Jewish World Review March 24, 2006/ 24 Adar, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Sacking Jesus, saving a convert | Sometimes an editor is tempted to assign the religion reporter to cover war, revolution and other hostile gunplay and sectarian sword fighting. Like this week, for example.

In Afghanistan, liberated from the Islamist brutality of the Taliban by an army of mostly Christians and Jews, the new government of men inspired by "the religion of peace" has threatened to kill for the heinous crime of becoming a Christian.

In Iraq, a dramatic rescue of "peacemakers" saved three goo-goo do-gooders from beheading, or worse, and all the thanks the soldiers who put their lives on the line got was breathtaking ingratitude and a promise by the "peacemakers" to accelerate their love for their captors and their contempt for the rescuers.

And not just abroad. Here in Washington, the secretary of the Navy assumed the office of Theologian-in-Chief, a position heretofore the exclusive preserve of George W. Bush. The mysterious Donald C. Winter, whose own religious affiliation and doctrinal training are still matters of speculation, has issued his first papal-like bull: Henceforth, Christian chaplains must pray to an Official U.S. Government Approved Deity, if pray they must, and it darn well better not be Jesus. Mr. Winter sacked Jesus last month with the signing of the regulation, but it came to light only this week after a Christian chaplain complained. (No word about to which remote base in the Aleutians this protesting chaplain has been reassigned.)

The most immediate presidential concern has to be the fate of Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert in Kabul. Mr. Rahman, who became an innocent follower of Christ 16 years ago after working in a Christian mission to help poor Pakistani Muslims, might be headless already but for a surprising exhibition of testosterone by Germany and Italy, whose leaders threatened to pull their troops out of the coalition of the willing in Afghanistan if the Muslim authorities can't rein in the savages who are determined to kill in the name of the Koran.

Such a show of manly determination set off a run for the smelling salts at our State Department, where estrogen, not testosterone, is the elixir of choice. "This is a case that is not under the competence of the United States," Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, told reporters primly on Tuesday. "It is under the competence of the Afghan authorities. We hope that the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld and in our view if it is upheld, he will be found to be innocent ... from an American point of view people should be free to choose their own religion."

How nice. But this voice from the fainting couch, prim or not, was too much for President Bush, a Methodist who thinks people from any point of view should be free to choose their own religion. He told reporters the next day in West Virginia, where robust talk is appreciated and several competing varieties of Baptists thrive without even an occasional beheading, that he was "troubled" by the idea of killing converts in the defense of "faith."

"We have influence in Afghanistan," the president said, bringing up the subject himself, "and we are going to use it to remind them that there are universal values."

One of the ladies the president has installed at the State Department, seeking like presidents before him to infuse a little testosterone where it is traditionally unappreciated, took up the president's theme at an "international interfaith conference" in Washington. "This case clearly violates the universal freedom held dear by democratic peoples throughout the world," Karen Hughes, the undersecretary for public diplomacy, told the conference. An imam from the American Society for Muslim Advancement agreed. "Islamic doctrine says people of all faiths should be allowed to practice their religion unmolested."

Nice words, and nice work if Abdul Rahman can get it. But back in Kabul the imams were talking only of hanging, beheading and dismembering Christian converts. If Abdul Rahman is saved, George W. will have to do it, even if he has to stuff his diplomats into the ladies' room to let a man do a man's work.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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