It has become a world crisis. Cartoons printed by a Danish newspaper depict the Prophet Muhammad in a way that Muslims say is blasphemous. In retaliation, Muslims are violently protesting by burning flags, attacking embassies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Riots have broken out in Beirut, Indonesia, the Palestinian territory, and Afghanistan. Muslim clerics continue to stir the flames of Islamic indignation, calling upon Muhammad's followers to enforce respect for the prophet's name with their own blood. People are being seriously injured and killed.
The media has often compared Christian conservatives in America to violent Islamic radicals. Bob Norman in the New Times Broward-Palm Beach once wrote: "The underbelly of the Christian right is as scary as anything that ever dwelled in a Tora Bora cave." Robyn E. Blumner in the St. Petersburg Times, once compared conservative Christians with the Taliban saying: "The religious right has spent more than 20 years chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state, trying in Taliban-like ways to inject religion into public schools and the operations of government."
Drew Pierce with E-volve Now has argued: "I agree with Bill Clinton when he said, 'Our number-one threat abroad is fundamentalism, absolutism. Terror is their tactic, but it is their ideas, their hatred, their absolute certainty that they are so right that they can kill people who disagree with them -- that is our enemy.' ...How true. This is not rocket science. But what about this same terrorism, fundamentalism, and absolutist mentality as a threat from within here at home? I suggest that the threat from within created by a stampede of millions of fundamentalist Christians is far more dangerous than a handful of terrorists." Even former President Jimmy Carter has alluded to comparisons between fundamentalist Christians and Islamic fundamentalism in his latest book, Our Endangered Values.
Such comparisons are common today by those on the left, but nothing less than asinine -- and recent events on the world stage prove it.
In 2001, The Brooklyn Museum featured Yo Mama's Last Supper, a color photograph by Renee Cox, which depicted 12 black men and a nude woman at Christ's Last Supper. Cox posed as the woman, who was supposed to represent Jesus Christ. Yet there were no riots by offended Bible-believing Christians -- no burning of the Brooklyn Museum with fire bombs. There were lawful protests, but people weren't being killed -- no placards saying "Butcher those who insult Christ," or "Behead those who blaspheme the Savior."
Piss Christ, by American photographer Andres Serrano, has been around since 1987. It's a close-up photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist's urine. It's been the subject of much controversy. Christian people have deplored its support by the National Endowment for the Arts. But there have never been any riots by fundamentalist Christians over the matter.
What about when New York Performance Works, a downtown New York theatre that staged 12 performances of Tis a Pity She's a Whore, which portrayed the Virgin Mary as a prostitute? The play was advertised with postcards containing an illustration of the Holy Mother with the Immaculate Heart and the inscription "Tis a Pity She's a Whore," written across her. Did conservative Catholics violently storm the theatres? Were Catholic Priests whipping up a frenzy of hatred and violence against the play's performers and sponsorships? They were rightly incensed, but expressions of opposition were non-violent.
Planned Parenthood has been promoting "Choice on Earth" Christmas cards for four years. The cards, whose inscription is a play on words taken from the Gospel of Luke 2:13,14, have degraded the Christmas message of God's sending a redeemer for man's sin to an argument for the murder of millions of innocent pre-born children. Have pro-life Christians essentially called for a jihad -- a literal holy war on Planned Parenthood? No, they have used their lawful rights to try and stop the violence perpetrated and celebrated by such organizations -- they have not incited violence on them or anyone else.
Countless are the depictions of Jesus in the movies and on television that are incredibly offensive to conservative Evangelicals. From Martin Scorsese's film, The Last Temptation of Christ, where Jesus explains that he makes crosses for the Romans so his fellow Jews will be crucified and God will hate him; to NBC's failed TV drama, The Book of Daniel, where the Lord was essentially portrayed as a powerless wise-cracker. Yet no conservative Christian organization, group of churches, or Christian activists have led their faithful to attack movie studios or destroy the broadcasting towers of NBC affiliates! No producers of such programming have been killed or beaten.
In fact, what we are witnessing at this hour is a clear presentation of the vast differences between Christianity and true Islam. Granted, there have been exceptions to the case, where some misguided individual or group that, in the name of Christ, performed some atrocity on those who disagreed with them. But such is an exception to the rule at best and never in line with the commands of Christ.
Nevertheless, Muslims around the world are now obeying Muhammad through violence.
Randall Terry, president of the Society for Truth and Justice, has spent considerable time studying Islam, beginning with his Arabic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in doing research in Islamic primary sources for a lengthy project comparing Christ and Mohammed,. Terry notes: "If we are going to understand the Islamic mind, we must study the life of Muhammad. 'What would Muhammad do?' needs to be the grid through which we view Islamic culture, law, and acts of terrorism .... Muslims who attack or threaten death to those who mock Muhammad are following in the footsteps of Muhammad himself." Terry goes on to point out that Muhammad ordered the assassination or execution of individuals who satirized him, and this is the basis for why its a criminal offense in Islamic law to belittle the prophet.
One of the controversial cartoons of the prophet shows Muhammad with a lit bomb in is turban. In an insightful editorial, Culture Clash Over Cartoons, columnists Monte Kuligowski muses: "I wonder what the Christian equivalent (cartoon) would look like. In the present case, a cartoonist apparently believed that because Muhammad was a man of war, Islam has evolved (or always has been terroristic) into its present state of suicidal/homicidal terrorism. With Christianity, Jesus walked the earth healing the sick and feeding the hungry. What might a cartoonist place in Christ's turban? Maybe a hospital or a loaf of bread?"
Indeed, as J. Grant Swank, Jr., argues in his recent piece, Cartoon Protests: Messenger = Message, it is the sword that rules in Islam. "In Christianity," he says, "there is the cross not the sword. The cross is where the sinless sacrifice, Jesus, offered Himself to satisfy the justice of eternity. All repentant souls may find forgiveness through that sacrifice. Their eternity is forever bliss and holiness in heaven. In the meantime, Jesus calls His own to live the Good Samaritan example -- love your neighbor as yourself. Muhammad calls his own to slaughter: 'Fighting is prescribed for you ... it is good for you. Koran 2:216.' Slowly the free countries are coming to realize this horror."
Let's hope and pray that they do realize it. Moreover, let's hope some in the American media will realize it, too, and stop erroneously comparing conservative Christians to Islamic fascists. To do so is like comparing Billy Graham and Mother Teresa to Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein! All the James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy and Don Wildmon types in America would never be lowered to the reprehensible moral equivalent of the reaction we see by Muslims around the globe to a bunch of cartoons.
This article originally appeared on February 13, 2006.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.