Preacher’s Kid: Honest Faith, Real World

The horrific terror attacks in Norway Friday — and that’s what they were, whether perpetrated by Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or home-grown extremists as it appears to be in this case — led to a lot of initial knee-jerk bigotry.

Blame in on the Christians . . . Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, etc.

In this case, it was not demonizing of Muslims at large, but use of the increasingly popular pejorative in the media of “fundamentalist Christian.”

At first, news organizations identified one of the suspects as a Norwegian citizen who was a fundamentalist Christian and Muslim hater.

Then, it turned out, the man in custody was more of a extreme political right-winger, apparently with no love for Muslim immigrants, who had “posted” his opinions on what were described as fundamentalist Christian websites. And, of course, anyone with a computer or smartphone could do that.

Welcome to what my college philosophy instructors called the logical fallacy of the “straw man” argument. It boils down to misrepresenting a group, in this case Christians who continue to hold to a strict interpretation of the Bible, based on the actions of an individual.

Having established the fallacy of the lone actor(s) as representative of that group, you have built up your “straw man.” Next, you knock it down — in this case, implying all fundamentalist Christians (or Muslims, or Hindus, Republicans, Democrats, gays, Latinos, etc.) are just as criminal as the actor(s). You know: Since the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims, all Muslims are terrorists. Kinda like that.

Anyway, that’s how I see it. And, there’s more. Some may argue that this latest instance shows a predisposition of the “secular media” for malevolently linking a large segment of believers to anti-social, even evil behavior. (I don’t buy that; rather, at worst, it reveals ambivalence by the media toward fundamentalist Christians and religion in general.)

What it does reveal, truly, is the propensity of humanity in general to look for the Scapegoat, and the unpopular group or movement of the moment serves nicely for this form of thinly-veiled bigotry.

Examples in recent history and current affairs are myriad. Ask Latinos, amid the current debate over illegal immigration in the U.S.; Native Americans, still feeling the effects of 19th century ethnic cleansing on the frontier; African-Americans, so many of whom remain locked in poverty nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation; the Jews under the Nazis; the Armenians under the Turks; Rwandans . . . the list is nearly endless.

Extreme examples, to be sure. But bigotry, whether extreme or merely obnoxious and unfair, springs from the same black well of the intolerant soul. (Yes, intolerance does go both ways.)

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