August 17, 2006

Opposing Militant Islam: Christian Extremists Not Qualified

The threat of Islamic extremism cannot be overlooked. Muslim extremists seek theocracy under Islamic rule, and the militant among them want to expand their dominion through force. Sadly, what I have just said also applies to Christian extremists in America. For this reason, I worry that America is not currently well equipped to deal with militant Islam and that we are all in danger of our government making the problem far worse.

I think you will agree that the solution to religious extremism is more likely to be reason and critical thinking rather than more religious extremism. However, the Bush administration has effectively silenced any real voice of reason within their inner circles. To what degree is the administration influenced by Christian extremism? With the media's refusal to ask difficult questions and the secrecy of the administration, it is not easy to tell.

In the Nieman Watchdog, Ira Chernus explores Bush's religious beliefs and their likely role in his policies. He notes that the media have avoided asking many questions of this administration that should be of great importance to the American people. While Chernus argues that Bush, Cheney, and Rice do not appear to be particularly interested in "end times theology," he acknowledges that this matter should be thoroughly investigated.

As another example of why this is important, we turn to the case of Texas televangelist, John Hagee, who claims that war with Iran is a necessary condition of Jesus' return. Just another Christian extremist who everyone will ignore, right? Don't be so hasty to dismiss the influence of this nutjob. His book, Jerusalem Countdown, is selling well, he has his own TV show, and he has the money and power of several mega churches behind him.

What Hagee wants is nothing less than war with Iran. Surely this is a small price to pay for the return of Jesus (and the end of the world). Hagee and his lobbying organization, Christians United for Israel, is an example of end-times nonsense at its most dangerous.

According to Sarah Posner at The American Prospect,
...Hagee's view of Iran'’s central role in a world-altering showdown seems to be catching on. And not just on the wingnut airwaves or among war-mongering chattering heads. ItÂ’s gaining momentum among certain Republican presidential aspirants, who, like all Republican presidential aspirants, count beans and feel compelled to bow to the will of American religious extremists to win.
Yep, both Gingrich and McCain have evidently been influenced by Hagee and have predicted World War III. Posner writes, "Preachers like Hagee seem easy to ignore because we think their audiences, while vast, consists of rank-and-file religious extremists who have no real sway over American policy-makers." As she points out, however, several Republican politicians appear to have been influenced by Hagee's views.

I consider Christian extremists to be among the least qualified segments of the American population to address militant Islam. They offer more extremism and risk viewing the scenario as some sort of "holy war." What we need is critical thinking, informed debate, and the exercise of reason.

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