September 29, 2007

Religion Under Attack in America?

In a bizarre story out of Indiana, an evangelical Christian pastor is making waves over what he perceives as inappropriate government support of Islam. You might be surprised to find that I agree with him. But the real story may be the transparently poor journalism on display.

Pastor Jerry Hillenburg is upset over plans to install foot washing basins for Muslim cab drivers in the Indianapolis airport. He feels that this is a bothersome step toward state sponsorship of religion. He's right.

It isn't every day I get to agree with Baptist pastors, but Hillenburg is correct that it would be a mistake to use taxpayer money to support Islam. Where I expect we might disagree is that I realize it would be equally inappropriate to spend tax dollars in support of Christianity.

But the real story here is much more subtle. Note how the author uses a quote from Hillenburg to make the point that he's opposed to "...a secular government 'that is condemning Christianity, lifting its support on the government's dime to the religion of Islam.'" Is Hillenburg more upset because Islam is being supported, because his religion is not, or because it is all just an evil atheist conspiracy? And is this really what has Hillenburg upset, or is the author simply using Hillenburg to make a point?

We may find a clue in the last paragraph:
Both sides agree about one thing: religion in America, they say, is under attack.
The "sides" being referred to are Christianity and Islam. The author has crafted the article so that it appears to be a conflict between Christians and Muslims. And yet, the overly simplistic point of agreement is supposed to be that religion is under attack in America. One wonders if the author of this story might be auditioning for Fox "News."

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