Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2002/ 29 Kislev, 5763
Some stout sermons need a little salt
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | George W. Bush is first of all a dutiful son. His mama taught him manners, and they show.
He keeps repeating the politically correct mantra, like a schoolboy sent to the blackboard to write it out a hundred times: "Islam is a peaceful religion."
Sometimes the schoolboy actually believes what Teacher tells him to write a hundred times across the blackboard. It's possible that George W. even believes his mantra, but he surely understands, as Winston Churchill famously observed in the darkest days of World War II when good guys had to do bad things and occasionally had to pretend to ignore logic and reality, that sometimes "truth must be protected by a bodyguard of lies."
George W., as the president of the United States in a time of grave national peril, has to say a lot of pretty things that ain't necessarily so. He has on several occasions since September 11 repeated the assertion that Islam is "a faith based upon peace and love and compassion" and a religion committed to "morality and learning and tolerance." We're supposed to think that Muslims are just like the Methodists, only different - the difference between Muhammad and John Wesley being one only of degree.
This exasperates to no end Americans who appreciate straight talk, and who don't see much peace, love, compassion, learning and morality bubbling out of the mosques of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and points between, including some here in the United States. Whatever tolerance there may be is often disguised, successfully, as contempt and hate.
Some of our most prominent preachers have said so, in blunt and forceful language. Jerry Falwell, who is sometimes a little too blunt for his own good, has said naughty and impolitic things ("Muhammad was a terrorist") about the founder of Islam. So has Franklin Graham, the son of Billy and heir of the best-known Christian evangelist of our time, who called Islam "evil." Pat Robertson warned that "Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse."
President Bush has good and sufficient reasons of realpolitik to distance himself from such sentiments, for not wanting to concede the obvious, that the war on terror is in fact a clash of civilizations. But only last week Pope John Paul II, speaking with the discretion and circumspection of a man with diplomats steeped in carefully calibrated language readily at hand, expressed what sounds like a caution not to expect much of well-meant sentimentality.
"Without renouncing the affirmation of the force of the evangelical message [of the Gospel]," he told students at a pontifical college in Vatican City, "it is an important work in the torn world of today that Christians be men of dialogue and work against the clash of civilizations that at times seems inevitable."
George W. probably had to invite Muslim clerics to the White House for a Ramadan salute, and his domestic religious critics should cut him a few inches of slack. Colin Powell, ever on the scout for opportunities to temporize, did not have to use the occasion to boast of "trying to expand programs to bring educators, journalists and political and religious leaders from Islamic countries to the United States." There are no doubt worthy educators, journalists and political leaders from Islamic countries who could benefit from exposure to a century later than the 12th, but if there is a glaring shortage of Saudis in San Antonio, Seattle and Cleveland it has gone unreported.
The president is right to make it clear that Muslims can be good Americans, and if he thinks Baptist and Presbyterian divines need scolding he is free in the American tradition to bang away. But he does his credibility no good with his courtship of "bad" Muslims, his welcoming to the White House and to the ranch the representatives of oleaginous regimes whose state-owned television stations and newspapers call relentlessly for Muslims to kill Jews and Christians.
He could offer a needed lecture to his Muslim constituents, about why most Americans are a little ticked off at Muslim fellow citizens who tolerate wicked things done in the name of Islam more easily that they tolerate the reasonable skepticism of their Christian and Jewish neighbors.
The American dilemma is that faith as taught by Islamists is not faith as we in the West understand faith. Christians and Jews worship at the compulsion of conscience; faith is a matter of the heart and the soul is sovereign. The Islamist faith is an ideology of politics in the guise of religion, compelled by the brute force of the state: "Observe it or die."
Soon George W. will, if he means what he says, dispatch
hundreds of thousands of young men, many raised in
G-d-fearing Christian and Jewish homes, to battle against a
foe that eagerly embraces conflict as a clash of civilizations.
When the bullets start to fly, these sons of America will take
cold comfort in the "knowledge" that they face
dismemberment and death at the hands of an enemy of
"peace, love, compassion, morality and compassion." This is
something the president should think about the next time he
feels a sermon coming on.
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