The Religious Left continues its pathological mental gymnastics.
A recent missions study reported 270 new Christian martyrs every day in the world over the last 10 years, reaching 1 million during 2000-2010, and compared to 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900. Of course, radical Islam was responsible for many of these killings. But the Religious Left, including some Evangelicals, is emotionally incapable of identifying oppression with any force other than the United States and Christianity (or Israel). Even Islamist persecution of Christians is imagined as primarily a regrettable but understandable reaction to American imperialism and injustice.
Ostensibly, U.S. “torture” policies have enraged many radical Islamists into tormenting Christians. Left-leaning evangelist Tony Campolo, who counseled President Clinton post Monica-gate, recently blogged on the Evangelical Left “Red Letter Christians” website about his “dismay” over a “prominent Christian author defending the use of torture in the war against terrorism.” The highly impressionable Campolo was further “stunned” when a group of fellow Evangelicals purportedly confirmed to him their own approval of “torture.” Somewhat sanctimoniously, Campolo wondered if Jesus, unlike his hypocritical followers, would torture a terrorist.
Religious Left critics of “torture,” like Campolo, typically never define it. And more recently, their ongoing campaign against “torture” is unclear about whether they are still protesting the enhanced interrogation techniques from the early Bush Administration, as a historical exercise, or whether they believe Obama currently is also a “torture” president. Or is the whole “War on Terror” an exercise in “torture”? Is all incarceration of terrorists “torture”? Most prominent Religious Left activists are pacifists, and they are discomfited by any armed resistance to terror. So their wide definition of “torture” is suspect.
Campolo is not a pacifist. Politically loquacious, he is given to rhetorical hyperbole, and he eagerly touts leftist assumptions about America and its Christians. “I wonder if we are becoming as despicable as those evil terrorists who are our declared enemies,” he characteristically asked, seemingly unable to distinguish morally between discomfiting incarcerated terrorists without doing physical harm, and acts of mass murder against innocents. Campolo suggested Evangelicals who support “torture” have wandered into an “ethical wasteland.” But he strutted into his own ethical wasteland when he faulted American Evangelicals, and U.S. foreign policy, for igniting Islamist persecution.
“Sadly, one of the consequences of our support of our nation’s foreign policies is that the doors for missionary work are being shut,” Campolo surmised. “Because Christianity, throughout the Muslim world, is associated with America, anti-Americanism has heated up anger against Christians in many parts of the Islamic world.” The evangelist noted that Iraqi Christians “during the evil days of the Hussein regime had the privilege of boldly worshipping and evangelizing” but “are now being threatened.” He said “tens of thousands of Christians have been fleeing the country in fear of persecution,” which has been accurate for some time, and “missionary endeavors are losing ground in Iraq.” Campolo fretted that Iraqi democracy is “not likely to bode well for Christians there.” It’s a little odd that Campolo is just now worried about Iraqi Christians, who have been suffering depredations for years. Yes, the small Christian minority had some protection under Saddam’s brutal police state, though it was hardly a wonderland of Christian evangelism. The collapse of order and sectarian violence after the 2003 invasion allowed Islamists to target Christians. Campolo might justly fault the U.S. for failing to provide more order early on. And he further might fault the U.S. for unwillingness to prioritize protections for Iraqi Christians. But Campolo seems left with arguing that Iraq, and Christianity, were better off under Saddam, with all his genocidal murders and authentic tortures.
Campolo further warned of Shiite dominated government in Iraq and prophesied that “if history is to be trusted, Christians will not fare well under Shia law.” What form of Islamic law does Campolo imagine Christians would fare well under? Saudi Arabia’s oppressively theocratic brand of Sunni Islam, under which Christians are banned altogether? But the evangelist does not really want to fault any form of Islamic law as intrinsically problematic for Christians and all religious minorities, lest he distract from targeting the U.S. as the ultimate villain.
“Around the world there are radical Muslim fundamentalists who have responded to our invasion of Iraq, as well as to our general acquiescence in the face of the sufferings of Palestinian people, by declaring a Jihad against Christianity,” Campolo asserted, citing threats to Christians in Indonesia, Sudan, and the Philippines, among others. He faulted “American television preachers” who “foolishly declare Islam to be an evil religion,” and also an American general who supposedly told a U.S. church congregation that “Islam is a creation of Satan.” Campolo was likely referring to now retired Lt. General William Boykin, who in 2003 told a congregation that Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians.... And the enemy is a guy named Satan." Boykin, whose superiors admonished him for not making more clear that he was speaking religiously only for himself and who retired in 2007, did not say, “Islam is a creation of Satan.” As to calling terrorism satanic, or observing that radical Islamists hate America because they associate it with Christianity and Judaism, these points seem indisputable, but troubling to Campolo, because they further distract from his conviction that America invites Islamic rage.
Campolo asked: “Don’t these people realize that there are dire consequences for our missionaries in Muslim countries as a result of such rhetoric?” Undoubtedly, Islamists are further enraged by criticism, especially when amplified by their own propaganda outlets. But Campolo seems not to consider that the contempt for Christianity and Judaism, not to mention America, well predates any recent U.S. military actions. “More than 300 missionaries who had been serving in Pakistan have lost their visas,” Campolo complained, once again faulting current U.S. foreign policy for angering Islamists. But Islamic law, including a ban on “blasphemy” and conversion away from Islam, were instituted in Pakistan in the 1980s by American ally General Zia-ul-Haq's, a recipient of vast U.S. aid, and who assisted in channeling U.S. help to Muslim fighters against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan.
“Christianity is so identified with American power and politics that in some places missionaries are being sent home, not only because they are thought to be people who denigrate Islam, but also because of suspicion that they might even be CIA agents,” Campolo further decried. “Again the question must be raised as to whether or not Christianity is becoming a casualty of the war on terrorism,” and whether Christianity has been “hurt by the failure of leading Evangelical spokespersons to decry how the war on terrorism has been conducted.” Campolo also criticized Evangelical failure to support “moderate Muslims,” while faulting Evangelical “prejudices” that have “driven many Muslim young people into the camps of radicals.”
Campolo concluded: “We have a lot to answer for in the days that lie ahead, and when this war on terrorism ends–if it ever does–in an American victory, we Christians will have to ask ourselves if we were among the major losers.” But perhaps left-leaning Evangelicals like Campolo will also have to answer for their ongoing unwillingness more outspokenly to defend persecuted Christians globally beyond just exploiting them as talking points against U.S. policies. Campolo might also ask himself: If the U.S. ended all armed resistance to terrorism, and abandoned Israel, and even revoked the First Amendment by banishing all criticism of Islam, would radical Islamists then endorse full religious liberty and welcome the Christian missionaries whose fate Campolo ostensibly champions?