Fanaticism in all its forms is the single greatest threat facing our world today.
In Saudi Arabia, Wahabbi Muslims threaten to further destabilize the Middle East with calls for death to all infidels. In Israel, a fragile peace process is jeopardized by calls to arms on both sides of the figurative and literal fences. In Africa, Southeast Asia and even Europe, conflicts guided by religious ideology rather than a desire to live free are a plague that threatens global chaos.
Unfortunately, this sort of thinking also is alive and well here in the United States.
Pat Robertson’s recent comment suggesting that the United States assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was a prime example of this wave of dangerous and illogical thinking.
It would be easy to dismiss Robertson’s comments as the misguided words of an aging religious leader out of touch with the realities of geopolitics. It would be easy to say that he didn’t actually mean what he said, or that his words were taken out of context.
But as a major figure of the evangelical Christian movement (Robertson’s Christian Coalition claims 2 million members and his television broadcasts are seen worldwide), Robertson’s comments carry much more weight than an off-the-cuff rant from some backwoods preacher. Robertson’s words carry great significance because he represents fairly or not the greater population of Christians who make up the majority of people in this nation and who voted overwhelmingly for our current president.
As such, anything he says is seen by the outside world as being representative of the general feeling within this nation, and more specifically, within its Christian majority.
Any time a religious leader calls for the death of President Bush, those in our government and military are quick to react, first branding the person (terms like “radical Iman” or “terrorist” come to mind), then rushing to neutralize the situation, often through force.
When Robertson made his comments, however, the reaction by Bush and our government was more tepid. The president moved to distance himself from the comments, but only in such a way as not to offend the core of his support base, which is made up by many people who still stand by Robertson and his words.
This kind of reaction cannot stand.
If we as a nation truly want to spread the ideals that we claim to be fighting a war for, talk of murdering democratically elected world leaders should be condemned in the most severe terms possible.
Robertson’s words were both un-Christian and un-American, and he should be vilified with the same fervor as any misguided and dangerous leader would be. To do less is to imply that the American people believe his words are something close to acceptable. They are not.
Were Robertson a leader of a different faith, living in a different country and speaking of a different world leader, he’d likely be on a target list right now. But because he hides behind a veil of false righteousness, he’s largely been given a free pass.
Because of this, all Christians and all Americans have been harmed. The more we portray ourselves to the world as hypocritical bullies, religious zealots and fanatic followers of false prophets, the closer we come to becoming exactly who we are fighting.
We’re not at war with Venezuela, nor should we be interested in killing its president. We’re at war with fanaticism. And we must fight it with all our resources both abroad and here at home.
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