Are Conservative Christians Fueling Terrorism?

Chattanooga City Council member Chris Anderson tried to pin the terrorist act in Orlando on local legislators and other political figures because of their support for sexual mores in line with historic American and Christian values. His assertion is like that of others who immediately tried to blame those murders on conservative Christians. For those who know their history, such an irrational accusation is nothing new.

First, so there is no confusion regarding my response to Mr. Anderson, let me reiterate that the shooting was an act of terror by a Muslim who takes seriously the Koran’s call for individual Muslims to engage in violent jihad against infidels of various stripes. It was murder. It was wrong and would be wrong regardless of what drew the victims to the place where they were murdered.

That being said, Mr. Anderson’s reaction and that of others—blaming some calamity on Christians who don’t go along with current cultural values—is nothing new. If you’ve ever read The City of God by St. Augustine, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. In fact, the parallels are striking.

Here is how the Bishop of Hippo described the blame game that started with the fall of a debauched, utterly pagan Rome:

“Rome having been stormed and sacked by the Goths under Alaric their king, the worshippers of false gods, or pagans, as we commonly call them, made an attempt to attribute this calamity to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with even more than their wonted bitterness and acerbity. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defence of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants.”

In defense of the Christian worldview, St. Augustine responded to two different wrong-headed assumptions by the blame-the-Christians crowd, both of which are pertinent here.

First, he spent several sections in his work refuting “those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition.” While the issue then was the fact that Christians didn’t go along with the polytheistic religious beliefs of the culture, the problem now according to folks like Mr. Anderson is that Christians aren’t going along with what we might describe as the “polysexual theology” and its fundamental tenet, tolerance.

Back then the point was that if Christians hadn’t upset the gods of their culture, the Goths wouldn’t have prevailed against Rome, whereas the point now is that if Christians would just be tolerant and not talk so much about homosexual behavior and bathrooms, then the Muslim in Orlando would not have been provoked to do what he did.

The Romans were wrong then, and Mr. Anderson and his ilk are wrong now. But the second point Augustine made further drives home this fact.

St. Augustine pointed out that the Romans who blamed the Christians refused to “admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light … .”

Similarly, there have been public shootings of multiple people in recent years, and not by conservative Christians. More to the point, since Mohammed, Muslims have practiced mass violence against “infidels,” including, in particular, against homosexuals.

Mr. Anderson and those like him need to realize that the homosexual community’s real problem is not conservative Christians, who have never advocated that its adherents randomly execute God’s vengeance for Him on those with whom they disagree. To the contrary, Christianity says that vengeance does not belong to the individual Christian.

The fact is that, like the Goths who invaded a Rome that was rotting from within, radical Islam is invading our country for the same reason. The homosexual community might want to worry more about that than about Christians who advocate for marriage between a man and a woman and the designation of bathrooms on the basis of biological sex.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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The Real ‘Story’ Regarding Muslim Presidential Candidates

Ben Carson’s comments about electing a Muslim president and the reaction to them from the press, Democrats, and his Republican presidential opponents has been more than interesting. If you want to get the issue straight, here’s the “story” from someone who really knows.

To begin with, it must be remembered that there are two issues here and they must not be conflated. The first is whether there is any constitutional reason a Muslim could not serve as President. If there is, the second question—whether a Muslim should be elected—is irrelevant.

The Constitutional Issue

As to the first issue, the real “story” can be learned from the forgotten constitutional scholar of the same name, Justice Story of the United States Supreme Court. Justice Story was a brilliant legal mind, being the youngest person ever nominated to the Supreme Court at the time of his nomination. He served on the Court for thirty years and taught constitutional law at Harvard Law School. In 1833 he published the first comprehensive treatise on the Constitution.1 Thus, his thoughts on the three clauses in the Constitution bearing on religion should be persuasive.

The first clause is the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits Congress from establishing a national church. The concept meant that Congress was prohibited from establishing an “ecclesiastical hierarchy” that would receive the patronage of the federal government.

The second is the Free Exercise Clause, also in the First Amendment. According to Justice Story, it was intended not so much to allow us to do in the public square whatever our religion required us to do, but, as will be seen, it was really intended to complement the Establishment Clause.

The third clause is found in Article VI, which prohibits any religious test for public office. This, too, was intended to complement the Establishment Clause.

In his treatise, Justice Story explained how these three provisions were intended to work (bracketed words added for clarification):

The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity [atheism], by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

“It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife, and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power [Establishment Clause]. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion [Free Exercise Clause], and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests [Article VI].” (emphasis added)

In other words, a religious establishment was to be foiled in the first instance by the Establishment Clause, but like a train with a second and third set of emergency breaks, the Free Exercise Clause and the religious test were added. The religious test was particularly important to prevent a back-door establishment by laws that would require those running for office to hold certain religious doctrines.

Consequently Justice Story concluded:

“Thus, … the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Armenian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.”

So a Muslim can clearly run for any office, but that’s not the end of the story.

The Political Issue

Of course, the foregoing did not mean that our Founding Fathers thought we should elect someone in disregard of his or her religious beliefs.

It was clear from the preceding statements that Christianity was the favored religion in the nation’s psyche and, collectively speaking, it was our frame of reference for everything politically and socially. And there are too many quotes from our Founding Fathers about the importance of Christianity to the future success of our country to reference.

In other words, our Founding Fathers did not, by our Constitution, prevent us from doing all the things against our collective best interest that we could do. They assumed we would be smart enough not to elect someone whose allegiance to God would require that they oppose and work to undermine the clear import of our Constitution and the foundational principles underlying our social order.

But based on the current state of affairs in the Oval Office, it seems we’re not as smart as they thought we would be.
1Justice Story’s three-volume treatise is entitled Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States; with a preliminary review of the constitutional history of the colonies and state, before the adoption of the constitution (1833).

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Vanderbilt University’s Hypocrisy Gets Laughable

Last week The Tennessean published two guest editorials, one by a former FACT employee and me on why Tennessee’s marriage laws did not discriminate against same-sex couples, and one by a Vanderbilt professor, Carol Swain, about Islam and terrorism. Both generated a lot of pushback from The Tennessean’s readers, but the reaction at Vanderbilt became another in a long list of examples of its almost laughable hypocrisy.

The Marriage Editorial

Our editorial on same-sex marriage simply pointed out the obvious, namely, that when it comes to what can happen when a man and a woman have sexual relations vis-à-vis two people of the same sex, there is a biological difference. And it noted that because there is nothing inherently sterile in a male-female sexual liaison, the state had an interest in encouraging such liaisons into marriages, an interest that does not pertain to same-sex relationships.

Dr. Swain’s Editorial

As to Dr. Swain’s editorial, it seemed that she was trying to give credit to a certain person in Tennessee she admires for helping bring to light what the historical practices and current day events tell us about “the dangers of radical Islam.”

And there are dangers. There is no denying that jihad against those who do not submit to Allah is part of Islamic theology, and, while different Muslims may apply and carry out jihad in different ways, incidents like what happened in France with Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore. Thus, as she said at the very beginning of her commentary what many others have said, Islam needs to be “monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration.”

She also said that the Muslim worldview has a “set of beliefs totally incompatible with Western beliefs concerning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.” Many Muslims here may share our Western beliefs, but I think her point was what polls show, namely that Muslims, on the whole, do not. Why, even this week Congressional Democrats urged Saudi Arabia to stop flogging a blogger in its own country!

The Response

The reaction to these two editorials was such that The Tennessean, in a rather unusual move, felt it necessary to explain why it decided to publish them. Of course, The Tennessean, as a private enterprise, can publish or not publish what it wants, but as a news organization that offers opinions, why should anyone be upset that it published an opinion that some wouldn’t like or that might be contrary to its own? If The Tennessean were only to publish opinions everyone liked, it would not publish any opinions.

But the biggest reaction was at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt sent out an official email across campus saying it didn’t want any of its Muslim students to feel “unwelcome or unsafe” and, among other things, provided the contact information for the counseling center. After all, according to the email, “ensuring that this campus is welcoming to, and supportive of, all of our students has been and will remain our top priority.”

That’s interesting, because a couple of years ago the University certainly didn’t make the Christian organizations on campus feel very “welcome” if they believed sex was to be engaged in by a married man and woman. And they sure weren’t “supportive” of them; in fact, the University essentially kicked them off campus.

But the biggest irony and example of hypocrisy is that we never found any emails to students similar to those sent in response to Dr. Swain after remarks made on campus in 2010 by Awadh A. Binhazim. At the time, Mr. Binhazim was “listed on the Vanderbilt website as ‘Adjunct Professor of Islam at the Divinity School’ and an adviser to the Muslim Student Association.”

Mr. Binhazim said outright that Islam taught that homosexuals deserved the death penalty, and he agreed with what Islam taught. As a faithful Muslim, he said he didn’t “have a choice to accept or reject” its teachings. You can watch his remarks at this link.

So I guess we can begin to draw some conclusions about what Vanderbilt will support and welcome. By the University’s protestations, neither conservative Christian views on sex nor conservative concerns about radical Islam are “welcome and supported.”

But by its virtual silence, it would appear that Vanderbilt does “welcome and support” Islamic views on the death penalty for the homosexuals in support of whom it kicked the Christian organizations off campus.

As one comic is prone to say, “I don’t care who you are, that right there is funny.”

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Lessons From Charlie Hebdo, Ben Carson, and King Solomon

Unbeknownst to me, on the same day that I was listening to Ben Carson field questions at a roundtable sponsored by a Nashville area ministry, Islamic terrorists were killing journalists that wrote for the French publication, Charlie Hebdo. Together they provided me a needful and timely lesson, particularly as the “political season” is upon us with the dawning of the new year.

I had never heard Dr. Ben Carson in person. But his manner and style of speech, particularly compared to what I am used to from those who are or would be politicians, was really disarming. The softness of his speech was such that you almost had to lean in to hear him, and you certainly had to be intentional about listening. And while he was very clear in his opinions, even about Islam, he was gentle in the manner in which he spoke about hard and even unpleasant realities.

The next morning I woke up to read about Charlie Hebdo, a publication I had never heard of. What I learned from the news stories was that it was a “satirical publication.” To make sure I understood that term, I looked it up. Satire is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.”

When you put the meaning of satire down in black and white, it is easy to see why satirists invite wrath—no person likes to be ridiculed in public or be publicly made the object of scorn.

This does not mean that those Charlie Hebdo scorned and ridiculed—whether Muslims or anyone else—had a right to physically harm them, let alone kill them.

And no doubt “freedom of speech” gave Charlie Hebdo’s journalists the right to be as satirical as they wanted. We should defend their “right” to do so.

But what one has a right to do does not mean it is the right thing to do. And that put me to thinking about the fact that words are powerful things.

As I reflected on this and these two contrasting styles of communication, I remembered that the author of the book of James in the Bible said that the “tongue is a fire … and set on fire by hell.” And the more I thought about words and the manner in which we convey them, I found myself pouring over the book of Proverbs, because I knew it contained much wisdom about how we use our words.

And here are some “words” from Proverbs that I know I would do well to ponder and seek to apply, particularly as I try to share insights on the cultural issues of our day and the words and works of our politicians. (Each Scripture is taken from the NASB, with chapter and verse in parenthesis.):

Death and life are in the power of the tongue:
and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (18:21).

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger (15:1).

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances (25:12).

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing (12:18).

The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips (16:23).

Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
Even strife and dishonor will cease (22:10).

Wise words—words of understanding about the nature and power of the tongue and, just as importantly, about the nature of man in the way that he responds to them. While the First Amendment cannot and should not force me to heed their wisdom, Solomon certainly provided an incentive to do so:

A man who wanders from the way of understanding
Will rest in the assembly of the dead (Proverbs 21:16).

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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