'Christian Zionism and Jewish Extremism'

Monday, September 17, 2001

Religious Right Helps Enemies

By Michael Lind
Whitehead Senior Fellow

United Press International
September 17, 2001

The suicidal terrorists who flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into the ground in Pennsylvania last Tuesday believed that they were on a mission from God.

The Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agree.

Last Thursday on Robertson's TV show, "The 700 Club," Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, declared, "God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, expressed his agreement, as Falwell blamed the attack on the federal courts and "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU, People for the American Way ... I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' " The suggestion that the terrorist attacks on the United States was divine punishment for the acts of any or all Americans is more than insanity. It is treason -- not legal treason, but moral treason.

Like Tokyo Rose during World War II and like Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War, the leaders of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition have given aid and comfort to the enemy.

Falwell and Robertson are un-American. Their fundamentalist ideology is essentially identical to that of the Muslim extremists.

The anti-American Muslims believe that the United States is a godless, secular humanist regime. So does the religious right, personified by Falwell and Robertson. The radical Muslims want to roll back feminism and stamp out abortion and homosexuality. So does the religious right.

The radical Muslims want radical censorship of culture and draconian treatment of drug offenders. So do leading social conservatives, like former U.S. drug czar William J. Bennett. In 1989, a caller to "Larry King Live" asked, "Why build prisons? Get tough like Arabia. Behead the damned drug dealers. We're just too darned soft."

"Morally, I don't have any problem with that at all," Bennett replied. He went on to say that more people in the United States should be executed.

When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa or death sentence encouraging Muslim terrorists to assassinate the novelist Salman Rushdie, Patrick Buchanan denounced Rushdie, writing: "Sal has written a defamatory novel, a blasphemous assault on the faith of hundreds of millions."

The religious right has always been un-American. In the 1990s, it became anti-American. In 1996, the right-wing Roman Catholic writer Richard John Neuhaus hosted a symposium in the magazine "First Things," in which religious right activists and sympathizers like Charles Colson, Robert P. George and Robert Bork argued that the U.S. government is so immoral that civil disobedience and even revolution might be permissible.

Now Falwell and Robertson have gone one step farther, flirting with sedition by blaming federal judges for Tuesday's catastrophe. In addition to stirring up hatred of our elected officials and law enforcement officers, these American ayatollahs seek to make gay and lesbian Americans scapegoats for the crimes of Arab terrorists. This is an insult to the memory of the gay men and lesbians who died Tuesday -- including David Charlebois, the gay co-pilot of Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, and Mark Bingham, a gay businessman and rugby player on the United Airlines jet that crashed in Pennsylvania.

If Bingham was one of the passengers who seem to have forced that jet to the ground before it could reach Washington and destroy the Capitol or the White House, then this public relations executive did more for America in the last few moments of his life than Falwell, Robertson, Bennett and Buchanan have done in their entire lives.

It is chilling to reflect that in 1996 the right-wing magazine "The Weekly Standard," edited by Dan Quayle's former aide William Kristol, called for the "reaffirmation by states of a sodomy law" that would imprison gay citizens like Charlebois and Bingham for violating 17th century statutes based on Old Testament religious taboos.

Falwell is practically inciting a lynch mob to attack many of our fellow Americans, by saying: "I point the finger in their face. ..."

It's time for patriotic Americans to point a finger in the faces of Falwell and Robertson and their allies like Bennett, Buchanan and Kristol and to say: "We are tired of the way you smear our tolerant society and seek to pit one group of Americans against others."

The Oklahoma City bombing discredited the far-right libertarian conservatives who nattered on about "federal tyranny" without stopping to reflect that somebody might actually take their rhetoric seriously.

Unabomber Ted Kaczinski discredited the radical environmentalists who didn't think anybody would actually act on their apocalyptic message.

Falwell and Robertson have now discredited the religious right forever. The attacks of Tuesday will make anybody who now compares the United States to Sodom and Gomorrah -- or says that Americans deserve to be killed for their sins -- look like a fellow-traveler or a fifth columnist for the anti-American wing of Islam.

The United States must now go to war. In doing so, we cannot afford to be demoralized by unpatriotic religious zealots like Falwell and Robertson. We need to unite as a nation -- and that requires a nonsectarian, tolerant, inclusive patriotism, that treats everybody as a free and equal citizen -- even the Americans disliked by right-wing Southern Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals and their conservative Catholic and Jewish allies. We don't need a theocratic nationalism that limits Americanism to "people of faith."

"People of faith." The very term sounds ominous after last Tuesday.

To prevail in the dangerous struggle ahead, the United States must lead a coalition of secular European nations and both secular and religiously moderate Muslim countries. Those states will follow an America that stands for freedom, reason and civility. But they are not going to join a theocratic crusade of a "Judeo-Christian America'" against an equally theocratic enemy.

The terrorists did not target the ideal America of Falwell or Robertson -- a "Christian nation" resembling an Islamic republic in form and to a large degree in content. They targeted the America that is a symbol to people around the of world freedom from religious oppression and social conformity.

The terrorists targeted the America of George Washington, who in a 1784 letter asking an aide to hire some craftsmen wrote, "If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans (Muslims), Jews, or Christian or any Sect -- or they may be Atheists..."

The terrorists targeted the America of Thomas Jefferson, who said the Virginia religious liberty law "meant to comprehend within its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo (Hindu) and infidel of every denomination."

Jefferson, denouncing the idea that the United States was a Christian nation, wrote: "Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics and geometry."

Like other founders, Jefferson feared the religious fanaticism that inspires Muslim suicide pilots and Christian abortion-clinic bombers: "The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error," he wrote.

During the Cold War, the Blame-America-First crowd was found among leftists, whose ideology was a watered-down version of hard-line Marxism. During this war, it now appears, the fellow travelers of the Muslim right will be found among social conservatives, who may disapprove of Osama bin Laden's methods, but who view American society very much as he does.

Sorry, Falwell and Robertson. Whatever you Blame-America-First conservatives may think, we know that this is not a holy war between your medieval religion and theirs. It's a war of reason and tolerance against medieval superstition.

Sorry, Bennett. In the aftermath of the attack, every patriotic American knew what America stands for: freedom. Not Christian virtue or Judeo-Christian virtue. No, plain old capital "F" Freedom.

In this war, V is not going to stand for Virtue. It is going to stand for Victory. A victory for the free society that Falwell, Robertson and Osama bin Laden despise.
Copyright: 2001 United Press International


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Milton Frihetsson, 3:10 AM | link | |