The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, June 16, 2011


Stephen Prothero argues that “Congressional hearings on Islam betray American values.”

But the “real issue” here is not the radicalization of Islam in U.S. prisons. It is the sacrifice of American values of liberty and tolerance on the altar of anti-Islamic prejudice. More specifically, it is the abuse of the coercive power of the federal government (something conservatives used to care about) to attack one religion and one religion only.

I think Prothero is right to warn about anti-Muslim bigotry. Too many Americans wrongly assume that all Muslims are radicals. That’s simply not true. Then again, the fact that the vast majority of American Muslims are not radical does not mean that a tiny minority of them are. What American politics needs—and what the King hearings probably won’t provide—is the crucial ability to distinguish the two groups, and to encourage the former while frustrating the latter.

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Thomas S. Kidd writes this about “Sarah Palin and Historical Hypocrisy”:

Politicians courting Tea Party support may feel a particular temptation to use (or misuse) the history of the Founding. But this is not just a Republican issue. For instance, last fall, President Obama repeatedly misquoted the Declaration of Independence, leaving out “by their Creator” from the phrase “endowed with certain unalienable rights.” As I wrote for USA Today, this was not a minor oversight, given Obama’s other stumbles over religious language, and the appearance that he was (in the name of political correctness?) removing the rhetoric of faith from his version of the Declaration.

Governor Palin, you were wrong about Paul Revere, and that’s okay, if you would only admit to it. But the episode also reveals a dangerous irony: many politicians, like many Americans generally, suffer from historical ignorance, yet some of those same leaders confidently assure us that they, unlike their rivals, really believe in America’s Founding principles. I am all for adherence to the Founders’ ideals, but not everyone who cites the Founders actually knows much about them. Only an educated citizenry will be able to sniff out this kind of historical hypocrisy, and it is one more example of why understanding America’s past is essential to the health of the republic.

Kidd is author of the excellent God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution.

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“God’s MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders.” Very, very interesting.

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“Jesus and Basketball: Does God Take Sides?” Of course not! God only cares about Trojan football.

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“Why Renting Your House Is Better Than Buying.” Now they tell me.

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“Bromance Personified” is review of the documentary, Five Friends, which takes its inspiration from this Elbert Hubbard quote: “My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, you’ve had a great life.” I like that.

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“Solving the Mystery of Washington’s Famous Letter: How Did It End Up in a Suburban Warehouse?” A literary detective story along with a good reminder of our nation’s historical commitment to religious freedom.

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“Bin Laden’s No. 2, Zawahri, Takes Control of Al Qaeda.” Nothing puts a bull’s eye on your head like saying, “I’m in charge of Al Qaeda.”

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Mimi Haddad announces the “Building Biblical Community” conference in Seattle, Washington, July 29–27. The theme is “Transforming Sex, Power, and Prejudice.” You can register to attend here. I wonder if anyone has invited Mark Driscoll?

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“After controversy, Baptists affirm belief in ‘eternal, conscious’ hell.” The controversy has to do with Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

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