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Randall Balmer: Good News About Evangelicals, Bad News for Bush

posted by God's Politics

A new poll suggests that fully 60 percent of white evangelical voters now oppose sending more troops to Iraq. That can be nothing but good news for those who seek to take seriously the teachings of Jesus (though one wonders about the remaining 40 percent). Why the sudden turnabout – especially since white evangelicals overwhelmingly supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the progenitor of the Iraq deception, George W. Bush, during the presidential election the following year?

Anyone who seeks to apply generalizations to the internally diverse movement that is American evangelicalism will come away frustrated. Still, it may be instructive to speculate on this dramatic change of heart.

We should point out, first of all, that white evangelicals are not alone in their disaffection with the war and, more generally, with the present administration. Some of this can be chalked up to the predictable cycle of presidential politics; most presidents encounter a dip in popularity midway through their second terms. Besides, who isn’t beginning to tire of this administration’s litany of deceptions and prevarications?

Still, the disillusionment with the war, according to this same survey, is slightly more pervasive among white evangelicals than it is even among self-described conservatives (52 percent). This suggests that there may finally be an awakening of conscience among American evangelicals.

It’s about time. For centuries Christians have talked about the phenomenon of a “just war,” and various criteria have been established to determine whether or not military action is morally justified. Is it a defensive war, for instance? Is the deployment of military forces the last resort? Has every alternative been exhausted? Is the use of force roughly proportional to the (supposed) provocation? Have provisions been taken, as much as possible, to protect civilians from collateral damage?

No one has yet persuaded me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.

The other factor that may explain this shift in attitudes about the war may be wishful thinking on my part, but I’d like to believe that evangelicals are reconsidering what it means to be truly “pro-life.” It’s one thing to construct a moral case against abortion (a case with which I generally sympathize), but if those scruples have no bearing on your attitudes toward war or capital punishment or torture, then it amounts to little more than, to use St. Paul’s phrase, “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

(In the course of writing “Thy Kingdom Come,” I asked eight Religious Right groups to send me a copy of their organization’s position on the use of torture. Only two responded, and both supported the Bush administration’s policies on torture!)

At the very least, these survey results suggest that the stranglehold that leaders of the Religious Right have held over America’s evangelicals is beginning to loosen. As evangelicals continue to think more critically, and to reclaim their birthright as people of the Book, they are increasingly calling into question the “orthodoxies” of the Religious Right – the opposition to environmental protection, the (at least tacit) support for torture, and the morality of the war in Iraq.

That sounds like good news to me.


Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, is professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School, and the author, most recently, of Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical’s Lament (Basic Books). He is also a member of the Red Letter Christians.



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kevin s.

posted January 22, 2007 at 9:22 pm


One has to wonder about the other 40 percent huh? Because if you have a different position on a foreign policy issue, you are disinterested in Christ’s teachings? You don’t even need to make the case that this is so? Alright then, let me play. People who wear black shoes care about Jesus. People who wear brown shoes do not. See how easy it is to make a point when you needn’t worry about contributing anything factual to the debate? The people on this board who bandy about the term Republ-Nazi will find comfort in this article, but if that is your core audience, than everything I believe about this movement is true. This article represents the very worst of this movement’s penchant shallow invective>



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Wolverine

posted January 22, 2007 at 9:37 pm


Kevin, You may recall Prof. Ballmer from an earlier dust-up over the response of Christian groups to torture. Anyway, if memory serves, there was some controversy over whether these two groups actually supported the use of torture. At least now we have something closer to the truth in that department. Maybe they aren’t citing facts, but at least they aren’t making them up[ of thin air, so we’re making progress. Wolverine>



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kevin s.

posted January 22, 2007 at 9:41 pm


Oh, was he the “dozen evangelical leaders” guy that Tony Campolo was talking about? BS begets BS, I suppose.>



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Kris Weinschenker

posted January 22, 2007 at 10:03 pm


Amazing how worked up some Christians get about “torture” of suspected terrorists when police tactics used in THIS country amount to “torture”. And there is Rigoberto Alpizar, the missionary who was essentially murdered by Sky Marshalls at Miami Airport in late 2005. No Christians (besides me) seem to upset about THOSE Gestapo tactics.>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 22, 2007 at 10:54 pm


“A new poll suggests that fully 60 percent of white evangelical voters now oppose sending more troops to Iraq. That can be nothing but good news for those who seek to take seriously the teachings of Jesus (though one wonders about the remaining 40 percent) “ Really? Opposing the sending of more troops to Iraq can’t be anything but good news? For whom? Maybe the survey just reported what it reported– numbers and statistics actually don’t suggest anything. Simply opposing the Presiden’ts plan to send more troops to Iraq is no guarantee of good news for anyone except Al Qaeda, Muqtada al-Sadr, and other militias that oppose freedom and seek to murder anyone who disagrees with them Opposing the sending of more troops isn’t necessarily any evidence that Jesus’ teaching has even been considered, let alone taken seriously. Neither is being disaffected with the war and the President. It might just as readily be seen as a sign that the conscience of American Evangelicals is in the process of falling asleep, as one that may be “awakening.” “It’s about time. For centuries Christians have talked about the phenomenon of a “just war,” and various criteria have been established to determine whether or not military action is morally justified. Is it a defensive war, for instance? Is the deployment of military forces the last resort? Has every alternative been exhausted? Is the use of force roughly proportional to the (supposed) provocation? Have provisions been taken, as much as possible, to protect civilians from collateral damage? No one has yet persuaded me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.” Well, no one has convinced me that opposing the war and opposing the sending of more troops has anything to do with Just War criteria either. Are the Iraqi people to be allowed to defend themselves against Al Qaeda, Muqtada, and other militias? What alternative do opposed evangelicals offer them? Forget about concern for “collateral” damage- Whenthe intention is to blow up anyone in a crowd and kill asmany people as possible there is no such thing as collateral damage. What provisions are evangelicals who oppose the presence of American troops suggesting to protect civillians from intential and deliberate mass murder? The President offers the Iraqi people alternatives, and American troops -all volunteers- risk their lives to offer those options and protections. Maybe if those opposing the presence of US troops demonstrated any willingness to risk anything at all on behalf of Iraqis they would be taken more seriously.>



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Wolverine

posted January 22, 2007 at 11:05 pm


Here’s the thing about the polls: Because the Democrats don’t have the courage of their convictions, they have thus far settled on a non-binding resolution against the war rather than cutting off funds for operations in Iraq. That means the surge will go forward. If it works — admittedly a big if — you can expect to see those poll nubers turn right around faster than you can say “non-binding resolution”. Which leads me to another question: Has Sojourners called the Democrats for that failure? If not, why not? Wolverine>



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mingus

posted January 22, 2007 at 11:32 pm


“That means the surge will go forward. If it works — admittedly a big if — you can expect to see those poll nubers turn right around faster than you can say “non-binding resolution”.” if you think a troop “surge” this late in the game might actually work, you are going to be disappointed. i’ll meet you on the first flight to baghdad to congratulate you on your president’s victory.>



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mingus

posted January 22, 2007 at 11:40 pm


“The people on this board who bandy about the term Republ-Nazi will find comfort in this article, but if that is your core audience, than everything I believe about this movement is true.” kevin, there is ONE person here who uses that term. there are one or two people that insult you and the other conservative voices. stop trying to paint all of us with the same brush.>



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mingus

posted January 22, 2007 at 11:42 pm


“This suggests that there may finally be an awakening of conscience among American evangelicals.” AMEN>



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Payshun

posted January 23, 2007 at 12:16 am


Kevin, I have never called you out of your name. We have disagreed a great deal but I have been quite respectful and praised you often. Not to mention I am the only green to date on this board so…don’t play the victim card over one person calling you names. There are plenty of us that respect you enough to have a conversation. p>



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robstur

posted January 23, 2007 at 12:26 am


Is it a defensive war, for instance? Well we have been attacked by radicals that have ties and associations with other radical groups and hate the US and our allies. It might be time that we did answer their attacks on us somewhat don t know how long we will let the bully attack, kill and destroy us and others around us? We can play patsy a little more and let them go on killing 1000 s of their own no skin off our nose. Maybe we should remove the passages from the Bible that call for us to protect the widow and orphan and that we are our brother s keeper and maybe his protector. Is the deployment of military forces the last resort? Oh sure we could have gone through another 15 20 UN resolutions. While we did that they will develop more means to wreak havoc around the world. Has every alternative been exhausted? Depends upon what your definition of alternative and exhausted is? We can talk more about what they are doing and what should be done to stop them. We could send more people over there and ask them please and see what they say to us. Is the use of force roughly proportional to the (supposed) provocation? They have a stick we get a stick. They use gas and chemicals against us we use the same against them. This proportional idea is garbage. This was one of the major problems with Viet Nam. If you have exhausted all alternatives and you are going into armed conflict you do it with superior weapons and take out their ability to fight as quickly as you can to limit the number of causalities on both sides. If you go into armed conflict – you go to win and not fight for an ‘armistice’. Have provisions been taken, as much as possible, to protect civilians from collateral damage? If we had the technology in WWII that we have today the war would have been a lot shorter. It is hard to take provisions to protect civilians when they use them as shields and set up their cannons in housing developments. No one has yet persuaded me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria. And we never will. That is OK because you are entitled to your opinions and ideals. I believe that if in fact this was WWII we would not fight. Hitler would have established his Third Reich in Europe and elsewhere. Sleep well tonight we are safe. (for now)>



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kevin s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 12:30 am


Payshun I don’t consider myself a victim at all. I don’t care if I get called a Republi-Nazi. I am aware that there are plenty of folks who disagree with me but are capable of doing so with civility. My point was that this article falls into the same category of shallow name-calling. Sorry if you felt like I was painting you with a brush. I may not have been clear.>



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Bill Samuel

posted January 23, 2007 at 1:19 am


Randall Balmer, thanks for your message. We need to continue to help all Christians, including evangelicals, search the Gospel seriously for its transforming message that will always be at odds with what the rulers of this world present. The point another person made about the failure of Sojourners to point out the weak response of the Democrats is a good one. We have two war parties. Not only are the Democrats reluctant to out the power of the purse behind their rhetoric on Iraq, but in both Houses Democrats are accusing the Administration of providing too little for militarism. Sojourners has refused to utter any criticism at all of devoting vast resources to the planning and accomplishing of mass killing. Where are its Christian convictions?>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 23, 2007 at 2:22 am


Randall Balmer, thanks for your message. Which message was that? -that being opposed to sending more troops was “nothing but good news” for people that that take Jesus teaching seriously? or that it was “bad news for Bush” Either way I miss any connection to Jesus message. The Gospel isn’t spread by “being against.” Being opposed to all the rulers of the world isn’t any improvement over being against Republicans, Conservatives, and George Bush. Al Qaeda opposes “what the rulers of the world present.” So does Hugo Chavez.>



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Mike Hayes

posted January 23, 2007 at 4:12 am


“It’s about time. For centuries Christians have talked about the phenomenon of a “just war,” and various criteria have been established to determine whether or not military action is morally justified. Is it a defensive war, for instance? Is the deployment of military forces the last resort? Has every alternative been exhausted? Is the use of force roughly proportional to the (supposed) provocation? Have provisions been taken, as much as possible, to protect civilians from collateral damage? No one has yet persuaded me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.” I agree.>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:02 am


No one has yet persuaded me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.” I agree That’s good, Mike. Now what? What are you agreeing to? Do you know what Randall has proposed by way of protecting Iraqi citizens from dedicated mass murderers? Heard any ideas from Jim Wallis besides the non-existant inter-national police force and recommending dialogue with people who refuse to have dialogue? Any ideas of your own? Does taking Jesus teaching seriously mean that Christians just nead to say they oppose any military action of the US, and then we can wash our hands of whatever happens because we opposed it? Should American Christians oppose military protection of the US too, unless it is by some international police force that the UN sanctions? What about plain old ordinary robbers and murderers? What do you think Jesus taught about that? Maybe we should oppose all armies and all police forces everywhere?>



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kevin s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:12 am


I have wondered where that international police force is supposed to come from. Probably from the same place that Darfur police force should come from, yah?>



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robstur

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:27 am


I call it the Pontius Syndrome. The left/dems say one thing. the right/reps say another. You don’t want to offend the one or look like you are supporting the other. So you wax eloquently rhetoric that rarely has a bottom line that everyone can understand and then ask for the basin and towel and say – I wash my hands of it – do what you will. Seems to work for most of the writers on Sojo…and then we posters have to figure out what they were saying – whatever. .>



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Mike Hayes

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:42 am


http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/01/22/zawahiri.video/index.html includes a threat from Ayman al-Zawahiri, as follows: “Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops’ dead bodies? Send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the mujahedeen to free the world from your evil and theirs because Iraq, the land of the caliphate and jihad, is able to bury 10 armies like yours, with God’s help and power.” How do people become so consumed with hate? It seems to me that hatred has overtaken his life… he apparently has no life… except to wish death and destruction on any person or any country that does not endorse a fundamentalist version of Islam. I wonder how many Muslims buy into the message of hate from al Qaeda… my guess is that those Muslims who live in a modern society feel pretty much the same about the radical message as we do…>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:55 am


You don’t want to offend the one or look like you are supporting the other….Seems to work for most of the writers on Sojo… Ummm- Not to be argumentative– but I haven’t noticed much concern from any Sojo writers about offending the President or anyone who doesn’t think he’s some variety of mis-guided, arrogant, ignorant, autocrat. The one that really gets me is after four years of that, the same people suggest that he use the moral authority of the Presidency and the US to save the day in Darfur. Exactly how would Jim Wallis go about explaining at a UN Assembly that he believes people should listen to and respect the moral leadership of the US? But- not to repeat myself– where is, who is this International Police Force? Who is it responsible to? Who pays the bill– anybody know any multi-billionaire evangelicals? Anybody have any idea of the cost of equipping and training a force capable of responding anywhere in the world- and attempting to deal with forces supported and equipped by other nation states (who are also UN members)? How about intelligence–and what if they get it wrong– then do we hear how we were lied to and misled by our international police force?>



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Anonymous

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:59 am


Don’t you watch 24? Jim Wallis wants Jack Bauer to save Darfur.>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:18 am


I wonder how many Muslims buy into the message of hate from al Qaeda… my guess is that those Muslims who live in a modern society feel pretty much the same about the radical message as we do… How many buy into it? I would say–too many. Enough to blow up several US embassies, a ship, the WTC twice, hotels in Bali, subways in London,trains in Spain, thousands of Iraqis who have tried to become policemen or judges, or just go to market places, or funerals for other people already murdered…. On the other hand, extremist Islamists would say not enough. Evidently we have reached a condition where enough Muslims buy into it and enough non-Muslims either ignore it or listen to Sojourners and the rest of mainline American Churches who think that the solution is for Americans to beat our breast and blame ourselves for the propensity to mass murderer of extremist Islamism. In any event, wherever they have come to power, they kill anyone who feels anything remotely like “the way we do”– and, for that matter,they kill anyone who wants to live in a “modern society.” I’m betting they would blow up anybody who suggested anything about international police forces, too. Not even if,but especially if they were Muslim international police forces.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:20 am


“Amazing how worked up some Christians get about “torture” of suspected terrorists when police tactics used in THIS country amount to “torture”.” R. Weinhagen Can you define these police tactics?>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:40 am


“Sorry if you felt like I was painting you with a brush. I may not have been clear.” Kevin you are completely clear using the same old Republi-Nazi strategy, the victim card.>



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jesse

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:44 am


And by “supporting the Bush administration’s policies on torture” I’m guessing they explicitly condemned torture (which I know at least one of the respondents did) and supporting Bush. I guess that means supporting torture in some quarters. And for Tony Campolo, of course, that means they UNANIMOUSLY supported torture. I’m still waiting for Campolo or Sojo to issue a correction and apology for this bit of slander. Campolo’s claim is contradicted here by the man whose research he cited.>



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R. Weinhagen

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:53 am


Get your citations straight, Butch. You’re victimizing me by mixing me up with some other Republi-Nazi. I’m an Independe-Nazi. I’m voting write-in for Jack Bauer in ’08. He only tortures really bad bad guys– plus he feels bad about it.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:07 am


Wein, true my mistake! My question should have be addressed to Kris Weinschenker who said; “Amazing how worked up some Christians get about “torture” of suspected terrorists when police tactics used in THIS country amount to “torture”.” Can you define these police tactics?>



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Donny

posted January 23, 2007 at 1:43 pm


If you take seriously the teachings of Jesus, then you cannot possibly support Liberal-Democrats. If you take seriously the teachings of Jesus, you will see how wrong Jim Wallis is about whatever his religion really is, “if,” he is pretending irt is based on the Gospels. Democrats support and promote the very things that destroy a pure walk with Christ. Pretty tough to take serioulsy the teachings of Christ and agree with anything the progressives peddle. These neo-Marxists have nothing good in store for those that take seriously the teachings of Jesus. Nice try yet again Mr. Wallis in preaching what secular itching ears want to hear. Try your “Progressive” ideology on the Muslims. They are the ones slaughtering people in the name of a religion. Maybe not as many people that have fall in the progressive abortion mills and who have died from STD’s in living the anything goes life of Liberalism, but Muslims are pretty close in the death market to you Progressives.>



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splinterlog

posted January 23, 2007 at 1:50 pm


Prof Balmer, I read your first book years ago as an undergraduate and it was a great blessing. Thanks for another thoughtful piece. It seems as though there are many conservative/evangelicals out, like the ones I know and meet in Chuch, who are guided by their conscience rather than by knee-jerk political rationalisations. That’s a great deal more than I can say for some of the regulars on this blog.>



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Donny

posted January 23, 2007 at 2:57 pm


The good news preached by heretics like Balmer, only settles the issue for people that would have joined Nero at his orgies. Evangelicals do not join in with what these new style “Progressives” peddle, becuase the new Progressive represent what Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Jude, Luke and the other originators of New Testament truth reject. They think they can attach abominations and those that willingly choose them with the freeing of slaves. Killing unborn children, and marriage defined as “anything goes” is as anti-Christian as it gets. Progressives may fool Christians for a short time – and over the war issue who can blame Christians for leaning left – but when they peddle their promotion of sin in a good Church, they will be rejected like the reprobates that they are. Bottom line is, that Progressives are nothing more than re-hashed pagan and hedonistic Romans. They hoodwink gullible 18-22 year old youngsters by giving them “Anything Goes” as a modern science fact. They reject the Gospel for their edited and secularized insanity to ease their seared minds. All the college employees in the world cannot alter the truth of God. “Progressive,” is just a neologism to hide the “Questioner” of all rejection of God’s ways. Books by Progressives always do the same thing. Make secularists feel good. Of course this is accomplished by altering Biblical truth to appease a hedonistic and hungry populace, striving to not hear anything about repentance for behaviors and actions denounced by every voice “in” the New Testament. From the Gospels to Jude, the New Testament “record” stands in opposition to what Progressives are attemtping to accomplish in peddling lies as the truth.>



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splinterlog

posted January 23, 2007 at 3:09 pm


The good news preached by heretics like Balmer, only settles the issue for people that would have joined Nero at his orgies. HAHA, Donny it just keeps getting better and better. You’re like the Stephen Colbert of this blog :)>



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kevin s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 3:52 pm


“my guess is that those Muslims who live in a modern society feel pretty much the same about the radical message as we do…” You don’t have to guess. There is plenty of polling data available, particularly of Muslims in Europe. The numbers are unsettling, to say the least.>



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JCS

posted January 23, 2007 at 4:12 pm


Who got us into this mess? You’re Intelligent. Figure it Out. “>http://www.rense.com/general75/neneb.htm>



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mingus

posted January 23, 2007 at 4:32 pm


“”my guess is that those Muslims who live in a modern society feel pretty much the same about the radical message as we do…” You don’t have to guess. There is plenty of polling data available, particularly of Muslims in Europe. The numbers are unsettling, to say the least.” any guesses what led to these feelings of resentment and hatred? perhaps 100+ years of oppressive european, american, and soviet foreign policy and greed has something to do with it? (a foreign policy we’ve shown no interest in changing, thanks to the cheney doctrine). of course, donny has a compelling argument: muslims = bad.>



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kevin s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:24 pm


Mingus, I think your argument is oversimplistic. It boils down to America = Bad. But this doesn’t explain, for example, the appalling treatment of Buddhists in Indonesia. Further, it does not explain the fact that more than one-third of Muslims in France believe it is okay to target civilians to defend Islam, or that more than half of Europeans Muslims don’t even believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. There is a scary disconnect from reality that cannot be explained away simply by evoking Dick Cheney’s name. I don’t say that because I am racist, or because I hate people, though I do hate Islam as a religion, as does God, if you belive the Bible. I say this because we have some realities that we need to confront that don’t necessarily comport with the “white oppressor” narrative.>



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Donny

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:42 pm


Islam = bad. For anyone that disagrees with Islam. The peace in Islam is everyone being a Muslim or dead. Pretty simple. I reject the Colbert comparison. The guy is blind and deaf. Let him maock Islam in his background set design . . . Colbert is the garden-variety leftie, babbling and goofy, making money while Al Quaeda, Progressives and Democrats (redundant I know) scheme to destroy America. I on the other hand know exactly what is going on and by whom it is happening. I believe the Bible’s reporting.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 5:52 pm


I knew as soon as I saw the title that it would bring out the Republi-Nazi’s in force. They scream so loud that there is no room for thoughtful discussion.>



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mingus

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:08 pm


kevin, you’re putting words in my mouth. i never said it was nearly that simple. all i said was that we share some of the blame for the rise of islamic terrorism, and in particular, the rise of popular support for terrorist groups. in the mind of many middle easterners, who (correctly!) see our foreign policy as having been, at best, ignorant of their culture, and at worst, hostile to it, these militant terrorist groups are seen as the robin hoods of the muslim world. cheney’s 1% doctrine ignores the consequences of gearing up, flexing our military might, and invading an islamic nation. insurgency? islamic civil war? more popular islamic support for terrorism? who could’ve foreseen that? well… anyone who looks at history. the current administration has proven to be uninterested in learning from history.>



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mingus

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:20 pm


we can’t change the foreign policy mistakes of our past. we CAN decide to not make the same mistakes in the future. the only reason i “evoked” dick cheney’s name was because it is HIS foreign policy doctrine that has led us into iraq and defined the parameters of our current foreign policy wrt the middle east. it is a dangerous foreign policy that ignores the past and dooms us to repeat the mistakes that got us here, only with much graver consequences. but perhaps we’re past the point of being able to do anything about it anyway…>



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Godwin

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:34 pm


“I knew as soon as I saw the title that it would bring out the Republi-Nazi’s in force. They scream so loud that there is no room for thoughtful discussion.” As though your use of “Republi-Nazi” qualifies as thoughtful!>



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kevin s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 6:55 pm


Mingus, Your are engaging a different discussion entirely. My point was in reference to Michael’s assumption that mainstream Islam rejects extremist Islam. But the issue is not so clear cut, which is part of the problem we are facing.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 7:23 pm


Godwin, it is very thoughtful, I read every post and that is my simple view. They make every excuse possible for our grave errors in foreign policy, which includes Iraq. The normal method is to move the discussion away from our behavior to something else such as Muslims or Clinton, etc. We must act not react to Muslims radicals, Clinton is gone. Muslim radicals are no different than what was the radical right/conservative Christians. Now the conservative Christians are moving, having experienced the results of anointing Bush.>



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Godwin

posted January 23, 2007 at 7:37 pm


“The normal method is to move the discussion away from our behavior to something else such as Muslims or Clinton, etc.” Would Republi-Nazi qualify as one of these distractors? Are you aware of Godwin’s Law?>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 7:43 pm


I’m very aware of Godwin’s law, it does not change the validity of my term to describe those who are here to confuse, divert the discussion from real issues I still feel that is it accurate.>



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Godwin

posted January 23, 2007 at 7:59 pm


Sigh!>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm


Prof. Balmer, Speaking as one who learned much from “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” thanks for such a thoughtful piece.>



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mingus

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:36 pm


“Your are engaging a different discussion entirely.” umm… okay, then why did you respond to my original post regarding the reasons why many mainstream muslims do NOT reject extremist islam? i think they’re related, but if you don’t want to have that discussion, no problem.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:43 pm


There is always group think at work, I have been very opposed to the Christian Right but I haven’t marched in front of their chruches. I have engaged many in person or small groups. We don’t know what moderate Muslims are doing privately. I talked to a Iranian cleric who told me that most Iranians love Americans and opposed radical Muslims.>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:46 pm


Frankly, I don’t care if most “average” Muslims (whatever that means) say to a pollster that they “support”/”don’t oppose”/”are sympathetic to” radical Islamicists. How many of them are willing to _act_ on that belief? To be a suicide bomber? To risk all for that kind of Islam? Very few, because large parts of the Islamic world are quite calm.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:48 pm


What then do you care about?>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:49 pm


The people who are actually willing to martyr themselves for the cause and their financial backers.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:51 pm


Can you define who you think those people are?>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:52 pm


Al-Quaida for one.>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:54 pm


Where are they?>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:55 pm


This is getting tiresome. What’s your point Butch?>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Move on to something higher on your priority list.>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 9:00 pm


I’ll refrain from suggesting that you insert one of your body parts into another body part. Some of us are interested in dialog; if this is just a way of killing time for you, then why don’t you start collecting stamps?>



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butch

posted January 23, 2007 at 9:04 pm


Is asking questions to learn what you think or want to accomplish a dialog.>



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keivn s.

posted January 23, 2007 at 9:28 pm


Mingus, It’s not that I don’t want to talk about the merits of the war, it’s just that it has been discussed, and I think we have to agree to disagree on that one. My point, and I think the polls shows this, is that moderate Muslims are not moderate at all. Many see violence as an acceptable means of defending Islam. These aren’t political protests. Carl, to your point, I think that you could take the number of people willing to strap a bomb to themselves as a function of the number of people who consider such an action ethically reasonable. People of Muslim faith need to take some ownership of their more radical fringes, and work for change. Christians need to do this as well (and, I would argue, we have). When the majority of them do not believe that, for example, Arabs were involved in the 9/11 attacks, we are not seeing this owernship.>



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Carl Copas

posted January 23, 2007 at 9:33 pm


Kevin, you have a thoughtful and plausible point about people willing to commit suicide as a function of people who would consider it ethically reasonable. It might be a case of “silence is consent”? What worries me is that there is the tendency to move from your point to an assertion that, since we don’t know which of them is a potential sucicide bomber or which of them doesn’t disapprove of suicide bombing, then all of them are potential enemies. Not a good way to win hearts and minds.>



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Godwin

posted January 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm


Carl, Butch does not have a point. If you do not agree with him, you are labeled a Republi-Nazi.>



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mingus

posted January 23, 2007 at 10:15 pm


“My point, and I think the polls shows this, is that moderate Muslims are not moderate at all. Many see violence as an acceptable means of defending Islam. These aren’t political protests.” and MY point, directly related, is that they are not moderate partly because of OUR actions. disagree with me, but don’t dismiss me as not contributing to YOUR chosen dialogue. who voted you president of the comments board? stop responding to me if you don’t want to talk about my points.>



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WW

posted January 23, 2007 at 10:56 pm


>>Many see violence as an acceptable means of defending Islam. And many of us see violence as an acceptable way of defending Christianity and/or America. Who’s got the moral upper hand?>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 2:00 am


WW | 01.23.07 – 6:01 pm | Many see violence as an acceptable means of defending Islam. They are on the offense And many of us see violence as an acceptable way of defending Christianity and/or America. We are strickly defense. Have a great day. .>



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kevin s.

posted January 24, 2007 at 3:34 am


“And many of us see violence as an acceptable way of defending Christianity and/or America.” And/or America? That is not a direct comparison. If the majority of Muslims in Britain thought the British military may use force to protect Britain, that would hardly be controversial. Do you really think that one-third of Christians in America think killing innocent civilians in the name of Christ is acceptable? You don’t. You’re just playing semantic games.>



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kevin s.

posted January 24, 2007 at 3:40 am


“and MY point, directly related, is that they are not moderate partly because of OUR actions. disagree with me, ” I do disagree with you, and nobody made me president of the comments board. My point was that this is not a reason to try to come to an understanding as to whether the war in Iraq was justified or well executed. Either way, we are aware of the arguments for and against (or, at least, our own views of the relative merits of those arguments). As I said, I do not think that our actions in Iraq have much to do with public opinion. The numbers were not substantially different in 2002 from what they are now. You seem to suggest that the propensity among “moderate” Muslims to accept violence has some relationship to reality. The fact that the majority of Muslims do not believe that Arabs perpetrated the 9/11 attacks belies this idea.>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 4:01 am


robstur said “We are strickly defense.” a pre-emptive war is defense? shock and awe is defense? interesting. support the doctrine if you believe in it, but don’t deny what it is. what it is NOT is defense. kevin, religion does not exist in a vacuum. to make judgements about anyone’s religious/ethical beliefs without the context of the current and historical events in the world in which they live is absurd.>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 4:14 am


“Do you really think that one-third of Christians in America think killing innocent civilians in the name of Christ is acceptable? You don’t. You’re just playing semantic games.” you and others apparently think it’s justifiable to promote democracy in iraq. what’s the difference?>



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kevin s.

posted January 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm


“you and others apparently think it’s justifiable to promote democracy in iraq. what’s the difference?” We are not targetting civilians to promote Democracy.>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 3:41 pm


mingus | 01.23.07 – 11:06 pm | robstur said “We are strickly defense.” It is my opinion that we have been at war for the past 20+ years with radicals in the mideast. Starting with the Embassy in Iran under Carter – other Embassy attacks – Kuwat – Kohl – TWC / Pentagone – etc. We are finally striking back. We did not go into Iraq to create the ‘United States of the Mideast’. I believe that the radicals in the Mideast if they could would attack the US and if they could take over would create the ‘United States of Islam’ in a heart beat. Have a great day. .>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 4:29 pm


“We are not targetting civilians to promote Democracy.” you are tolerating a level of civilian deaths (in the case of iraq, on the order of a couple tens or hundreds of thousands, depending on whose numbers you’re inclined to believe; and not to mention the misery that most of the remaining civilians have to live in) to promote democracy in the middle east. you are saying that for OUR goals, the ends justify the means. interesting to note also that the number of civilians killed by american military might throughout history completely dwarfs the number of americans killed by terrorists, ever. again, your support would suggest that for us, the ends justify the means.>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 4:33 pm


“I believe that the radicals in the Mideast if they could would attack the US and if they could take over would create the ‘United States of Islam’ in a heart beat.” and i believe that if the greater middle east had not been on the receiving end of western arrogance and greed for the last 100 years, the radicals would be no more than a lunatic fringe with no power and no popular support anywhere. we need to change our way of thinking regarding the middle east. we can start by looking at history from their perspective.>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 5:08 pm


mingus | 01.24.07 – 11:38 am | So you are suggesting that our State Dept so from now on deal with radical – unelected groups diplomatically and forget the gov’ts in those countries? They in turn should not deal directly with the US State Dept and dialog with the KKK – Black Panthers – and other fringe groups that desire to overthrow our govt. It could work… Have a great day – good chatting with you. .>



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Carl Copas

posted January 24, 2007 at 5:33 pm


Robstur, you said something that I agree with. Islamicist radicals have been at war with the West, including the US of course, since at least the 1970s. This conflict didn’t just start with 9/11/01. That’s a welcome bit of historical context. Now, let’s take historical context just a bit farther. Mingus says “if the greater middle east had not been on the receiving end of western arrogance and greed for the last 100 years, the radicals would be no more than a lunatic fringe with no power and no popular support anywhere.” That’s a little too categorical for my taste, but doesn’t it at least hold some plausibility? What are the longterm effects of Western imperialism in the middle east? And doesn’t that explain something about Islamicist radicalism? (And no, I’m not saying this lets terrorists off the hook.)>



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Stephen Fox

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:08 pm


Got Randall’s comments linked at a Baptist discussion board to see how they play there. The realpolitik of this seamless thread of life politik underlying Balmer’s remarks must be addressed in the role the right to life community played in the South Carolina Primary 2000. Engage the religious right in all its nuances and history in South Carolina, key Presidential Primary state, Home of Harry Dent, the late Lee Atwater; and the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Frank Page.>



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Stephen Fox

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:29 pm


Here is a great link I want to bring to the attention of Amy Sullivan and Balmer on this matter http://www.ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=4179>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:29 pm


Carl Copas | 01.24.07 – 12:38 pm | What are the long-term effects of Western imperialism in the middle east? OK – but if our gov’t was allowing some other Gov’t to ‘adversely’ impact the inner working of out Gov’t – would we be out there bombing and killing the people in that country? I would say – NO! – we would be dealing with those in our gov’t to change or vote them out and put someone else in. (yea – yea…some of you think that is what needs to be done to Bush – whatever…) So if our ‘imperialism’ is a factor or the factor about why they are acting the way the terrorist are…what are we to do? Most of the time we were dealing with the ‘gov’t in power’ – I ask the question again – we are to deal with the unelected fringe groups in the Mideast? There is no easy answer. Have a great day. .>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:33 pm


robstur, it’s good chatting with you too. no, i’m not suggesting dealing with radical islamic elements diplomatically. i’m not so naive as to think that’s a fruitful strategy. what i’m suggesting is that by re-thinking our foreign policy wrt the middle east, we can more effectively sideline these groups and reduce the popular support for them (the “hearts and minds” battle, if you will, which we are completely losing). the pre-emptive strike doctrine could be argued as completely justified. but is it smart? if invading iraq rather than playing out ALL of the diplomacy cards enrages the middle eastern “street”, is it a sensible strategy from a security perspective? i would argue that winning the “hearts and minds” battle is the single most effective thing that we can do to combat islamic terrorism and in the end, our performance in this particular battle has the potential to decide our fate.>



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mingus

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:34 pm


robstur – you are completely right, there is no easy answer, and hope it doesn’t seem like i think otherwise.>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:40 pm


mingus | 01.24.07 – 1:38 pm | I would argue that winning the “hearts and minds” battle is the single most effective thing that we can do to combat Islamic terrorism and in the end, our performance in this particular battle has the potential to decide our fate. I agree and nothing wins the heart and minds better than a free Iraq where the people have a say in their gov’t and their future. This is a multi-faceted battle and we need to see it that way and we need to better understand our enemy which I believe most Americans do not. Be Blessed! .>



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Carl Copas

posted January 24, 2007 at 6:47 pm


Robstur, terrorism often is a weapon of the less powerful. We in the States have the power to vote the rascals out, so we don’t blow people up when we are not satisfied with the status quo. Instead, we pursue change within electoral politics. Terrorists believe (wrongly i think) that the only weapon of recourse they have is bombing innocents, assassinations, and suicide missions. They believe (and here they are partly right) that the Middle East is in a position of inferiority because of the historical burden of imperialism. Additionally, they believe that modernization (which is almost coterminous with Westernization), is undermining Islam. So they strike back with the only weapon is effective. I’m not excusing them; there is no excuse for terrorism, including state-sponsored terrorism. Keep me in your prayers and may God bless you Robstur.>



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robstur

posted January 24, 2007 at 7:12 pm


Carl Copas | 01.24.07 – 1:52 pm | Have been praying for you everyday. So this is why I believe that we have to win the war in the Mideast against the terrorist. We have to at least marginalize them so that they are not attractive to others and ineffective on their desire to fulfill their mission. There is a big difference between logic of the west and the east. That they feel inferior – that is their problem. If they would let the majority lead/rule I believe that they could have the best of both worlds. Here in the US we have the Amish that believe that ‘progress/modernization’ is wrong and still live in harmony with the rest of us. In fact they are doing better than they would be because many ‘non-Amish’ enjoy purchasing what they make and observing their lifestyle. What a concept – differing factions living peacefully together. Have a great day. .>



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Marco

posted January 25, 2007 at 1:05 am


Randall, The problem with any follower of Jesus of Nazareth attempting to justify war for any reason is that it is a rather useless exercise. The reason the teachings of Jesus are so radical and divine is precisely because they sought to show us that our “reasonable” ways of responding to fear and hate just don’t work over the longterm. Jesus was adamant in his belief in nonviolence… in all situations. Mind you, not pacificism, but nonviolence. It takes a powerful individual or country not to respond to violence with violence… in any situation. It is not impossible, though, as we have seen with the unique examples of Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. We need more courageous people like these. Alas, we’re still in short supply. We haven’t progressed much in this area for the past 2,000 years. The Just War doctrine is flawed because it is subjective, not objective. It is subject to one’s understanding of a situation,one’s fear level, sense of threat level. There is no objective way of looking at a Just War. If you truly wish to change humanity and the world for the better, then follow the teachings of Jesus on love, forgiveness, nonviolence. But do it in the spirit of the teaching. Don’t try to assume your subjective way of looking at Just War is better than someone else’s. That resembles arrogance. Once you try to adopt reasonable human exceptions to the teachings, you’ve missed the point.>



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robstur

posted January 25, 2007 at 3:55 am


Marco | 01.24.07 – 8:10 pm | Mind you, not pacificism, but nonviolence. But reading you re posting – I do not see where you or others like you would ever pick up a weapon and defend yourself or others. If the person has a gun to the head of another and is at the ready to pull the trigger – all your talk about God’s love might only spare that poor persons life a few minutes. I can not believe that we are to stand idly by and do nothing. Gandhi was fighting against British Imperialism of India. The fight was within the borders of India. It was over who had the right to govern India – not a religious ideology about who had the right to govern the world. It was for independence with an understanding that each party would be govern in their own nation. That they could co-exist in the world independly and peacefully – but separate. Martin Luther King Jr. work for civil rights for all. The right to work, live, play, worship with the respect of all concerned. This is an over-simplification of what he did in the US. But again it was within our borders, working so that we would exist peacefully and respectfully with each other. Equal rights for all concerned. The radicals in the Mideast have no desire to respect our borders. They have no desire to exist with us peacefully with respect for all involved. Many of them have declared that Allah has told them to dominate the earth. They desire to impose their law on us and create a ‘theocracy’ to rule us. They are against our way of living and desire a 7th century style for us to live under. There is no middle ground with the radicals of Islam in the Mideast. They desire our demise and we have to decide if we are willing to stand up against them and yes that might include fighting them with weapons. The ball is in our court and we have to get back in the game. Have a great day. .>



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Anonymous

posted March 6, 2007 at 7:51 pm


The Religious Right Threatens America? Brian Harmon Wouldn t it be nice if evangelical Christians could have disagreements over political issues without resorting to dishonesty and deceit? Take for example a recent book by Randall Balmer, editor at large of Christianity Today. The book is titled Thy Kingdom Come, an Evangelical s Lament: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. I bought the book because I wanted to find out why he thinks the Religious Right Threatens America. Some of us might get a little grumpy from time to time, but I never thought we were a threat to America. I have spent a great deal of time searching through the book fruitlessly for his charge. Seriously, not only does the book fail to explain how the Christian Right threatens America, it never even says it! Now doesn t it seem that basic honesty requires that if you assert something in the title of a book, you should try to prove that your assertion is true? For example, if I titled a book How Balmer Molests Little Girls, and never made reference to that allegation in the book, wouldn t that seem a little dishonest? Essentially, Balmer opposes the Religious Right s view on abortion, homosexual rights, gay marriage, school vouchers, posting of the Ten Commandments, allowing crosses on public property, teaching creation along with evolution, the war in Iraq, environmentalism and solving poverty by throwing money at it. The dishonesty of the title continues throughout the book. Balmer manages to set a possible record by presenting two logical fallacies or deceitful argumentative techniques in one short sentence dealing with school vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private or religious schools if they feel they can receive a better education there.. He says on page 83-84, Voucher in hand, the argument (of proponents) goes, even the poorest children will be able to attend the best schools . He goes on to wonder how a $4000 voucher will allow a poor child to attend the most exclusive schools in the country, costing nearly $30,000 a year. When you distort your opponent s position and then proceed to attack it, that is called a straw man argument. You are putting up a straw man in order to have something to easily knock down. If there is some school choice advocate out there who thinks a $4000 voucher will allow the average resident of South LA to attend Andover Academy with the Bush grandchildren, I have never heard of him or her. It is obviously a phony argument. Also, when you exaggerate an opponent s position to the point of an absurdity, that is called a reductio ad absurdum. For example, say that in arguing against a one dollar increase in the minimum wage I were to say, If you think that is a good idea, maybe you should just increase it by $10 an hour and see what happens. Well, that would be extending the pro-minimum wage argument to an absurd and ridiculous degree. That would not be a fair or honest argument. In Orange County alone dozens of Christian schools provide education to thousands of students at roughly half the cost to the taxpayers of the public schools. Unlike many of the public schools, these schools produce graduates who are qualified to earn a living or successfully attend college. Rather than indoctrinating students in secular liberalism, these Christian schools provide the students with a Biblical perspective. I can see why this would be objectionable to someone like Balmer, but I don t think it is his best argument that the Religious Right poses a threat to America, as he claimed in his radio interview with Michael Medved. Also, the thousands of Catholic schools that provided top quality education to the poor nationwide have mostly closed due to financial problems. With a voucher system, or tuition tax credits, these as well as other types of private schools would multiply and expand because parents would be able to provide their children the education of their choice without having to pay the entire tax load for educating other students in the public schools. He waxes eloquent about the wonderful experience that he had as a public school student in three different states, all in the Midwest, 30-something years ago. Now isn t that just precious? Because his education in public school was just like heaven, it s okay if children today have to go to schools that resemble the other place? Some public schools today resemble those of his youth in many ways. The teachers still work hard, the buildings are nicely painted, the parents and teachers still attend meetings. But the secular-liberal indoctrination that goes on in the average school today could not have been imagined even 20 years ago. And here he is ignoring the plight of multiplied thousands of schoolchildren who have difficulty studying because they do not feel safe. Leaving them in those monopoly schools may be fine for the teachers unions and fine for Balmer, because, after all, they do receive daily secular-liberal indoctrination, so that makes it okay. Isn t it interesting that we realize monopolies produce shoddy products at higher prices, but when it comes to the education of our children, we are willing to put up with that? On the other hand, Balmer s arguments against the Religious Right s position on abortion are simply infantile. The Bible is unclear about abortion, he says on page 11, Jesus never condemned abortion (page 6), and if we were really pro-life we would support more government aid to the poor, condemn war and oppose capital punishment (page 5). God instituted capital punishment for murderers, not because he had disrespect for life, but because of his deep respect for it. God said that those who murder others must die. Government assistance to the poor in the form of Aid to Families with Dependent Children has been the major factor in the creation of an underclass of poor mothers and children in America. Prior to the Democrat s War on Poverty of the Sixties most poor people in America were seniors. Now they are children. When Jesus said we were to help the poor, he was not referring to the government. When he said we were to be peacemakers he was not referring to our position on international relations. It was in the context of individual behavior. In fact, it was in the middle of a list of people who are blessed: the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness or reviled for Jesus sake. Would Jesus put a foreign policy issue in the middle of a list of individual traits he wanted to see in his followers? In the words of that renowned social philosopher of Star Trek fame, Mr. Spock, That would not be logical. Also, if Jesus had condemned abortion and homosexuality, everyone would have thought he was crazy, Unless Balmer has some source of historical knowledge not available to the rest of us non-history professors, neither abortion nor homosexuality was a significant problem in first century Israel or 500-1000 years earlier when the Old Testament was being written. As a professor of religious history at Columbia, he should know that. He asserts on page 11 that Reagan repeatedly promised to pass a Constitutional amendment banning abortion and failed to deliver, implying that Reagan was disingenuous. I think if he were to look at Reagan s speeches, he would see that Reagan promised to try to pass such an amendment. We do live in a representative democracy, and Congress was never controlled by the Republicans during his entire presidency. Maybe Blamer blames Reagan for not being a dictator. Incredibly, Balmer uses some of the same silly arguments against the Religious Right s position on homosexuality as he does regarding abortion. He asserts on page 30 that Jesus never condemns homosexuality and that when the others in the Bible do so it must just be a reflection of the culture, like (page 9) women with their he
ads uncovered. I am not making this up. Amazingly, he gives Bill Clinton credit for the military s don t ask, don t tell policy regarding homosexuality. He questions the Religious Right s motives in supposedly opposing this Clinton policy. On page 25 he says, Bill Clinton s commitment to civil rights protections for the military and his don t ask, don t tell policy for the armed forces served to fuel those suspicions (that the gays were infecting our military ). Now, I read in his bio that he is a visiting professor of history at Yale, so Balmer should be aware that one the first things that Clinton did as president, right after requiring that hospitals in U.S. overseas military installations perform abortions, was to attempt to repeal the military s don t ask don t tell policy. Clinton wanted open homosexuality to be allowed in the military. He backed down when nearly everyone in the military expressed outrage at his proposed policy change. Having spent some time aboard U.S. Naval vessels sleeping in three-high cots where you can sometimes literally feel the person above you, I can understand the military s position. Also, there are no private showers, except perhaps for the captain. But I wonder how someone who is an editor at large for the most respected evangelical magazine in the country can lie so egregiously? Balmer also spends a great deal of time showing how one Religious Right pastor in the San Diego area goes to extremes putting politics in the forefront of his teaching. I wonder if Balmer was absent from school when they taught that you should not use one example to condemn a whole group of people. This is sometimes called a fallacy of composition. I think that it is also called bigotry. I thought Episcopal priests like Balmer were supposed to opposed to that sort of thing! He implies that this particular church is typical, without presenting any evidence. That s no>



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