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Islamists = Bible Heroes?

Mark D. Tooley

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The chaplain of a Church of England bishop has kicked up a stir in the British media by comparing the Islamist subway bombers in London last year to Old Testament heroes, Christian crusaders and even the angry Jesus in the Temple.

Canon Philip Gray claimed that the July 7, 2005 London subway bombers shared the same "religious passion" as the Christian crusaders of the Middle Ages. "Behind modern fanatical Islamic terrorism lie many spiritual and religious passions and narratives also found in the Christian tradition." he wrote recently in his diocesan newspaper.

Gray's article was to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on the U.S. The 39 year old priest is the chaplain to Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade. His musings naturally ignited controversy. Any seeming effort to mitigate the evil of the London subway bombers understandably strikes raw nerves among the British.

The London blasts on three trains and one bus killed 52 people and injured 700. All four of the Islamist bombers were killed by their own bombs, apparently welcoming martyrdom. This is not unique, according to Chaplain Gray, who said Christians, like Muslims, "rejoice over the deaths of martyrs."

These dubious musings by an English priest are, unfortunately, not unusual among leftist Western religionists. Such prelates, uncertain and sometimes even ashamed about the doctrines of their own professed faith, are reluctant to identify objective evil, and even more reluctant to criticize non-Western cultures or religions. They strain to find parallels between perceived Western or Christian failings and the enormities of anti-Western and anti-Christian movements.

For many leftist prelates, Western Civilization and Christianity are everlastingly the oppressors. All others are permanently the oppressed victims, whose flaws can only be understood as understandable reactions to Western/Christian crimes.

"Blind Samson, his hairy growth returning, commits an act of suicidal terrorism as he destroys the pillars of the pagan temple," Chaplain Gray wrote of the Old Testament hero, drawing a parallel between the ancient Jewish warrior and modern Islamists. "The people of Israel sing their song of triumph -- which we echo in the Easter vigil -- as the bodies of the Egyptians float in the Red Sea," Gray continued in his comparative historical analysis. He added: "We cannot simply ignore the violent passion of Jesus cleansing the temple with whips. We are never told of the collateral damage possibly resulting from his actions."

Gray concluded: "We need to consider the same religious passion and spiritual single mindedness lies at the heart of a London bomber and a Christian crusader." Later confronted by media attention and angry controversy, the chaplain pointed out that in no way was he justifying the London subway bombers. But Gray did not deny that he was likening Judaism and Christianity with radical Islam.

"If we as Christians believe we have some comment to make about a response to terrorism, then we must do so with something approaching reality, not just grand statements from the top of ivory towers," Gray wrote in his original diocesan article.

"What boundaries must the Church draw between taking up our cross, and the crass immorality of crusaders? When does a freedom fighter become a terrorist?

As remedies for religious extremism, Gray suggested "inter-faith work," "community building" and "clear moral teaching, particularly within the armed forces." He was of course referring to the British military, whose religious zealotry and mindless violence are apparently more of a threat than that of Islamic radicals. Of course, Gray did not mention any innate problems with political Islam and its inability, unlike Judaism and Christianity, to acknowledge the rights and dignity of non-believers.

To its credit, the Church of England declined to defend Gray's comments, pointing out that he spoke only for himself. But a self-professed "radical" religious think tank in Britain called Ekklesia defended Gray for having "raised important issues."

"Those who read the article that Philip Gray has written will see that he is not providing any justification whatsoever for the 7/7 attacks," insisted Jonathan Bartley, head of Ekklesia. "Rather he is pointing to the violence within the Christian tradition which many would like to forget, explain away, or abdicate responsibility for.

Bartley continued: "If Christians are to speak meaningfully about terror, as Gray has highlighted, they will need to face up to the violence contained within their own scriptures and indeed some manifestations of Christianity today."

In the parlance of some on the theological left, all "violence" is equal. Hence, Jesus' rout of the money changers out of the Temple belong to the same moral category as Islamic zealots blowing up packed commuter trains. Samson's pulling down the pillars of the pagan temple to which he was chained by his captors is also "suicidal terrorism."

Geopolitically, the theological left cannot morally distinguish between Islamist terror strikes and Western defense measures. Never mind that one side deliberately targets civilians, while the other tries to avoid them, or that one side rejoices in death, while the other laments it. And never mind that one side seeks to impose a theocratic police, while the other side is defending pluralistic democracy with rights for all.

The theological left, consumed by disdain for its own faith traditions, is blind to the crimes of other faith traditions. Rejecting Christianity's and Judaism's belief in universal sin, Western leftist prelates prefer to target Christianity and Judaism as uniquely sinful.

Like the secular left, the theological left is inclined towards self-hatred, and its ideologies often espouse a cultural death wish. The death of the West is of course a goal to which radical Islamists are gladly lending a hand, hence the often odd if furtive philosophical agreement that occurs between Western leftists and Islamic theocrats.

Read the entire article on the Front Page Magazine website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission.

Posted: 16-Sep-06

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