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Reader comment on item: [Finding Moderate Muslims:] Do you believe in modernity?
in response to reader comment: Questions that should be asked of Christian fundamentalists

Submitted by Saikat (United States), Aug 21, 2006 at 15:12

"Violence: Do you condone or condemn tactics to intimidate, threaten, or kill abortion providers?"

I think abortion is murder, and ought to be legally punished as such. Taking the law into your own hands is not acceptable, just as it is not acceptable to take vengeance privately against someone who murders an adult. That's the rule of law. You will find few if any fundamentalist sects disagreeing with that.

"Modernity: Should Christian women have equal rights with men (for example to preach in church pulpits or lead Christian organizations?"

Christian women should have and do have equal rights with men under the law. Nobody has the right to preach in church pulpits or lead a Christian organization. Preaching and leadership are *privileges*, not rights, given by private non-commercial associations (churches) in accordance with their own rules. Whether a denomination gives this privilege to unmarried men, or men over 30, or both men and women, or only women, or blue-haired old ladies, or whatever, is purely a matter of its internal doctrine and discipline, just as it is in a private club or other such voluntary association. There is no question of rights here, except the right of a voluntary association to form its own rules according to its private purposes. Actual practices vary greatly from one denomination to another.

"Secularism: Should non-Christians enjoy equal rights with Christians?"

Sure. They do.

"May Christians convert to other religions?"

Yes. They often do. It may endanger their salvation, but it isn't against the law.

"May Christian women marry non Christians?"

Obviously they may. The Bible says so explicitly, and even claims that the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse. But it is not a good idea, in general. "Everything is lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial."

"Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Christian government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to tthat government?"

Obviously that depends on the government. So long as the law is just, one is obliged to obey. But governments do make unjust laws, which are not to be obeyed. In such cases one must obey God rather than men.

"Should the state impose religions observance, such as banning commerce on the Sabath."

That is not a religious observance. It's usually called a "weekend". You don't have to believe in God to appreciate the benefits of a day off, and such laws certainly give a much-needed break for everyone, and as such are a good idea. I don't think very many atheists are eager to lose their Friday nights, and you can be sure that corporations would make us work on Saturday if they were allowed by law. (In fact they often force people to work on weekends as it is.) Of course banning commerce on the Sabbath also makes it much easier for Jews to practice Judaism without suffering economic penalties because of their religion. Don't you think that's a good thing?

"When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g. providing equal rights for homosexuals), which should give way?"

That depends on which is just--the custom or the secular law. Justice should prevail.

"Christian pluralism: Are Christian Scientists and Mormons fully legitimate Christians?"

They are not Christians at all. So what? They have their own religion and the right to practice it, like anyone else. They also have the right to call themselves Christians and to believe and claim that they are Christians, even if their beliefs are false. For that matter, an atheist could call himself a Christian too, and there are Unitarian Universalist atheists who do. The atheist UU is mistaken in considering himself a Christian, but he has the right to be mistaken. It's a free country.

"Do you see Christians who disagree with you as having fallen into unbelief?"

No, only those who disagree with God and God's revelation. For example, some Christians think the death penalty is always wrong. I disagree, but that doesn't make them unbelievers. If they were to deny God's existence or the divinity of Christ, on the other hand, they would have fallen into unbelief--not because I disagree with them but because God does.

"Is shunning and/or refusing communion to those you disagree with acceptable practice?"

If I have a piece of bread and you want it, am I obliged to give it to you just because you want it? Or can I decide whether or not you get my bread, and on what terms you get it if you do? I think those questions answer themselves. Obviously a church has the right to decide whom it will give communion and when, on whatever terms it considers reasonable. Otherwise churches would be the only organizations on earth that had no control over food that belongs to them. As for "shunning", if you show up at my door, do I have to let you in just because you want in, or may I decide who gets to enter under my roof? I think that question answers itself too.

"Self-critcism: Do you accept the legitimacy of scholaly inquiry in the origins and nature of Judaism, Christianity, and their sacred texts?"

Obviously people have the right to read and study what they want, and to say what they want about it. Some of what they say may be false, or even false and pernicious. But it's a free country, ain't it? I also have the right to ignore and shun any such inquiries if *I* want--just because you write a thing doesn't mean I have to pay attention to it. And a church can make rules for its members as to what they should or shouldn't read or attend to, as it sees fit. Those who don't like the rules are free to leave.

"Who is responsible for uncritical American support for the state of Israel despite the second class, apartheid like status of Arabs under its control?"

Nobody. There is no uncritical American support for Israel, as you would know if you had any knowledge at all of the relevant history. (America has in fact opposed Israel's policies most of the time, and hindered Israel's war of independence in 1948.) And there is no second-class, apartheid-like status for Israeli Arabs, who have full citizenship, religious freedom, and equal standing under the law--not to mention seats in the Israeli parliament and far better economic success than Arabs in many Arab-majority countries. How many Muslim countries give such rights to Jews?

"Defense against militant Christianity: Do you accept enhanced security measures to fight radical Christian elements such as those responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing?"

Since no such measures exist, or have even been proposed, there is nothing for me either to accept or reject. Timothy McVeigh is dead and Nichols is serving life in prison, and there have been no more "radical Christian" bombings against Americans since then. What further measures do you want? Bin Laden, on the other hand, is alive and well, and al-Qaeda has been killing and attacking Americans steadily for the past ten years. They have threatened more catastrophic attacks on the homeland. Don't you think that's a teensy bit more important, given our finite security resources?

"Goals in the West: Do you agree that Western countries are majority secular or non-fundamentalist or do you seek to transform them into majority fundamentalist Christan countries ruled by biblical standards?"

Christianity is about saving souls, not countries. The only biblical standard for ruling a society is: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Whether or not the majority of people are Christians, fundamentalist or not, is unimportant. What is important is how many go to heaven and how many go to hell. This does not mean that Christians shouldn't bring their values to their political lives, only that Christianity itself is not concerned with politics. Christ's kingdom is not of this world, as he said.


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