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Recent anti-fundamentalist trespasses

The Greatest Spin Ever Sold

We journalists look for man-bites-dog stories-unusual events-so it's hardly worth citing the regular babble of anti-Christian bigotry that fills the journals and press releases of the left. So what if Barbara Ehrenreich of The Progressive calls John Ashcroft a "Christian Wahhabist" (referring to Osama bin Laden's Islamic sect) and bin Laden an "Islamic Calvinist"? Ms. Ehrenreich long ago made up her mind: "Islamic and Christian fundamentalists" are all "crabbed and punitive in outlook." So what if three Democratic party strategists-James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Robert Shrum-proclaim at the end of 2001 the need to fight the "religious fundamentalism and fanaticism" of GOP Taliban-like elements? Mr. Carville is always frantic.

It's also no surprise for abortionists like Warren Hearn to be rabid; dismayed when Colorado's governor cut state payments to Planned Parenthood, he said, "Governor Owens has brought the spirit of the Taliban to Colorado." Books could be filled with rants by abortionists like Wayne Goldner, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that anti-abortionists "are no different than Osama bin Laden," or by Planned Parenthood officials like Patricia McGeown, who argued that President Bush's pro-life position connected him to "the Taliban's treatment of women."

Since abortionists and their supporters rarely restrain either their scalpels or their tongues, dozens of articles associating the Taliban with conservatives or the political right have appeared in press databases since Sept. 11. But The New York Times usually is more subdued in its displays of bias, so I have been surprised to see specks of foam around its gums. Here are examples from six Times writers:

  • Five days after the Sept. 11 attacks, correspondent Serge Schmemann wrote that the terrorists opposed "values cherished in the West as freedom, tolerance, prosperity, religious pluralism and universal suffrage, but abhorred by religious fundamentalists (and not only Muslim fundamentalists) as licentiousness, corruption, greed and apostasy." His implication was clear: Conservative Christians in America link liberty to licentiousness and prosperity to greed.
  • The Oct. 7 New York Times magazine ran an Andrew Sullivan essay that labeled the war on terrorism "a religious war-but not of Islam versus Christianity and Judaism. Rather, it is a war of fundamentalism against faiths of all kinds that are at peace with freedom and modernity." His definition of fundamentalism: "The blind recourse to texts embraced as literal truth, the injunction to follow the commandments of God before anything else, the subjugation of reason and judgment and even conscience to the dictates of dogma." Among the blind subjugators of reason: fundamentalist Christians.
  • Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman on Nov. 27 wrote that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all have to choose between "an ideology that accepts religious diversity" and the belief of "Christian and Jewish fundamentalists" that there is "just one religious path." The Times did print a letter by David Zwiebel of the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel that took issue with Mr. Friedman's either/or stipulation. Mr. Zwiebel wrote that the "vision of America as a country where religious belief is welcome only if it abandons claims to exclusive truth is truly chilling-and truly intolerant."
  • Fifty-year-Timesman Anthony Lewis, in his farewell column on Dec. 15, wrote that "the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America, believing that the Bible's story of creation is the literal truth, question not only Darwin but the scientific method that has made contemporary civilization possible." In an interview the following day, Mr. Lewis equated Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft: both men sure of what they believe and thus supportive of indecent and inhumane policies, for "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right."
  • Times columnist Bill Keller staked out a strong, early claim for most mean-spirited column of 2002 when on Jan. 12 he wrote of retiring senators Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms, and Strom Thurmond having "harnessed their collective century of seniority to the Taliban wing of the American right." Mr. Keller complained specifically about items such as "our stingy foreign aid" but gave no evidence of any of the three having acted in any Taliban-esque ways.
  • Times columnist Maureen Dowd on March 21 equated biblical requirements concerning male leadership with "the Taliban obliteration of women." Stories about both U.S. and Islamic religious groups, she concluded, show "how twisted societies become when women are either never seen, dismissed as second-class citizens, or occluded by testosterone."

The beating up on conservative Christians has continued in the Times in recent months, and since it is clearly the most influential publication among journalists and politicians, liberalism's anti-fundamentalist campaign has become general. Here are six examples from other publications:

  • A Washington Post article on Dec. 30 postulated Christian-Muslim equivalence: "Today, there are Christian fundamentalists who attack abortion clinics in the United States and kill doctors; Muslim fundamentalists who wage their sectarian wars against each other...." Editors evidently saw no need to point out that the rare abortionist killings have been condemned widely within Christendom, while the rampant rage within Islam has received broad Muslim encouragement.
  • The Washington Post on Jan. 17 noted that American "religious conservatives" opposed cloning while "[a]t the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others." The Post reporter complained that support for protecting embryos "could legitimize an effort to codify fundamentalist views into law."
  • The Atlantic Monthly's February 2002 cover story, "Oh, Gods!" ended with analysis of how fast Christianity is growing in Africa and South America, and suggested that concern about Islam is overblown, for "the big 'problem cult' of the 21st century will be Christianity." (That's a curious concern, because for years Christianity was attacked for being a "white" religion. But black and brown Christians apparently receive less appreciation when they turn out to be strong opponents of homosexuality and radical feminism.)
  • Time's Margaret Carlson complained on Feb. 20 that John Ashcroft "has a history of using his bully pulpit, as Attorney General, as a pulpit. He has prayer sessions every morning in his office. He doesn't agree, apparently, with pluralism.... He believes that there is one form of religion ... and it should be practiced as an official matter of state." Mr. Ashcroft, of course, has often said exactly the opposite, but Ms. Carlson apparently contends that a government official who prays in his office cannot be pluralistic.
  • The Seattle Post-Intelligencer on March 29 called Supreme Court Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas "spiritual heroes to the Taliban wing of the Republican Party."
  • Sometimes it's hard to know whether liberal publications start a trend and liberal politicians follow, or vice versa. Newsweek's Howard Fineman reported late in 2001 that Democrats will hit Republican candidates before this November's elections with charges that the GOP is "dependent upon an intolerant 'religious right.'" Democratic talking points when "comparing the GOP right with the Taliban," according to Mr. Fineman, will be: "Our enemy in Afghanistan is religious extremism and intolerance. It's therefore more important than ever to honor the ideals of tolerance-religious, sexual, racial, reproductive-at home." Is Newsweek reporting, or suggesting?
Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books: His latest is Abortion at the Crossroads. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.