Christian fundamentalists expressed anger and hurt last week at being compared to the Taliban.
James Lambert, a contributing writer for AgapePress, said, "Conservative Christian leaders are appalled by such labeling."
AgapePress describes itself as a news service which "focuses on issues that have moral, social, and political implications, and is written from a Christian perspective you cannot find in the secular world." Its news articles appear on the Web sites of the Christian Coalition, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Family Policy Network.
Lambert referred to columns in the San Francisco Examiner and New York Times that compared Christian right extremists to Islamic terrorists. He also cited MSNBC's news show "Hardball," in which host Chris Matthews said that one of Osama bin Laden's videotapes sounded "like the Islamic version of the 700 Club," a Pat Robertson sponsored TV program.
The next day, Baptist Press, the communications arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, carried an article in which Richard Land, an SBC leader also attacked the "liberal media" for comparing Christians with Afghani Islamists.
"The idea of equating Americans—who for moral and religious reasons have grave concerns and objections about cloning and then killing babies to harvest their issue—with the Taliban in Afghanistan is outrageous," said Land.
Earlier in January, Land accused the Democratic Party of religious intolerance because of its alleged plan to compare American religious conservatives to the Taliban. He also criticized President Bush for not backing conservative Christians. Land said, "If he is going to defend Muslims in this country, he needs to defend Christians as well from these kinds of outrageous attacks."
Others within the religious right have also expressed their sense of persecution.
In the February issue of National Liberty Journal, Jerry Falwell wrote, "In America conservative people of faith continue to be the only group that can be rigorously denounced and persecuted without the American Civil Liberties Union stepping in to defend them."
"It has become fashionable to detest and denounce Christians because we adhere to true and defining biblical standards," Falwell wrote.
Following their controversial comments blaming certain Americans for the terrorist attacks, Falwell and Robertson were compared frequently with Islamic fundamentalism.
TomPaine.com carried a picture of both leaders of the religious right beneath large letters that read, "American Taliban." The accompanying article said, "Falwell and Robertson sound like the American Taliban."
Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition," made a similar comparison, referring to "the Revs. Robertson and Falwell and the mullahs of the Taliban."
In a compilation of newspaper editorials about Falwell and Robertson, Americans United for Separation of Church and State titled the piece "America's Taliban?"
Writing for the New York Times Magazine, Andrew Sullivan said the war on terrorism was not a religious war in terms of Islam versus Christianity.
"Rather, it is a war of fundamentalism against faiths of all kinds that are at peace with freedom and modernity," he wrote. "This war even has far gentler echoes in America's own religious conflict—between newer, more virulent strands of Christian fundamentalism and mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism."
Comparing Islamic and Christian fundamentalists is not new.
What is new is the global shift away from tolerating religious intolerance and extremism. With Bush leading the way, the global community is pivoting quickly toward an ethos of pluralism and progress. Such an ethos rejects the arrogant fanaticism of fundamentalism with its virulent opposition to the modern world.
In a world that values pluralism and devalues fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalists lose their support base. What they fear is even more loss of power and access. Their best defense is to attack those who compare them to the Taliban and to cry victim, hoping their expressions of outrage will slow the erosion of toleration for religious intolerance.
Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.
This column is part one of a two-part series. Read part two tomorrow: "911 Ends Christian Fundamentalism, Clouds Future Christian Leadership"