The Corner

The Debate Continues

To be honest I haven’t looked at Andrew Sullivan’s debate page much. When I get the chance I will respond to his longer stuff (Right now I’ve got to walk Coz, pack, and head to Atlanta for the Sourthern leg of NRfest ‘05). But he does have an answer for my post yesterday — where I suggested that he seemed to be practicing precisely the sort of moral equivalence he was once so eloquent denouncing after 9/11. He says:

I wrote “Christian fundamentalism” not Christianity; and I wrote “open and proud homosexuality”, not just homosexuality. I completely agree that the murderous threat of Islamist fundamentalism is far graver than the threat of Christian fundamentalism. (Although it’s worth noting that America’s recent domestic terrorism has come from the extreme right, and that Erik Rudolph, a Christian fundamentalist terrorist, specifically targeted gays for murder.) But I also believe that the war against Islamic fundamentalism is indeed linked to the struggle against similar extremists within Christianity. We are in a global war for secular society, in which the search for religious truth is and must be protected but religious truth is not and must not be the basis of a political order. The external enemies of such secularism are far worse than the internal ones. But their ultimate mindset remains the same. It has always struck me as odd that some of those most opposed to Islamist fundamentalism are completely untroubled by the Christian variety. Or maybe Hitch and I are the only ones to see a connection.

If Andrew had written anything like this to start, I never would have commented. That’s not to say that I agree with it. But it’s not what he originally wrote. He wrote:

THE DUTCH CONFLICT: A good friend of mine dares to walk hand in hand with his boyfriend in Amsterdam. Yes, Amsterdam. A “Moroccan-looking” guy with a heavy accent spits at him in the face, mutters something about “f****ing fags”, and then a small gang beats him up. His story is here, including a picture of his bloodied face. Hatred of open and proud homosexuals is intrinsic to Islamist fundamentalism, as it is to Christian fundamentalism. The struggle against both is the same one – at home and abroad.

Anyway, as for his response, fine. But I would add that Erik Rudolph is not a trend. He’s a man. John Ashcroft — the poster child for everything Andrew dislikes about the GOP — very aggressively sought the death penalty for Rudolph and if I recall correctly the “theocrats” didn’t object. Meanwhile, it’s simply not true that terrorism in America has only come from the extreme right. Yes, there was Oklahoma City (though those nutjobs were hardly Christian fundamentalists, and — again — John Ashcroft sought the death penalty to the applause of the supposedly Talibanish GOP). But there was also the Unabomber who was in fact defended — or at least apologized for — by some on the respectable left. Moreover, environmental terrorists groups are a real trend in this country. And, I should add, apologists of foreign terror of the Ward Churchill variety far, far, far outnumber anything of the sort on the right.

Oh, I think I should clarify something myself, particularly in response to the pissy post Andrew links to refute me (interesting where Andrew finds allies these days). When I wrote,

“Christian fundamentalism gave birth to the Protestant reformation, individual liberty, the American nation, the modern American university, and the like. This is not a minor distinction either.”

I should have been more precise. I was in my own mind referring to the sorts of things Andrew calls Christian fundamentalism — i.e. conservatism of faith, politics of faith, using faith to reach policy conclusions etc. I was not trying to discuss the historical concept in and of itself. I do understand that what we call Christian fundamentalism has gone through some changes over the years. Though there is no denying that a politics of faith was behind, for example, the founding of most of our leading universities and liberal arts colleges. And if this Duss guy is a stickler for precision when it comes to use of the term, I assume he’ll be taking a hatchet to Sullivan’s prose any day now. I’d respond more in depth, but Cosmo awaits the park.


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