. I don't consider the fact that zealous religiots are participating in our local and national debates over these questions to be a threat to democracy. To the contrary, I consider it to be the very embodiment of democracy and free speech.
As to Americans being weenies about Christian fundamentalists, you obviously have a very different experience on that point than I do. I see aggressive, vigorous challenges to Christianity on a regular basis. I'm talking about discussion between people, on-line discussions, op-eds, editorials, newspaper articles - it's not only not hard to find numerous examples of those things, it's nearly impossible to avoid them.
And that, too, represents the embodiment of American democracy and free speech. Groups advocating contrary and diametrically opposed views can go at it hammer and tongs, leaving everyone to make up their own minds in the end.
The fact that Islamic and Christian fundamentalism tend to share zealous close mindedness and advocacy of oppressive policies is of no concern to me. I have no problem with people who disagree with me, even if they disagree very strongly and we consider one another to be agents of our respective satans.
To me, it is vastly more important that Islamic fundamentalism accpets and in its more extreme forms actively encourages acts of horrific violence and terrorism. It advocates what we refer to as "vigilantism", the slaughter of anyone who dares say or do anything that they oppose. That is wholly antithetical to democracy, cripples free speech and destroys open debate.
Fundamentalist Christians don't accept or actively encourage those acts. There are certainly some folks like Eric Rudolph who are exceptions, but I not agree with those who argue that those exceptions somehow represent all Christians, or even fundamentalist Christians. They're the exception, not the rule. There are no more Christian violent psychos than there are non-Christians violent psychos (and probably fewer).
It is common in these debates to point to the history of Christianity, particularly the crusades and the inquisitions (there was more than one of each). And that's a valid comparison, although usually the argument misses the mark.
I believe that contemporary Islam is where Christianity was about 400 years ago, vis a vis social/political development. Christianity did go through periods where it inflicted terrible oppression and abuses on populaces. But Christianity grew out of that - slowly and over a long time, and not without internal and external upheaval. For a long time, Christians also slaughtered those they considered "heretics", burned "heretical" books, and forced people to convert or submit to horrible torture - for the good of their own souls. But today, apart from small groups we disparagingly refer to as cults, no Christian group endorses or advocates those practices.
That's what I think we're seeing within Islam today. But unlike Christian evolution, Old Islam is coming into direct conflict with a developed western world that has moved far beyond them socially and politically. There is a powerful backlash within Islam against what they view as "heresy" and the sins of the west. Mainstream Islam is confused, which is why we don't see clearer or louder opposition. Most Muslims are caught between a rock and a hard place without clear guidance from their religion. As for New Islam (those trying to take Islam faster into the future), its proponents tend to get killed as heretics by the Old Islam fanatics.
So long as the fanatics can continue their vendetta against anyone they don't like, New Islam will struggle to gain a hold.
So bottom line, I don't see any real comparison between Christian and Islamic fundamentalism today.