ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–“This conversation is the fourth in a series of high-level bridge-building and reconciliation efforts that have helped to build mutual understanding between our peoples, nations and religious traditions” is how a quintet of liberal religious organizations described a dinner featuring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York City on Sept. 25.
“It is our hope that as religious and political leaders this communal meal and exchange of views will enable us to explore faith perspectives for dealing with global issues such as poverty, war and prejudice while deepening mutual understanding,” according to an invitation sent by the sponsoring organizations, the American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, the World Council of Churches -– United Nations Liaison Office, Quaker United Nations Office and Religions for Peace.
Two aspects of liberal thought were on full display via this event: One is liberal motivation and the other is liberal naiveté when it comes to evil.
I am convinced that there is a self-centered aspect of human nature that compels people to do things that will produce warm and fuzzy feelings about themselves. It does not matter if the actions actually accomplish anything. What matters most is that the motives behind the actions are well-intentioned. And while liberals and conservative both evidence this ego-driven reality, it seems liberals are more apt to surrender to feel-good motives.
There was no hope of any good coming from a dialogue with Ahmdinejad, a man who believes the Holocaust is nothing more than a fiction and that Israel should be wiped off the map. And make no mistake, the groups that hosted this event are well aware of Ahmdinejad’s homicidal tendencies. The Mennonite Central Committee website states that it is “troubled by reports of increased religious persecution in Iran and the expanding use of the death penalty to punish religious converts.”
While it is doubtful that Ahmadinejad was greatly influenced when they shared that they were “troubled” by his blatant abuse of human rights, even sadder is the naiveté with which liberal groups approach evil.
Most liberals want to believe that human nature is, at its essence, good. Hence, there must be a reason for evil behavior. As a result, liberals believe that if the reasons can be exposed, they can be dealt with -– or stopped.
The groups that dined with Ahmdinejad believe that deep down he is a good man and that they can reason with him. They naively believe they can talk him out of the evil intentions he would love to carry out against Israel and the West.
Ahmadinejad’s hatred for the Jews in particular and Western civilization in general are rooted in his radical Islamic beliefs. As a result, he easily justifies his evil motives as the will of Allah.
A scene from Thomas Harris’s book “The Silence of the Lambs” sums up well the naïve way liberals approach evil. There is an exchange between imprisoned serial killer Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who bites his victims to death and subsequently cannibalizes them, and Clarice Starling, a young female FBI agent who seeks his help in pursuing another serial killer.
After talking with Lector, Starling says, “What made you like this? What happened to you?”
He looks at her and says, “Nothing has happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. Nothing has happened to me, you can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You have given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everybody in moral dignity pants. Nothing is never anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling, can you stand to say I’m evil?”
The liberal groups that met with Ahmadinejad lack the will and the proper understanding of evil to condemn the dictator as evil. Instead, they dialogue with him in order to understand him and sway his thinking. While they may feel good about their actions, they accomplished nothing.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.