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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Religious Right Didn't Kill George Tiller

"The Religious Right Didn't Kill George Tiller," by James Kirchick in the June 3 Wall Street Journal, is a powerful piece.

Kirchick is an assistant editor of the liberal New Republic magazine and a contributing writer to The Advocate, which is a national gay newsmagazine.

An excerpt:
...Within hours after the murder [of abortion doctor George Tiller], every antiabortion group in the country denounced the attack...

...These unqualified reproaches are nothing new. The organized antiabortion movement has always opposed violence against abortion providers. That has never stopped opportunistic prochoice activists, however, from conflating their passionate rhetoric with the behavior of individual criminals. True to form, on Sunday, Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star accused anyone who had criticized Tiller as a murderer (Tiller aborted healthy, nine-month old fetuses) of being an "accomplice" to his death.

Over the past decade this argumentative tactic has taken on an even more insidious twist. In addition to fighting violent, Muslim jihadists abroad, some liberals argue that America must deal with its own, homegrown terrorists. These are not just people who commit violence but millions of socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics -- "Christianists" -- who comprise the base of the Republican Party and threaten the stability of the country.

In 2007, former New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Hedges published a book called "American Fascists" that compared conservative evangelicals to European brownshirts of the 1920s and 1930s. That same year, CNN's Christiane Amanpour hosted a three-part series, "God's Warriors," that equated Christian (and Jewish) fundamentalists with Muslim extremists...

...But if the reactions to the death of Tiller mean anything, the "Christian Taliban," as conservative religious figures are often called, isn't living up to its namesake. If "Christianists" were anything like actual religious fascists they would applaud Tiller's murder as a "heroic martyrdom operation" and suborn further mayhem...

...There is no appreciable number of people in this country, religious Christians or otherwise, who support the murder of abortion doctors. The same cannot be said of Muslims who support suicide bombings in the name of their religion.

Yet speak of the disproportionately violent strain in Islam to a "progressive" person and you'll be met with sneering recitations of millennia-old Christian crusades or Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As for conservative Christians' contemporary political endeavors, lobbying to ban the teaching of evolution in schools or forbidding same-sex marriage simply does not threaten society in quite the same way as the genital mutilation of young girls or the bombing of the London transit system.

I happen to support a legal regime that would, in Bill Clinton's famous words, keep abortion safe, legal and rare. I hold no brief for the religious right, and its views on homosexuality in particular offend (and affect) me personally. But it's precisely because of my identity that I consider comparisons between so-called Christianists (who seek to limit my rights via the ballot box) and Islamic fundamentalists (who seek to limit my rights via decapitation) to be fatuous.

In the coming days, we will hear more about how mainstream conservative organizations and media personalities created an "environment" in which the murder of an abortion doctor became an inevitability. Just as talk radio was blamed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an attempt will be made to extend the guilt for this crime from the individual who pulled the trigger to the conservative movement writ large. But the Christian right's responsible reaction to the death of George Tiller should put to rest the lie that Judeo-Christian extremists are anywhere near as numerous or dangerous as those of the Muslim variety.
Read it all here.

P.S. If you are interested at all in former New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Hedges' book, "American Fascists," you can read a review I wrote of it in the Washington Examiner here.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:09 AM

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