March 2, 2008

Why Don't We Ever Hear About Christian Extremism In The Media?

We hear quite a bit about about religious extremism in other parts of the world but very little about Christian extremism right here in America. Don't get me wrong - Islamic extremism is a real concern and deserves the attention it receives. However, I think it is a mistake to completely ignore Christian extremism at home. I suppose it would be accurate to say that one of the main reasons I maintain this blog is to call attention to what I perceive as a neglected issue: Christian extremism in America.

I previously offered a definition of Christian extremism and will not repeat it here. However, I would remind the reader that extremism is not synonymous with terrorism and that an obvious reason for the media's neglect of Christian extremism is that it rarely reaches the level of terrorist attacks. Coverage of the Muslim world often confuses extremism with terrorism and uses the terms interchangeably.

When I say that Christian extremism is neglected by the American media, I am not saying that Christian extremists themselves are neglected (they are most certainly not). The media loves to feature the Pat Robertsons among us. What they neglect is covering such figures as the Christian extremists they are.

It is tempting to immediately point to Christian privilege as the main culprit of the media's neglect of Christian extremism. After all, the American media (and its audience) are so thoroughly saturated with fundamentalist Christianity that it is reasonable to guess that it simply might not occur to them to cover it. With Christianity as the dominant religion in America, many Americans do not have the perspective to consider alternatives or to ask the difficult questions about the extremists among us.

The Christian progressives and moderates have had relatively little to say on the subject of the vocal extremists who dominate the conversation (see here for an exception). In part, this may be because the media refuses to give them a similar platform. However, I tend to think that at least some of the blame rests on the shoulders of the progressives and moderates. It is difficult for them to criticize their extremist colleagues without feeling that their religious beliefs may be weakened in the process.

Before Iraq and before 9/11, how much did you hear about other forms of religious extremism in the media? Not much. Compared to now, one almost never heard of "Islamic extremists" and the like prior to 9/11. 9/11 and Bush's subsequent blunders not only cast a spotlight of national attention on the issue of extremism in the Muslim world but also contributed to its rise. Could it be that this increased coverage of religious extremism serves political goals and reflects no genuine concern about religious extremism?

The reason you hear about Christian extremism here on this blog is that I believe in fixing one's own problems instead of simply pointing out those of others. I agree that Islamic extremism is an important problem, but I think that religious extremism in general is a problem. I am not content to ignore what I see going wrong in America to point the finger at other nations.

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