News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Study Shows How Evangelicals Demonize Islam

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Study Shows How Evangelicals Demonize Islam

At the risk of stating the obvious, I've written several times about the virulent Islamophobia propagated by evangelical Xtian leaders. But if you don't read the screes of these fanatics, you really can't understand how much they hate people of other faiths. Oh, I know, they'll often tell you that "we don't hate the person, we hate the faith." As if that made any sense.

I always thought the commandment to love your neighbor and enemy--and it's always a surprise to many Xtians when you remind them that the commandment includes "enemies," not just neighbors--means to love people for who they are, what they are, and as they are.

Yes, that's a commandment--something you do no matter what, because God said to do it. Offensive to modern sensibilities that wants reasons to do things and rejects anything that says do it because I say to do it, it can appear that we can always make some sort of mealy-mouthed compromise to make it fit our nicely liberal/conservative assumtions about what love means, what neighbor means, and what enemy means. I mean, you can't really love that bum on the train who's picking flesh off his rotting toes, can you?

You can't really mean loving bin-Laden, right? Even our illustrious Christian-in-Chief, George W. Bush, wanted bin-Laden's head sent back in a cooler once they caught and killed him. Obviously, God didn't mean to love wastes of skin like that, huh?

Okay, I'm off on diatribe... Getting back on point, this very academic study by Richard Cimino of evangelical literature about Islam after 911 puts meat on the bones of what I guess "we" already know: evangelicals hate Moslems. But seeing the issue in such stark terms always requires some nuance, so Professor Cimino does that for us in his very important study.

By tracking many, many evangelical publications he's boiled down the basic evangelical attack on Islam to the following points:

Through conducting an analysis of popular evangelical books published before and after 9/11, the study [the literature says] Islam is essentially violent. This polemic against Islam takes three forms: evangelical apologetics to prove the truth of Christianity against Islam; prophetic literature linking Islam as the main protagonist in end-times scenarios; and charismatic literature applying “spiritual warfare” teachings to Islam. The growth of evangelical apologetics against Islam is especially prevalent, with a new breed of ex-Muslim evangelicals issuing sharp critiques that stress the radical separateness of Christianity from Islam.
Now, the kindly professor is much more optimistic about the interaction between evangelicalism and Islam than I am. His rather irenic, perhaps utopian, conclusion is that
new patterns of interaction between Islam and Christianity and greater pluralism in American society are challenging evangelical identity, leading to the erection of new boundary markers between evangelicalism and other religions. These new boundaries can strain interfaith relations yet they may also strengthen evangelical identity.
Straining interfaith relations seems more than putting it mildly. What with a war on terror masquerading as Xtian jihad, such quaint notions as "strengthening evangelicalism" begs the question: at what cost? How many Moslems and innocent men, women, and children do we kill to propagate the message of a bastardized Christian identity?

As I sais earlier, the commandment is to love your enemy. And your enemy is that person you most detest and despise simply because they are. And any notion that the effort of Christians should be geared towards strengthening anything like a movement, an institution, or an identity is tragically--dare I say criminally--beside the point. It's a simple way to get out of putting the commandment to obey God into reality; at the price even of your cherished images of being a happy Christian.

Click here to read the full, 24-page, report NEW BOUNDARIES -- EVANGELICALS AND ISLAM AFTER 9/11

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