Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On the alleged moral equivalency of Christians and Islamist Militants (i.e. terrorists!)

Overnight, I have responded to Mr Boyne's remarks on Sunday, as follows:


RE: Mr Boyne's Oct 15 article, “Religious threat to Freedom”

I observe Mr Boyne's Oct 15 article, “Religious threat to Freedom,” in which he states that “[t]he fact that Christian theology or philosophy [which he admits is a major idea source on the concept of freedom] posits something does not automatically translate into Christian practice.”

Now, I must first apologise: on re-reading, my tone has at points been sharper than it should have been. Howbeit, what was actually shown, is that there is an HISTORICAL connexion between the putting of the Bible into the hands of the ordinary man 500 years ago, and the centuries of liberation struggle that ensued. For instance, Duplessis-Mornay's 1579 Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos states biblically anchored principles of resistance to tyranny, which left fingerprints all over the first modern declaration of independence, that of the dutch in 1581. The eventually resulting free Dutch state became a beacon of liberty and a centre of refuge for the oppressed from all over Europe.

Similarly, when the Scottish Commissioner to Westminster, Samuel Rutherford, published his Lex, Rex in 1644 to biblically refute Maxwell's case for absolute monarchy, it is said that Charles I was heard to mutter that, it would scarcely ever get an answer. Indeed, instead of refutation, it was publicly burned by the Hangman at Edinburgh in 1661, even as its author only escaped a treason trial by dying first. As Amos summarises in Defending the Declaration, the liberating ideas in Lex, Rex are evident in not only the glorious Revolution of 1688 that overthrew British Absolutism, but also in Locke's writings and in the 1776 – 87 founding documents and actions of the United States: especially, principled resistance to tyranny by the interposition of lower magistrates.

Many of the Abolitionists, starting with Wilberforce, were motivated by their Christian faith. Indeed, many of the civil rights campaigners of recent times were also motivated by Christian faith.

That brings up the point that many of the liberation struggles in question were indeed within what used to be called Christendom. That is not at all surprising: tyranny, oppression of the poor, slavery and many other abuses are age-old universal human problems. E.g., in the past 100 years, regimes inspired by secular visions have in their own turn slaughtered well over a hundred millions. Sadly, slavery and human trafficking are still with us. But, history shows that the Romans 13:1 - 10 message: [1] the state is God's agency to do the community good and defend it against injustice, and [2] neighbour-love means that we should do no harm, laid a foundation for the reform of exactly such abuses. Of course, such reformation was – and will always be -- sharply opposed by those who make a profit or draw pleasures from sin.

Nor is it any surprise that the notoriously “dark” middle ages were a time of widespread biblical illiteracy, which contributed to the long stranglehold of these universal plagues in Christendom. But, to in effect blame and attack the historic, Bible-based Christian Faith for these sins is akin to shouting at your doctor for diagnosing and trying to treat your cancer.

Moreover, while indeed we owe many positive cultural debts to Islamic cultures, e.g. the passing on of the zero and also Algebra, there is simply no parallel in the New Testament to the Quran's Surah 9:5 and 29 – 31, its main (and historically important) “sword” texts. While it is notoriously true that “Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven,” it should be obvious that Evangelicals in Jamaica have little or no resemblance to Al Qaeda's suicide bombers and beheaders. There is no credible basis for Mr Boyne to insist, in his Oct 15 article, that Christians “are also prone to bigotry, intolerance and the desire to impose their will on others just as the Islamic militants.”

In short, despite his claims to the contrary, Mr Boyne here indulges -- again – in the rhetoric of irresponsible moral equivalency. Finally, Mr Rich Lowry of the National Review recently pointed out (while noting that Reconstructionists etc are a fringe phenomenon) that critics of moral stances taken by Christian Conservatives in the US, instead of engaging issues on the merits, too often “show an appalling tendency to want to shut down the other side with their swear word of 'theocracy.' ”

Perhaps, then a rethink is in order here too? END

No comments: