Even religious conservatives who disagreed with Bush kept quiet initially, in deference to the president. But starting in the beginning of 2002, their irritation become evident. "We don't believe Islam needs validating at the highest level of American government," David Crowe, director of Restore America, a grassroots conservative Christian political organization in Oregon told Beliefnet in December. "A lot of people think Bush has bent way too far over backward to say nice things about Muslims."
Then Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, described Islam as a "wicked, violent" religion--and the floodgates broke open. A steady parade of conservative Christians followed. Criticizing Islam itself - as opposed to "Islamic fundamentalists" or terrorists - went from being taboo to acceptable to downright popular in conservative circles, including influential secular figures like William Bennett, Gary Bauer, and Anne Coulter. Significantly, President Bush has apparently decided not to counter this overwhelming criticism against Islam.
At the same time, it should be said, the defenders of Islam probably way overstated their case by repeatedly asserting that Islam is a "religion of peace." Clearly, the Qur'an, like the Bible, includes passages that can be used to justify violence. Many Islam defenders, failing to acknowledge that initially, may have lost credibility.
Evangelicals Got a Dramatic New Cause
One sector of Americans--conservative evangelical Christians--views the attack in starkly different terms than the rest of the country. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were mocked when they blamed the attack son America's misdeeds but they were expressing a sentiment with some broad appeal.
Evangelicals are also more likely to view this as a sign of the apocalypse or end times. As Beliefnet member Dicks77 put it: "I admit, as I saw Manhatten in flames from across the river in NJ, the scripture came immediately to mind: Revelation 18:9 - 'When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: 'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'' Makes you think, at least."
Fighting Islam--or, more to the point, converting Muslims--had been a major Christian cause even prior to 9/11. The Southern Baptist Convention four years ago reorganized its International Missions Board to focus on the part of the world where Muslims live. That year, the Convention published a guide for use when praying for the conversion of Muslims. This year, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary even created a master's degree program to help students minister to Muslims. Some called this the "10/40 Movement", a reference to the latitude and longitude of the Middle Eastern and Asian parts of the world with biggest Muslim population.
The 9/11 attacks gave great new energy to the cause and provided a focal point for millions of evangelicals. A new video, "Radical Obedience: Beyond 9/11," shows Southern Baptists around the world responding to the Sept. 11 attacks -- and reminds them that God's work is not yet finished. "Scripture has called us to be radically obedient, to go beyond language and cultural walls so that allpeoples may know Him," said International Mission Board spokesman Mark Snowden. "Many Southern Baptists have already committed to become radically obedient by praying for the Muslim people of the world. Others havedisplayed their radical obedience by going, in peace, to make disciples in Jesus' name."
And though we are taught to believe that anger can only eat holes in our innards, a study conducted at Bowling Green State University found that those people who viewed the 9/11 attacks as part of a theological war--and that the attacks were Satanically-driven - actually experienced greater "spiritual growth," becoming closer to God and Church.
Anti-Semitism Got New Life
Jews, ironically, may have been less shaken initially because so much of current Jewish theology attempts to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust. "The idea that people are capable of evil things is not news," says Rabbi Mark Margolies of Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, Pa. What really upset Jews more was seeing the proliferation of ant-Semitic rhetoric.