It is an ingenious and compelling way to eliminate or marginalize an opponent. Give them the rope and let them hang themselves.
So it is with evangelicals in the post 9/11 era. Eager to rush into the suddenly soft center of the population and fill the void of helplessness left by the carnage of the attacks, Christian leaders have unwittingly joined a subtle methodology that will serve to further disenfranchise Fundamentalist Christians even more in the US.
One of the first early by-products of the attacks was the bumbling attempts by Christian leaders and left-leaning media to quickly characterize Islam to their paticular benefit and ideology.
The government and the media both went to great lengths to mitigate potential backlash, retaliations, persecution and prejudice against Muslim Americans and other foreign nationals in the wake of their identification of Osama Bin Laden as the prime suspect in the attacks. Lengthy articles and television pieces appeared pontificating Islam as a "religion of peace" and that the attacks and other acts of Islamic terrorism, do not reflect the essence of the Muslim people and their faith.
Anxious to contrast the wholesomeness of Christianity against Islam, Evangelical leaders like James Dobson, and others, pointed out that these were innaccurate depictions of Islam and that "radicals" were a constant in the faith. Painting Muslims as the "Klingons" against the "Federation" of the Judeo-Christian world, Evangelicals have inadvertantly walked into a trap of symmantics which could prove to be the mechanism that brings about further Christian marginalization in the post-modern world.
Both of these positions are fellacious,...based on erroneous world views.
The government and the media used American Muslims to demonstrate the unfair perceptions of Islam and to characterize the terroists, in contrast, as a fringe element. Both label the combatants against the US occupation of Iraq as "insurgents" or "fundamentalist extremists". One can hardly believe in suicide bombers when we see these communities in the US blended so well into the melting pot of American culture. All of these spokesmen and media portrayals of Islam have been secularized, Westernized, Muslims, living in our culture and far removed from the true faith practiced in Mecca or Medina. While they do represent a contingent of Islam, they no more represent a true view of Islam any more than a liberal Methodist church could represent true fundamentalist theology. Having live in Saudi Arabia for an extended period, I have seen the iron-handed administration of Islam. War, ethno-centrism, mysogony, and suicidal zeal are all aspects of fundamentalist Islam. Islam, like Christianity, has sects and denominations, each with its own distance or closeness to the truer, fundamentalist original. The Bible supports this view of Islam when God blesses Ishmael and tells him that he and his decendants will multiply but always be in contention with their neighbors. This, of course, is supported by the landscape of history and current events.
The House of Saud, the ruling family of the Kingdom, decended from Bedowin nomads, learned this quickly. To maintain their precarious hold on the oil and the country, the secular, oppulently wealthy royal family realized that they must maintain Saudi Arabia as the most stringently fundamentally Islamic nation on Earth. They realized that secular, westernized Islamic nations don't survive. Lebenon's constant turmoil, Iran before the Shah are examples.
Most disturbing though is the media and government's rhetoric about "Muslim fundamentalists". The implication is that fundamentalist are extremist and do not represent the true faith. They are outside the main stream. The media has married the term fundamentalist with the term extremist and I contend that it will serve a further purpose. Fundamentalist Christians and the government/media are often polar opposites, usually diametrically opposed. Even the conservative Republican party would be more content if the social agenda of the Religious Right wasn't having to be appeased...the Religious Right...the fundamentalists...the extremists. Ruby Ridge and Waco were extreme examples of government intolerance of unpopular expressions of Christian or Constitutional fundamentalism.
The core point is this. Blind support of a war on non-secular, fundamentalist Muslims could serve to set a precedent for the culture to further marginalize Christian fundamentalists...especially as the Church itself is becoming more wordly and secular. The true faith will only stand more glaringly in the light of Laodecea. The Social War gets fought in high profile arenas like abortion-rights, gay marriage and seperation of Church and state. It could be lost in the more innocuous battles the symanntics of words like "fundamentalist".
80 percent of Americans say that they identify themselves as "Christian". Yet, those who support fundamentalist, evangelical theology account for a dramatically smaller portion.
One of the lessons of the history of the Church, that it may be doomed to repeat, is that the Emerging Church has been so concerned with its call to Evangelize, that it ceases to work out its own salvation with fear and trembling. Confident in the rightness of its position and purpose, Evangelicals have joined in another crusade against Islamic fundamentalism, aligning itself with a culture that despises its theology and ingraining in the secular masses the opposition to all things
fundamental". In a nation and culture where religion is so marginalized and secularized, the symmantic easily translates from Islam to Evangelical Christianity in the sound-bite, fast-food information age of the secular world. This secular world view accepts religious conviction as long as it is "personal" and non-invasive.
Conversely, fundamentalism, both Christian or Islamic, seek to impact and win the world for their faith.
Islam demands that a code of behavior be adhered to and enforced on the population, rejecting all other beliefs and in some cases, conquering non-believers to conform them to the true faith, even to the costs of their own lives in martyrdom for their god.
Fundamentalist Christianity demands adherance of obedience to a code of righteousness that was demonstrated by Jesus and brotherhood with a non-believing world that, by the Holy Spirit, would stand against the prevailing world-view and permeate the society. A true Believer in Christ may be called upon, and should be willing to, lay down his life for his God.
The correlation is too great to ignore.
For Evangelicals the error in judgement comes from a fellacious understanding of Scripture. It comes from a failier to agree with the Biblical admonition about the assuredness of moral entropy in the culture. Instead of working on personal holiness which best reflects Jesus and therefore best effects the world, like battling a tsunami with a sandbag, Evangelicals seek to change moral fiber by activism and aggressive opposition. This forsakes the command to be in the world and not of the world. It is also hard to love your enemy while you are supporting a war to kill him.
Instead, we have Christian talking heads joing the teeming masses of secular talking heads in opposition to the evils of Islamic jihad. Some day there will be a time where those secular talking heads will be giving scathing analysis and editorials about the dangers of Christian fundamentalist extremism.