Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The righteous indignation of Nicholas Kristof

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof seems quite pleased with the response from readers disagreeing with his column comparing Christian fundamentalists to jihadists (Kristof's column has rolled into the for-pay archives of the Times).

I don't agree with the eschatology of the Left Behind series either, and my view of how Christ saves is different from Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkins'.

Kristof uses the tactic of an intellectual bully, pulling out a weak reproach and arguing against it as if it were the strongest. Here's the letter:
You’re whining about what’s in the Bible? Like it or not, God does not tolerate sin, nor immorality, and he will do what He says. “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).

As a Christian, this verse is an example of God reaching out and warning us to get with His program. The alternative is eternal punishment. Which will you choose? You can act like the Bible is not true, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is. You’ll see. You really will….

Following Jesus Christ is the only method to Heaven that God allows. Christians didn’t come up with this. It’s in the Bible.

Kristof doesn't show all the letters he received, though he says there were many, but there must have been something better than this. The writer is amost incomprehensible and doesn't understand basic sentence structure and is one of many Christians who takes every opportunity to "witness about Christ," even when it's not the topic at hand. I've run across them, too, and a lot of them think I still need to be "saved," but they're well-meaning and harmless, even if occasionally annoying. These, according to Kristof, are our jihadis. I'll take them.

What Kristof doesn't deal with is the thoughtful, non-sectarian argument of people such as Robert Spencer:
For Mr. Kristof to term this set of novels "militant Christianity," which is somehow equivalent or becoming equivalent to militant Islam, shows that he has not the remotest idea of what the jihadists are really saying, why they are saying it, and how it differs from what Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are saying. This kind of theological equivalence is the idiot stepchild of the moral equivalence that the learned pundits used to preach regarding the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

And just as moral equivalence played into the bloody hands of the Communists, so theological equivalence plays into the hands of the jihadists, attempting as it does to blunt the force of the moral argument against them. Yeah, sure, they preach murder, but hey, look at these novels! A few days after it appeared, Kristof's piece was picked up by the Pakistan News Service and the notorious "Jihad TV network," Al-Jazeera. They know a friend when they see one.

Much easier than dealing with serious argument is to get involved in a spitting match with the letter writer:
That’s representative of a lot of the mail I’m getting, and I hardly know where to begin. Look, Ed, I’m sure you believe in your reading of the Bible, just as I’m sure that white racists honestly believed that the curse of Ham meant that God wanted blacks to be slaves, or just as Crusaders honestly believed that God wanted them to slaughter Muslim civilians, or just as the Taiping rebels in China honestly believed that their leader was Jesus’ younger brother. But pardon me if I have a different reading from theirs -- and yours.

Yes, Nicholas, let's bring up some red herrings about slavery, the Crusades (don't get an Orthodox Christian started on the Crusades!) and the Taiping rebels in China. Nobody cares what your reading of the Bible is. People are angry about your reading of the culture.
Frankly, I don’t see how anybody can read the Bible and emerge thinking that billions of people around the world are going to roast for eternity because they happen to grow up in Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or other traditions.

This is like the bilious arguments that get started on e-mail lists, two steps before the writers start shouting in ALL CAPS AND CALLING EACH OTHER NAZIS!!!
One of the central messages of the New Testament is the importance of love and looking after the poor, and in one of the passages that scholars believe is most likely to be genuinely from Jesus’ lips, Jesus is famously quoted as saying that the test for getting into Heaven is feeding and clothing the poor. I know lots of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews who meet that test better than many Christian fundamentalists.

Thanks for the theology lesson, Bishop Nicholas. That's what we read the Times for.
Frankly, writing a series of best-sellers about non-Evangelicals getting “left behind,” and getting personally rich from the proceeds, doesn’t seem to me a Biblically-inspired path to salvation. And assuming that anyone of a different faith will be damned strikes me as utterly heretical, self-righteous, and mean-spirited.

Ah, is this the rock in the shoe, Nicholas? Envy? The Left Behind authors wrote a series of best-sellers and got rich enough to do whatever they want with their money? Your books got good critical reviews but never showed up in Costco.

And here he proclaims Christian fundamentalists to be heretical and casts them into the outer darkness away from the Church of the Times.

In the meantime, we've forgotten about people whose religion drives them not to write "mean-spirited" books but to fly airplanes into buildings with lots of people in them. But maybe that was the point from the beginning.

SOURCE: Dhimmi Watch

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