NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) – A Baptist ethicist accused Newsweek magazine of feeding fear with a cover story headlined “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.”
“The narrative of a global war on Christians is a cousin of the myth about a war on Christmas and the myth of a drip of persecution of Christians in America,” Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics wrote in a Feb. 13 article on EthicsDaily.com.
“For whatever reason, some U.S. Christians need to think and feel that they are persecuted,” Parham said. “Maybe it makes them believe they are more akin to figures of faith in the Bible.”
The Newsweek article was written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian-born former member of the Dutch parliament who now works for the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Ali said media portrayals of Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants against tyranny in Arab Spring overlook a “rising genocide” of Christians in the Muslim world who are being murdered because of their faith.
Ali cited violence directed against Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran as evidence of a “global war on Christians” that is not coordinated by any Islamist group but rather “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.”
“A fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other,” Ali wrote. “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity — and ultimately of all religious minorities — in the Islamic world is at stake.”
Parham said there is no doubt that Christians have been brutalized by Muslims around the world but it isn’t true that Christians are always the victims and Muslims always the perpetrators. On top of being false, Parham said, those narratives have a theological problem in that they misunderstand human sinfulness.
“They assume that their ‘tribe’ is righteous and the other is evil,” Parham said. “They fail to confess their own sinfulness, their own violence, their own self-righteousness.”
Parham noted that early on some U.S. Christians framed the war in Iraq as a conflict of Christians versus Muslims. By that standard, he asked, “may one conclude that ‘American Christians’ killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians?”
“Newsweek was once a better magazine than last week's cover story discloses it is now,” Parham concluded. “That's a real shame.”
“We already have enough religious conflict and self-righteousness without one of the nation's foremost weekly publications feeding fear and hatred.”
Based in Nashville, Tenn., the Baptist Center for Ethics recently produced a documentary film, Different Books, Common Word, with stories of Baptists and Muslims in the United States who found ways to work together for the common good.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.