Tolerance and Southern Baptists
among many of how tolerance works: Baptist
Pastor Attacks Islam, Inciting Cries of Intolerance
. A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention called Muhammad a
“demon-possessed pedophile” (he apparently consummated his 12th and final marriage when the lady was 9 years old), and declared
that Muslims worshiped a different God than Christians. He also “attacked American pluralism” by saying that pluralism wrongly
equates all religions.
The article cites with evident approval claims that the talk illustrates how hate speech against Muslims has become a staple
of conservative Christian political discourse, bemoans intolerance and “open scorn” of Islam, mentions protests over Southern
Baptist condemnation of homosexuality and “open proselytizing” of members of other religions, and comments on the political
involvement of the denomination and other developments that threaten Muslims in America. The article in substance constitutes an
attack on the Southern Baptists.
How does one interpret this? It appears that for a Christian leader to say that Christianity is better, or there is something
seriously wrong with another religion, is hate speech and an attack on the adherents of that religion. The reverse does not
hold, although the article does not quite make that clear. (The point can be proven by considering other attacks on
Christianity, in particular Catholicism.) What the article does make clear is that it is OK to attack religion that is
“fundamentalist,” that asserts anything different from what liberal modernity asserts. It’s OK, for example, for Trinity Church
Wall Street to take advantage of 9/11 by presenting a conference on “fundamentalism and violence”. Don’t like what the fundamentalist
hijackers did? Go after the Southern Baptists, they’re fundamentalists too.
There is no mystery to any of this, nor is it particularly inconsistent when viewed properly. It follows from the basic
principle that authoritative truth is found only within scientific liberal modernity. Legitimate religion is therefore a
personal spiritual expression of no public authority, although one often pursued in voluntary community with others. All
historical religions must be treated as legitimate since they must be interpreted—by main force if need be—as personal
expressions. Since every legitimate religion is strictly personal, to attack it is simply to attack its adherents. And since
adherents of historical religions are free to view their faith as a personal expression of no public authority and practice it
as such, their religious freedom is safeguarded.
In contrast, religion that asserts anything of its own—that is fundamentalist—is not legitimate religion. It can be
attacked as intrinsically murderous because it rejects liberalism, the basis of peace and public order. It is to be treated as
an ignorant distortion of the true nature of religion, which is always consistent with the truth of liberal modernity.
But why the special animus against Christianity, and why does Islam seem to get a free ride as a “religion of peace”? The
reason is that the goal is to abolish the authority of religion, and to induce all religions as far as possible to give up their
objective claims. Christianity is the inherited religion of the dominant civilization, so it is especially important to abolish
its authority. Hence open season on the Bible, the Catholic Church, the Crusades, fundies, what have you, and hence the favor
shown Islam, which is to be treated as an ally in the abolition of what remains of Christendom. In addition, it is necessary for
the ultimate success of liberalism to promote a new legitimate Islam that accepts demotion to the status liberalism accords
religion generally. Hence the emphasis on Islam as the religion of peace and tolerance with an assured equal place in Western
countries. In essence it’s a bribe to Muslims, especially those who live in the West, to accept the substantive abolition of
their faith in exchange for material benefits and the opportunity to contribute to the abolition of Christianity.
Posted by Jim Kalb at June 17, 2002 05:58 PM | Send
Since the linked NY Times story only gives the “hot-button” lines that got the pastor in trouble and not the rest of his speech, it’s impossible to say for sure, but (while I hope the speech was more substantive than it appears) my thought is that this shows the typical inability of conservatives to make a politically meaningful argument.
The pastor had had it with Islam, so what did he do? He attacked Muhammed in the most scurrilous, personal terms. What does that accomplish other than get the pastor himself in trouble? What politically meaningful conclusion vis à vis our relations with Muslims can his listerers derive from an attack on Muhammad as a person? None—all they can get is an impression of dislike.
Similarly, while I like the pastor’s attack on religious pluralism, what is the practical consequence of it? For example, did he say anything about the immigration that brought all these pluralistic religions here in the first place? Unlikely. The pastor, like most people, probably thinks of the immigration-caused changes in this country, as I wrote in The Path to National Suicide, as “a vast natural phenomenon, as far outside human control as continental drift.”
So what we have, instead of a politically useful argument, is an expression of irritated dislike, confirming the liberal view of conservatives, and making it harder for others to engage in a rational critique of Islam.
(By the way, James Dobson has had informative, searing discussions of Islam on his radio program, and they are available in archive at his web site.)
Agreed that on the face of it the pastor’s comments weren’t very useful.
On other not-very-useful fronts, here’s an account of the interfaith response in the city in which the comments were made:
I agree with Lawrence: Populist Protestantism is its own worst enemy. Their whole raison d’être has been moralistic grand standing since inception. Reasoned arguement is rarely considered and given the increasingly anti-intellectual bent of the movement - it may be frowned upon. All of which leads liberals granting the title of ignobility - Fundementalism.
That the myth of Islamic tolerance has currency with anyone who can read is mind boggling. Their repeated crimes against all classes of people were well chronicled by themselves, no less, with varing degrees of truimphalism and smugness. Therefore, Jim’s analysis is correct: leftists believe any enemy of Christianity is their ally by proxy. Islamophobia is the chic new accusation to hurl around. However, the left sometimes can make for amusing sideshows:
Gays who don’t think kindly of Islam: http://outrage.nabumedia.com/pressrelease.asp?ID=38
Secular Jews trying to maintain their lead in the International Victimization Olympics:
Here’s something not often seen - Gays and Christians lumped together as bigots: http://www.washblade.com/forum/columns/viewpt/011130b.htm
Why is “populist” protestantism any better than “populist” Roman Catholicism? Some people like to read history from an ultramontane matrix which sees the worst thing one can be is a protestant. The American version of the RCC has sure been antagonistic toward Western society since the 1960s.
Mind you that there are “Western” neo-pagans who take this argument to the hilt and see Christianity itself as a universalistic cancer upon Europe.
The comment that was good, was about pluralism.
I, am, Catholic. Therefore, I think Catholicism is the True Faith. I think Islam is heretical.
What is the point of believing in a Religion if all are equal?
A shame many pluralists can think up this simple point.
The last line should say ‘can’t’, not ‘can.’
I don’t see the problem that a Baptist said Islam is bad. Sure, he didn’t list all the world’s other evils, but is that imperative?
If I write an essay saying that premarital sex is bad, must I also include comments about sex ed, condoms, pornography and the other things that encourage the problem?
Plus I’m not sure the charge that protestants are anti-intellectual holds up. For one thing, the usual RC charge is that they are nominalist, rationalist, and biblicist, which would be errors in the opposite direction.
I agree with the first point, although I’ve mentioned before as a caution that a failure to make appropriate categorical claims is complicit with modernism generally.
As to the second, I don’t know that I can speak for Catholics or Protestants in general; but nominalism, rationalism, and biblicalism all three appear to be fundamentally anti-intellectual. Nominalism is anti-intellectual with respect to universals and categories; rationalism is anti-intellectual with respect to metaphysics and theology generally; and biblicalism or any other sort of literalism is anti-intellectual with respect to language and tradition. Putting ists and isms after them doesn’t make them any less so. All three attempt to take self-evident areas of knowledge and place them off limits.
The basic question of whether orthodox Catholics and Protestants have enough particularity in common to cooperate in a fight against modernism is an interesting one, and seems to lurk beneath the surface of this blog. I’d like to think so but I am not terribly optimistic. If fundamentals and truth matter then they matter.
As to the local interfaith response that Mr. Kalb linked, it’s pathetic. The Episcopal bishop of Missouri, backed by representatives from other denominations, addresses “our Muslim brothers and sisters,” and says: “The statement violates our understanding of the Christian faith, which proclaims a God who calls us to love one another and to break down the barriers that separate us.”
So there you have the typical range of American Christianity’s conservative and liberal responses to Islam. On the conservative side, a “know-nothing” comment that can easily be dismissed as bigotry; on the liberal side, the “respectable” response that “holds hands” and “breaks down barriers” with Muslims who in fact are totally incompatible with us, regard us as infidels, and would destroy our society the moment they had the power to do so. A principled and rational opposition to Islam seems beyond the ken of most Americans.
“A principled and rational opposition to Islam seems beyond the ken of most Americans.”
Nah, the media just sound-bites the most scandalous parts of a speech. If someone gives a lecture a skilled spin-doctor can find outrageous statements. I can’t find the link right now but the Baptists said more than moralistic attacks on the personal life of Muhammed. Their guest speakers,(either wrote or quoted a book by people who were ex-Muslims) talked about the grace of God as what helped them on their path to Christianity as well as the ugly truth of Jihad.
It would be nice if there was a scholarly critique of Islam in the press perhaps those that are qualified should do so. But even then I bet it would be spinned so as to be seen as defamation.
Without speaking for him I would think that Mr. Auster’s point is that the ‘principled’ and ‘rational’ criteria cannot be met from the frame of reference of most Americans’ world views. I agree with that. You might see an unreasoning and incoherent opposition if the jihad is successful enough, but in order to oppose Islam in a rational and principled way most Americans would have to first give up their cherished world views.
In a way it is a bit of a redundant thing to say, though, since the world views of most Americans are fundamentally incoherent in general.
Matt’s query is a good one whether an ecumenical jihad against modernism is possible, even one including only Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants. It seems to me one is, but would have to involve reflection by the participants on how things reached their present state.
The O’s tend to think the RCs are really the same as the P’s, and the RC’s tend to think the P’s can’t avoid falling into liberal modernity. It seems to me that thinking through why things appear that way, and how it is that liberal modernity has arisen out of Christian civilization, could do a lot to put things back together. Cooperation against the common enemy could be the occasion of that kind of reflection.