A few years ago, on the morning of the London subway bombings, I was at the morning news meeting at the Dallas Morning News, and we were brainstorming for story ideas. I suggested that the culprits would probably turn out to be homegrown UK Muslim radicals, because Britain had been dealing with them for a long time. Maybe it would be worth exploring how Islamic radicalism gets established in liberal societies. We have some examples here in north Texas.
One of the editors at the table pounced. “Why do we always hear about Islamic radicalism, but we never look at Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and the extremism of the Religious Right?!” Blah blah blah.
Another editor told him the obvious truth: that they were not the same thing. Still, the story idea died in that meeting, even though, as you know, the London bombers did, in fact, turn out to be homegrown Islamic radicals.
I thought about that this morning when reading Gary Hart’s essay supposedly in defense of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian facing a death sentence in the Islamic Republic because he will not renounce his faith. Hart begins:
There are reports that an Iranian Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, is under threat of execution by the Iranian authorities for blasphemy for his refusal to renounce his Christian faith. Though there are reports of persecution of Christians in many countries, China included, it usually takes the plight of a single identifiable individual to make an otherwise generalized problem — in this case religious intolerance — take concrete rather than abstract dimensions.
Right! But then:
The re-emergence of the religious right in America during this current presidential campaign, though mild by comparison to threatened executions by radical clerics, should give us cause for concern. Though well over two centuries ago, “witches” were burned in this country and a recent book documents the struggles of Roger Williams against fundamentalist intolerance. The persistent thread of intolerance springs from a narrow fundamentalist insistence on orthodoxy in an age in which strict religious doctrine in some quarters quickly emerged to fill the vacuum of failed 20th century political ideologies. And religious orthodoxy exhibits an almost demented insistence on conformity and intolerance toward political dissent.
You see how it is with certain liberals: no matter how hideous the behavior of radical Muslims, we must always be reminded that our Religious Right is, deep down, just as bad.
Hart’s lame column reminds me of a law of online behavior we discerned on my old blog, and named after an observation Erin Manning made:
Manning’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law: In any online conversation about an incident of violence perpetrated by adherents of Islamic fundamentalism, the conversation will inevitably devolve into claims that Christians commit the same type and degree of violent acts, regardless of how demonstrably false that is; further, the claim will be made that past historical violence involving Christians means that present-day Christians are morally incapable of denouncing current violence involving Muslims.