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Should we Privilege Theological Liberalism?

Reader comment on item: [Finding Moderate Muslims:] Do you believe in modernity?

Submitted by Peter J. Herz (Taiwan), Dec 4, 2003 at 08:10

While I respect Dr. Pipes and agree with him more often than I disagee, the line of questioning proposed comes dangerously suggesting that only those who accept the findings of 19th century German higher criticism and those who accept the 20th century's theological relativism can be trustworthy chaplains in our armed forces. This would be very unfair to Evangelical Christians who want to convert the world to Christ (but not by force), or to orthodox Jews who would hold that Christians are misled by a false Messiah. Humorous and gentle Buddhist monks formed in the "old countries" of their varied sects (Theravada, Pure Land, Chan, Lamaism) rather than Hollywood would reveal a lot of pre-modern attitudes thoroughly offensive to feminists (if not to others) if their interviewers knew the right questions to ask.

There probably are many Muslims in America--Americans and both legal and dubious (according to strict interpretations of the immigration law) visitors-- who are heartbroken by the anti-Americanism manifest in their old countries and places of origin; were sincerely shocked and horrified by 9/11; and appreciate the religious freedom of this country enough to sincerely think that Bin Laden is a criminal who needs to be hunted rather than a jihadi to be helped--yet who nonetheless would die before saying that violent jihad is _always_ illegitimate. My guess is that there probably are people in our long-settled Circassian-American communities who think of their anti-Soviet grandfathers as jihadis; and some of the Afghans who cheered our ousting of the Taliban and are now cooperating with us probably also thought of their war with the Soviets as pure jihad.

The liberal theology that dominates the prestigious religion departments and divinity schools of our country is the same faith that would unilaterally disarm our republic and throw it wide open to every enemy--from the Communists to Osama bin Laden. It's the same mindset that would turn the Bill of Rights and the "Love Thy Neighbor" Scriptural passages into a suicide pact. It is also presiding over flocks whose average age is over fifty and climbing; and closing churches far more than it's building new ones.

Also, other religions have produced terrorists. The Jews have Gush Emunim and Kahane Chai; there are radical Presbyterian (my communion) gunmen in northern Ireland; and within the last century, Mexican Catholicism produced the Christeros, who terrorized Evangelicals across western and central Mexico. And since we're on to history, Quaker pacifists are nothing but Ranter or Leveller terrorists who got the worst of it in run-ins with Cromwell's Congregationalist Ironsides. The Calvinists, who turned limited government into a theological principle and did so much to institutionalize it in America, took up arms against the monarchs of the Spanish Netherlands, France, and Great Britain back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

For the record, I am one who is proud of his former service to his country as a diplomat, report my earnings honestly at tax time, consider myself an American patriot, see the possibility of an Augustinian just war in trying to get Osama bin Laden, and might even be armed and in uniform if I were thirty years younger. I think the KKK is heretical, and won't throw bricks through anyone's window--even if I do think he's heading for Hell anyway. I don't hold to a Zionist theology, but think modern Israel is as legitimate as many another state with a seat in the UN (and some that don't but eserve one nonetheless). However, I cannot in good conscience say the Pledge of Allegiance if the "Under God" clause is left out (I plead the Second Commandment).

Frankly, the chaplaincy scandal has me almost ready to recognize limits to the First Amendment--but I'm too keenly aware that there are science- and state- worshippers out there who'd place the first legal limits squarely where they'd first ensnare Christians like me.

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