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Monday, November 29, 2004

Coulter Wars

"[Since 9/11] I am often asked if I still think we should invade their
countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is:
Now more than ever!" - Ann Coulter

Over three weeks ago, I added Ann Coulter’s famous remark to my e-mail signature file, thereby placing it in front of several hundred people a week. To date, Mrs. Coulter’s remarks has generated three comments, all negative, and all instructive, though in different ways.

The first remark came from an employee of Library Services Centre of Ontario, Canada. Now librarians (especially Canadian librarians) are notoriously "open-minded," loathe to install anti-pornography filters, always complaining about banned books. But this particular librarian found Ann’s remark to be "offensive and grossly out of line." So, she put me on her banned e-mail list. The irony was absolutely delicious.

The remaining two complaints came from subscribers to Through the Father’s Eyes, a free once-a-week e-mail list that provides early Christian commentary on the Sunday Gospel readings. Two men were upset with the quote.

The first asserted: "As a Catholic living in a Muslim Country , I have to say I take offence immediately … you shouldn't go around killing peoples leaders just because you think their religion is wrong. Jesus NEVER intented any of us to do so. Right and left have no bearing in Christianity, Jesus never asked us to kill leaders, let's leave political comments where they should be. Statements like that not only serve in widening the gap between the Muslim world and the west, but also between the Liberal and Conservatives of America (a country already deeply divided). (sic)"

The statements embody a lot of the muddied thinking popular today when it comes to Islam. I will leave the comment on politics to another essay and begin instead by pointing out that no one advocates killing Muslim leaders simply because Muslim faith is erroneous. After all, Hindu, Buddhist, pantheist and most Christian faiths are each wrong to some degree too. Rather, killing Muslim leaders becomes palatable precisely because of how the Muslims are wrong.

Now, it is immediately necessary to make a distinction. What kind of Muslims are we talking about here? There are essentially two kinds: good Muslims who do their best to be orthodox and follow all the precepts of their faith (whether Sunni, Shiite, etc.), and bad Muslims who do not follow all Muslim precepts, but who instead seek some kind of accommodation with the larger world. No one has a quarrel with bad Muslims. It is the good Muslims that pose the problems.

Good Muslims
Like Communism, Catholicism and democracy, good Muslims have a consistent world-view. Like Communists, Catholics and Americans, good Muslims intend their version of the law to be the standard of law throughout the world and they work towards imposing it upon the world.

Unfortunately, sharia, Muslim religious law, is not acceptable to Christian democracy. Sharia allows children to be whipped to death for breaking Ramadan fast, women to be beaten to death by their husbands for the smallest infraction, marriage by the age of six is alright, sex with a child of nine is fine, adoption is illegal, prostitution to service soldiers is legal, polygamy is acceptable, a husband can invoke divorce by simply by repeating the word "divorce" three times. A woman’s testimony in court is not equal to a man’s, she can be stoned to death for being raped, she can be raped in order to punish her relatives for their infractions. Slavery is legal (the very word "Islam" means "submit"), slave armies were and are common under Islam, and male slaves are not uncommonly completely castrated, with every vestige of external genitalia cut away. Women, slave or free, are likewise often subjected to partial or complete removal of external genitalia.

These are just some of the highlights. There are more. Any group who intends to impose that kind of law on the rest of the world has to be stopped.

While it is true that right and left have no bearing on Christianity, right and wrong most certainly do. Jesus did not cry out for the deaths of any religious leaders, but neither did He condemn the crucifixions that occurred regularly under Roman rule. That is, He apparently saw nothing wrong when the state took necessary steps to protect itself from outside attack. Islam is precisely an outside attack on both democracy and Christianity. Unfortunately, this makes good Muslims the threat: criminals who must either be converted from their worldview or be removed.

The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. The Mormons practiced polygamy. Muslims practice sharia. Contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. Government cannot and does not allow every form of religious expression to exist. Aztec worship has never been practiced here, Mormons had to seriously modify their religious views to survive as a religion, and the Muslim faith cannot be practiced here either.

Now, at this point, one might interpose an objection. On what grounds would we call Osama bin Laden a "good Muslim" who is attempting to follow the precepts of Islam faithfully, while calling others "bad Muslims" or accomodationists? The question is a fair one.

Jesus vs. Mohammed
In Christianity, every Christian believer models his life on Christ. In Islam, every Muslim models his life on Mohammed. On that, all are agreed. Mohammed was the first ruler and interpreter of Islam. He is the one who married a six year old, had sex with her when she was nine, advocated beating wives, allowed his henchmen to beat their own wives to death and rewarded them with more wives after. Subsequently, his role of interpretation and rule over Islam fell to the caliphs. So, just as we must look at historical Christendom to help us understand what Christian Faith teaches, so we must look at historical Islam to determine what Islam is.

The first thirty leaders of Christendom, the popes, were all martyred for the Faith. The first dozen caliphs were all assassinated. Indeed, the word "assassin" was invented by the Muslims. This is informative. Christianity spread through the Roman Empire through proclamation and martyrdom. Islam spread through North Africa and Spain primarily through the sword. While we can point to many historical instances of Christians who committed crimes against both God and man, we can also demonstrate that these crimes were in contravention to Christian teaching. With Islam, the reverse is true.

Indeed, history shows us this much: when Christians disobey Christian teaching, people suffer and die. When Muslims disobey Muslim teaching, people live.

Today, the office of caliph is empty and there is no one to fill it. Thus, anyone who says that Osama bin Laden is not following true Islam is saying this on his own authority, which is to say, on no authority at all. Osama is as authentically Muslim as any number of his predecessors in jihad. Whatever one may wish to say of him, this cannot be denied.

So, the divide between liberal and conservative, between Muslims and the rest of the world, is not a divide that can be bridged. There can be no accommodation between a faith that models itself on adoption and monogamy (Christianity) and a faith that models itself on slavery and polygamy.

The Second Objection
And this is the beginning of the answer to the second man’s objection. When a priest from Uraguay asserted that conversion cannot be forced, that it must be based on love and not war, he was partially correct.
It is true that conversion cannot be forced. Catholic Faith, for instance, has always held a forced baptism to be no baptism at all. However, the proposed dichotomy between love and war is simply false.

"God chastises those whom He loves" says the letter to the Hebrews, and it makes for some interesting conclusions. The Christ who wielded a bullwhip in the Temple, who called Jewish leaders "blind guides," "den of vipers," and "hypocrites," the Christ who said to them, "Who told YOU that you could escape from the coming destruction?" and who predicted the total destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem, this is not someone who seems averse to war. Indeed, He asserted that He would bring a war like no other, that because of Him father and son would oppose one another, mother and daughter combat one another, He said He came into the world to bring not peace, but the sword.

When Christ whipped those men, He did it because He loved them. One could easily argue that He loved the Jewish leaders more than He did the Jewish population precisely because He chastised them more than anyone else. Similarly, He loved the Jewish population more than the Gentiles because that population was more thoroughly chastised than any Gentile.

When war is waged in order to protect the innocent and turn the wicked from their ways, it is an expression of love. That is why St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, could demand a sinner be turned out of the community, turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his soul might be saved on the last day. This kind of language is precisely the kind of language the earliest Christians used constantly in explaining the Gospels. They understood that war is necessary because love sometimes requires it.

That understanding has never left Catholic Faith. G. K. Chesterton quotes St. Louis, who followed St. Paul one thousand years later, as saying, "I must either convince the pagan (Muslim) of the rightness of Catholic Faith or thrust my sword through his body as far as it will go." St. Louis was just paraphrasing St. Paul. Ann Coulter simply repeats the wisdom of both. History demonstrates the problem: while Islam and Christendom are both in the world, there will be war.

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