Christian Zionists and other Dangerous Fundamentalists

Peter Wilson
A friend (who happens to be a rabbi) argued with me recently that "fundamentalism is the greatest danger facing our world."  I responded it was important to differentiate among fundamentalisms; a Muslim fundamentalist will saw off your head with a dull sword, while a Christian fundamentalist will talk to you and try to convert you, at worst.  The former represents a greater danger than the latter.

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll weighed in on the same subject today in his column, Onward, Christian Zionists, which begins: "Fundamentalism is the problem: that assertion defines the diagnostic mantra of Middle East conflict."

Carroll apparently is an expert on diagnostic mantras; according to his website his "writing, and his long work toward Jewish-Christian-Muslim reconciliation, make him a leading voice on the problem of religion and violence -- the subject of his work-in-progress."

Carroll's column tosses off three morally equivalent examples of fundamentalism: "Jewish settlers," "religious jihadists" and "wacky Christians" like "the mentally unbalanced Australian who set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1969."  (Call me Islamophobic, but I am more concerned by al Qaeda than one mentally unbalanced Christian in 1969.) 

The real target of Carroll's essay however is the evil machinations of the religious right.  It seems that Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell teamed up to reinvent "the Republican Party as the vanguard of American Christian nationalism."  In addition to perverting our alliance with Israel, Carroll warns that "openly Christian notes of identity intrude ever more powerfully on the public square, threatening to make faith in Jesus a touchstone of full citizenship."

We live in a country where courts outlaw roadside crosses marking state trooper deaths, where depictions of mangers at Christmas on public land are verboten, where public schools observe Eid, Ramadan winter solstice and Kwanzaa but strike any reference to Christianity out of fear that someone might be offended.  And yet James Carroll, a journalist and scholar of such matters, looks at America in the age of Obama and imagines government authorities questioning a citizen's faith in Jesus.  Given the antipathy toward religion on the religious left, a more likely fantasy is a Un-American Activities-style questioning: "Are you or have you ever been a member of a fundamentalist Christian church?"

Carroll concludes, "American Christian Zionism is a particularly lethal form of contemporary fundamentalism."  It must be comforting to live in a parallel universe where radical Christianity is a greater threat than radical Islam.
A friend (who happens to be a rabbi) argued with me recently that "fundamentalism is the greatest danger facing our world."  I responded it was important to differentiate among fundamentalisms; a Muslim fundamentalist will saw off your head with a dull sword, while a Christian fundamentalist will talk to you and try to convert you, at worst.  The former represents a greater danger than the latter.

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll weighed in on the same subject today in his column, Onward, Christian Zionists, which begins: "Fundamentalism is the problem: that assertion defines the diagnostic mantra of Middle East conflict."

Carroll apparently is an expert on diagnostic mantras; according to his website his "writing, and his long work toward Jewish-Christian-Muslim reconciliation, make him a leading voice on the problem of religion and violence -- the subject of his work-in-progress."

Carroll's column tosses off three morally equivalent examples of fundamentalism: "Jewish settlers," "religious jihadists" and "wacky Christians" like "the mentally unbalanced Australian who set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1969."  (Call me Islamophobic, but I am more concerned by al Qaeda than one mentally unbalanced Christian in 1969.) 

The real target of Carroll's essay however is the evil machinations of the religious right.  It seems that Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell teamed up to reinvent "the Republican Party as the vanguard of American Christian nationalism."  In addition to perverting our alliance with Israel, Carroll warns that "openly Christian notes of identity intrude ever more powerfully on the public square, threatening to make faith in Jesus a touchstone of full citizenship."

We live in a country where courts outlaw roadside crosses marking state trooper deaths, where depictions of mangers at Christmas on public land are verboten, where public schools observe Eid, Ramadan winter solstice and Kwanzaa but strike any reference to Christianity out of fear that someone might be offended.  And yet James Carroll, a journalist and scholar of such matters, looks at America in the age of Obama and imagines government authorities questioning a citizen's faith in Jesus.  Given the antipathy toward religion on the religious left, a more likely fantasy is a Un-American Activities-style questioning: "Are you or have you ever been a member of a fundamentalist Christian church?"

Carroll concludes, "American Christian Zionism is a particularly lethal form of contemporary fundamentalism."  It must be comforting to live in a parallel universe where radical Christianity is a greater threat than radical Islam.