Is There a “Christianist” Threat?

An abortion provider is gunned down at his church in Kansas. The accused killer has ties to the anti-abortion movement and far right extremist groups. The killer has a Christian “fish” symbol (icthus) on his car. Does that make him part of a “Christianist” conspiracy or terrorist movement?

Jamie Kirchick, a former NLGJA Journalist of the Year and an assistant editor at the New Republic and contributing writer to The Advocate, takes on the question of “Christianists” and the religious right in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece and says that comparing Christian conservatives to Islamic extremists is dangerous.

But if the reactions to the death of Tiller mean anything, the “Christian Taliban,” as conservative religious figures are often called, isn’t living up to its namesake. If “Christianists” were anything like actual religious fascists they would applaud Tiller’s murder as a “heroic martyrdom operation” and suborn further mayhem.

Radical Islamists revel in death. Just witness the videos that suicide bombers record before they carry out their murderous task or listen to the homicidal exhortations of extremist imams. Murder — particularly of the unarmed and innocent — is a righteous deed for these people. The manifestos of Islamic militant groups are replete with paeans to killing infidels. When a suicide bomb goes off in Israel, Palestinian terrorist factions compete to claim responsibility for the carnage.

There is no appreciable number of people in this country, religious Christians or otherwise, who support the murder of abortion doctors. The same cannot be said of Muslims who support suicide bombings in the name of their religion.

Yet speak of the disproportionately violent strain in Islam to a “progressive” person and you’ll be met with sneering recitations of millennia-old Christian crusades or Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As for conservative Christians’ contemporary political endeavors, lobbying to ban the teaching of evolution in schools or forbidding same-sex marriage simply does not threaten society in quite the same way as the genital mutilation of young girls or the bombing of the London transit system.

Kirchick points out the the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller has been roundly–and immediately–criticized by anti-abortion groups and religious conservatives. While I don’t share Kirchick’s opinion on how to respond to Islamic extremism or even the role violence plays among Muslims in general, his point is correct that comparing anti-abortion and Christian conservative activists in the U.S. to Islamic extremists is an empty comparison.

So what does this have to do with LGBT people? Kirchick correctly points out that the way we talk about conservative Christians and religious conservatives in the U.S. has meaning and that hyperbole is not helpful.

The LGBT blogosphere is quick to talk about religious conservatives in loaded and dramatic ways. While that may have a place in the rough-and-tumble world of opinion blogging, it does not have a place in objective journalism.

I happen to support a legal regime that would, in Bill Clinton’s famous words, keep abortion safe, legal and rare. I hold no brief for the religious right, and its views on homosexuality in particular offend (and affect) me personally. But it’s precisely because of my identity that I consider comparisons between so-called Christianists (who seek to limit my rights via the ballot box) and Islamic fundamentalists (who seek to limit my rights via decapitation) to be fatuous.

In the coming days, we will hear more about how mainstream conservative organizations and media personalities created an “environment” in which the murder of an abortion doctor became an inevitability. Just as talk radio was blamed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an attempt will be made to extend the guilt for this crime from the individual who pulled the trigger to the conservative movement writ large. But the Christian right’s responsible reaction to the death of George Tiller should put to rest the lie that Judeo-Christian extremists are anywhere near as numerous or dangerous as those of the Muslim variety.

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