EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–I fear that in our rush to reassure non-terrorist Muslims of our congeniality, we’ve spawned a new sort of political correctness, a new form of bloated sensitivity which crowds out clear thinking.
I loved President Bush’s speech to Congress, but I wish he’d stopped short of declaring Islam “good and peaceful.” Of course, he was making the important points that the vast majority of Muslims refrain from unjust violence; that Islam can discourage some bad behavior, such as stealing, and encourage some good behavior, such as sobriety; that Islam itself will not be the target of a military campaign; and that Muslims should have no fear for their religious freedom in our land.
But a clean bill of health for a religion which denies the divinity of Christ, has always had a very weak grasp of democracy and religious freedom, and is prone to keep and indulge a lot of bad company?
In our national rush to talk nice about Islam proper, we’re letting bad arguments and posturing go unchallenged. I’d like to jump into the conversation and pick up on some of what I’m hearing.
We’re assured that because 98 percent of those calling themselves Muslim don’t get involved in terror or unjust oppression, then it’s obvious that basic Islam is hostile to it. By that logic, we could argue that since 98 percent of those calling themselves Christian don’t get involved in evangelism, that basic Christianity is hostile to it. Both arguments leave open the question of whether the majority are true blue or just slackers.
We’re told it’s wrong to scrutinize foreign Muslims in the wake of the attacks since the government didn’t scrutinize British-American, Christian citizens in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombings. But what if McVeigh had acted in the name of Christianity and the cause of Scottish independence, if his fellow terrorists had all borne such names as McFadden, McDougal, McMurtry, McGinnis, McLemore and McGregor, if there had been dancing in the streets of Edinburgh and Halifax, and if Presbyterian clerics in Glasgow and Inverness had suggested it wouldn’t have happened if our president had been less chummy with Prime Minister Tony Blair? Wouldn’t it be reasonable for the FBI to take a closer look at a kilted MacTavish who’d worn out his copy of “Braveheart” than at a Pennsylvania Mennonite or a Miami Cuban refugee?
In another vein, I wish we’d go easy on the joint prayers. Clergy should stand together for religious freedom, but let’s be careful about giving the impression we’re all praying to the same God. There are nine Michael Smiths in our local phone book, and I mustn’t think that by calling one, I hit some sort of Michael Smith amalgamation. Our God is a jealous God, and he is offended at the homogenization of his name with that of Allah.
When a panel of Muslim leaders recently convened for statements at the National Press Club, they acted as though any criticism of Islam was out of bounds. They may be confusing America with Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Sudan where it really is out of bounds.
That same panel castigated the Justice Department for their intrusive and otherwise distressing ways. Let me urge them to understand that that same Justice Department is headed by John Ashcroft, a Christian who would take a bullet to preserve their right to defame him and to practice and push what he knows to be a false religion. You see, we don’t just appreciate religious freedom; we go in harm’s way, if necessary, to preserve it for all our citizens.
We might ask these indignant spokesmen if they’ve ever done this on behalf of persecuted Christians in their North African/Middle Eastern homelands. If not, I would invite them to visit Voice of the Martyrs at www.vom.org and get started.
We speak of America as the Land of Opportunity or the Beacon of Freedom. Let me suggest we also call it the Land of Accountability. This is a place where anyone, including the president and leading clergy, may be called and proved a fool, a liar or a sinner.
We’re all for peace, but under what conditions? Well, for America, it is neither the peace of silenced opposition nor the peace of indulging those who would silence it, however noble or true the cause.
So welcome to America. It may take some getting used to. And while you are it, don’t pay much attention to the purveyors of political correctness and cultivated victimhood. Their understanding of the American enterprise remains mired in its formative stages.
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. His next column in Baptist Press will appear Tuesday, Oct. 2. Other reflections by Coppenger can be viewed at www.comeletusreason.com and www.listten.com.