How about “Going Religious”?


medieval.jpgA week ago, over at the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg chastised
his fellow Atlantians for the sin of political correctness in not
identifying alleged Fort Hood murderer Major Nidal Hasan as the Muslim
jihadi Goldberg takes him to be. A double standard, he claimed, is at
work here: “elite makers of opinion in this country try very hard to
ignore the
larger meaning of violent acts when they happen to be perpetrated by

Here’s a simple test: If Nidal Malik Hasan had been a devout Christian
with pronounced anti-abortion views, and had he attacked, say, a
Planned Parenthood office, would his religion have been considered
relevant as we tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the
attack? Of course. Elite opinion makers do not, as a rule, try to
protect Christians and Christian belief from investigation and
criticism. Quite the opposite. It would be useful to apply the same
standards of inquiry and criticism to all religions.

By way of response, religion prof. Dan Mathewson argues
over on Religion Dispatches that, in fact, the MSM did pull its punches
when it came to attributing Christian motives to Scott Roeder, the man charged
with murdering abortion doctor George Tiller. Roeder, writes Mathewson,
“was described in the media as a right-wing, anti-government,
anti-abortion activist; but not a single article that I was able to
find in the mainstream media discussed Roeder’s Christian faith as a
motivating factor of his crime.”

Actually, as Andrew Walsh points out in his article on the Tiller case in Religion in the News, the very mainstream Kansas City Star,
whose coverage was superb, gave extensive attention to Roeder’s
somewhat complicated Christian journey and how that related to his
anti-abortion and anti-government views. But it’s true that Roeder was
not generally characterized as a “Christian extremist”–and, so far as
I know, no one has proposed calling what he did “going Christian,” the
way Tunku Varadarajan, over on Forbes. com, provocatively proposed “going Muslim” to describe Hasan-like acts.

whose column is not quite as appalling as it sounds, remarks in passing
(in contrast to both Goldberg and Mathewson) that the real problem is
not the media’s favoritism toward one religious tradition over another
but towards religion in general: “This is part of a larger–and too-hot-to-touch–American problem, which
is the privileging of religion, and its frequent exemption from rules
of normal discourse.” The same point is made today by On Faith’s leading secularista, Susan Jacoby: “My own view is that the U.S. media, when a violent act is linked to
religion–any religion–always downplay any influence that might have
been exerted by an extremist interpretation of that religion.”

secularists have a point. There is something like what Jacoby calls
“religious correctness” that has long led Americans to downplay
religion as a motive for public hostility. The “Know-Nothings” of the
1850s were called that because the members of the American Party
recognized that it was un-American to say openly that their primary
motivation was anti-Catholicism–religious prejudice.

For all
that, it’s hard to argue that religion has not been part of the
national discussion of both the Roeder and Hasan affairs. Debate over
responsibility for the murder of Dr. Tiller centered on the
demonization of “Tiller the Baby Killer” and the advocacy of violent
action against abortion providers generally by religious activists in
the anti-abortion movement and their advocates in the, ah, MSM.
Likewise, Hasan’s Muslim connections and views have been vigorously
pursued by, yes, the MSM. As in the case of the Know-Nothings,
everybody knows what the game is. And minimizing the significance of the
religion of the alleged perpetrator, and accusing others of political
correctness in refusing to blame that religion, are both part of the