Did you hear about the Democrats¹ strategy to use the war on terrorism
to their political advantage in upcoming congressional elections? We¹ve got
it on no less an authority than Newsweek¹s Howard Fineman.
Fineman, certainly no enemy of the Democrats, reports that they are
planning to demonize the Republicans by comparing their "Christian right" to
the Taliban in terms of religious extremism and intolerance. In this way
they hope to enrage President Bush and lure him into a ³firefight at home.²
Let¹s put aside the outrageousness of their plan to embroil a wartime
president in a distracting domestic battle for purely partisan reasons.
Instead, let¹s focus on the outrageousness of the premise underlying their
strategy. That premise -- which is nothing new for liberals -- is that the
religious right is intolerably intolerant and bigoted. The only thing new is
that they now have an inflammatory way of packaging it -- by exploiting the
events of Sept. 11.
Fundamentalists of any religion (read: Christians) are dangerous. And
who are the Christian fundamentalists? Essentially, those who believe the
Bible is the Word of God. The term connotes a backwardness and absence of
sophistication and enlightenment.
Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe will have some ammunition when
he begins to sell this theme. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman
provided much fodder in his Nov. 27 column entitled "The Real War." Friedman
argues that the real enemy in our war is not terrorism, but religious
totalitarianism -- "a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme,
and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated."
As the balance of Friedman¹s column makes clear, however, he uses the
term (religious totalitarianism) much more broadly than he defines it. By
religious totalitarians he really means those who claim to have a corner on
exclusive truth -- even if they are completely tolerant of those with other
Friedman prefers those who have "reinterpreted their faith in a way that
embrace(s) modernity, without weakening religious passion, and in a way that
affirm(s) that God speaks multiple languages and is not exhausted by just
Instead of totalitarianism, we should strive for pluralism -- "an
ideology that embraces religious diversity and the idea that my faith can be
nurtured without claiming exclusive truth." Indeed, according to a religious
leader Friedman quotes with approval, the future of the world may depend on
whether different religions can understand "that God speaks Arabic on
Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes
different human beings approaching him through their own history, out of
their own language and cultural heritage."
Many Jews and Christians, in Friedman¹s view, get it. They have gone
back to their sacred texts and reinterpreted their traditions to embrace
modernity and pluralism. But those who haven¹t diluted their sacred beliefs
to conform to today¹s twisted concept of tolerance are dangerous.
I¹ll tell you what¹s dangerous. It¹s this kind of indiscriminate and
prejudicial thinking. As important as religion is, it¹s amazing how much
ignorance about it persists. In fact, it is really an intellectual copout to
argue, for the sake of political correctness or some other secular piety,
that the beliefs of many of the world¹s religions can be reconciled.
Christianity, in contrast to all other religions, teaches that Jesus was not
merely a prophet but is God. Many other religions have
exclusive truth claims as well.
So, you cannot reasonably say, as Friedman seems to, that all religions
worship the same god. That would make god nothing more than a human
construct, which would mean he is not God. Either He exists in reality, in
which case certain absolute truths about Him apply, or he doesn¹t, and none
of this matters anyway.
Just because certain religions claim to know the truth does not mean
they advocate eliminating other faiths or even suppressing their free
exercise of religion. While Christians, for example, claim that Jesus was
God, they do not deny non-Christians the right to believe otherwise. But
being tolerant toward other people¹s beliefs does not require that you
abandon your own or water them down.
The left is always complaining about hate speech because such speech is
likely to lead to violence. If incitement to violence is the test for hate
speech, is it not hate speech to contend falsely that Christianity or other
religions, because they claim to have exclusive truths, advocate the
extermination of other faiths? Is it not hate speech for the left to engage
in such sloppy comparisons as equating Bible-believing Christians with
If Howard Fineman is correct about the Democrats¹ plan to employ this
vicious tactic of demonizing the religious right with unbridled hate speech,
Republicans better be prepared to pull out all the stops in countering this