Kookie Pastor Pat Robertson Babbles About ‘Demonic Islam’

pat_robertson_earthquake_in_haiti

Poor Pastor Pat, everywhere he goes he sees devils and evil. (h/t: JD, KP)

Pat Robertson Claims Islam Is ‘Demonic’ And ‘Not A Religion’ But An Economic System (VIDEO)

(Huffington Post)

Controversial conservative Christian Pat Robertson doubled down Tuesday on claims that Islam is not a religion.

According to Right Wing Watch, Robertson, an elder statesman of the evangelical movement, made the inflammatory claim during an episode of his TV program, “The 700 Club.”

“Every time you look up — these are angry people, it’s almost like it’s demonic that is driving them to kill and to maim and to destroy and to blow themselves up,” Robertson said of Islam. “It’s a religion of chaos.”

He went on to say, “I hardly think to call it a religion, it’s more of — well, it’s an economic and political system with a religious veneer.”

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (III): Saint Ambrose’s Holy War Against Infidels

Note: This article is page III of a series on the Christian just war tradition.  If you haven’t already, might I suggest that you first read page I (the introduction) and page II (about the early Church).

Saint Ambrose (Fourth Century)

The relationship between Christianity and imperialism traces itself all the way back to the early Church fathers who enlisted themselves as “prayer warriors” for the Roman armies (read page II: Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?).  However, even though they prayed for the success and preservation of the Pax Romana, the early Christians felt uncomfortable serving as soldiers in a largely pagan military.

This changed with the conversion to Christianity of Rome’s emperor, Constantine the Great (272-337 AD).  Wim Smit writes on p.108 of Just War and Terrorism:

With the reign of Constantine (306-337) and the acceptance of Christianity as the state religion, the attitude of most Christians towards military service changed. The question no longer was: can service to God be reconciled with service to the emperor, but what kind of conditions and rules should be satisfied during battle? This revolution in Christian thought started with Ambrose…and was later systematised by his pupil Augustine (354), who can be seen as the founder of the just war tradition.

Saint Ambrose (340-397 AD) served as a Roman imperial officer and sought to justify the Empire’s wars.  Prof. Christopher Tyerman writes on p.33 of God’s War:

The conversion of Constantine and the final recognition of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire in 381 prompted the emergence of a set of limited principles of Christian just war which, by virtue of being fought by the Faithful, could be regarded as holy. The identification of the Roman empire with the church of God allowed Christians to see in the secular state their protector, the pax Romana being synonymous with Christian Peace. For the state, to its temporal hostes were added enemies of the Faith, pagan barbarians and, more immediately dangerous, religious heretics within the empire. Eusebius of Caesarea, historian of Constantine’s conversion, in the early fourth century reconciled traditional Christian pacifism with the new duties of the Christian citizen by pointing to the distinction between the clergy, immune from military service, and the laity, now fully encouraged to wage the just wars for the Christian empire. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397), as befitted a former imperial official, consolidated this symbiosis of the Graeco-Roman and Christian: Rome and Christianity were indissolubly united, their fates inextricably linked. Thus the war of one was that of the other, all Rome’s wars were just in the same way that those of the Old Testament Israelites have been; even heresy could be depicted as treason. Ambrose’s version of the Christian empire and the wars to protect it which constituted perhaps the earliest formulation of Christian warfare was, therefore, based on the union of church and state; hatred of foreigners in the shape of barbarians and other external foes; and a sharp intolerance towards dissent and internal debate, religious and political.

The term “barbarian” comes from the Greek word barbaros, meaning “anyone who is not Greek.”  The Romans expanded the word to refer to anyone outside of the Greco-Roman world.  It was thought that the “civilized world” referred to the Roman Empire, which was surrounded by “barbarians.”  Prof. Glen Warren Bowersock writes on p.334 of Late Antiquity:

The term barbarian[ was] derived from Greek ideals of cultural “otherness”…The image of barbaricum began at the frontiers…There was the idea of a wall around the empire, separating Rome from the other gentes [nations]…Every “good” emperor set up inscriptions of himself as domitor gentium barbararum [conqueror of the barbarian nations]…Barbarians were contemptible, unworthy enemies…Many stereotypes were simply ethnocentric [racist]…Barbarians were natural slaves, animals, faithless, dishonest, treasonable, arrogant, drunken sots…

Christians were not detached from the construction of these images…Some, like Ambrose, projected barbarians as drunks and faithless savages…

The pax Romana had to be “defended” against these “barbarians,” something which was done by conquering their lands.  This imperial mentality was, from the very start, accepted by Christianity.  The early Church fathers, for example, believed that “God ordained the imperial powers” to “advanc[e] the gospel;” they appreciated “the value of a Pax Romana maintained by force.” The “barbarians” surrounding the Roman Empire threatened not just the state, but also the Church; their paganism and heresy was a threat against true belief.  Therefore, war against them had to be justified.  Who better to justify this than the former imperial officer Ambrose of Milan?  Prof. Frederick H. Russell writes on p.13 of The Just War in the Middle Ages:

The fuller development of a Christian just war theory was futhered in the writings of Ambrose, a new kind of Christian. Trained in imperial administration and the former prefect in Milan, Ambrose brought a Roman political orientation to his ministry…The courage of soldiers who defended the Empire against barbarians…was full of justice, and Ambrose prayed for the success of imperial armies.

Prof. Russell writes further:

To the Roman animosity toward the barbarian was added the element of religious animosity between believer and unbeliever, thus rendering the internal and external threats to the Pax Romana more politically explosive. To point the way out of this crisis Ambrose about 378 the De Fide Christiana for the Emperor Gratian, who was at the time attempting to consolidate Roman authority on the Danube after the defeat of the Arian Valens by the Visigoths. Ambrose assured Gratian of victory, for it had been foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel and confirmed by Gratian’s faith. Ambrose even identified Gog, the wicked enemy of Ezekiel’s prophecies, with the contemporary Goths, who were thereby destined to destruction.

The just war theory was thus generated as a way “to point the way out of this crisis,” the crisis being the need “to consolidate Roman authority.”  More specifically, civil wars and rebellions within the Empire were to be forbidden, whereas Rome’s foreign wars to be justified.  Indeed, the emerging doctrine was to be applied to fellow Christians in order to prevent themselves from fighting each other when they could be fighting the infidel instead.  Prof. Alex J. Bellamy writes on p.24 of Just Wars:

Ambrose was the first thinker systematically to blend Christian teachings with Roman law and philosophy (Johnson 1987:54). He followed Cicero in acknowledging the possibility of justifiable wars and recognizing the difference between abhorrent civil wars and wars fought against barbarians (Swift 1970:533-4). Wars against barbarians, Ambrose argued, were legitimate because they protected both the empire and the Christian orthodoxy.

Ambrose, the first thinker behind the just war theory, justified his belief in two ways: (1) He was inspired by the wars in the Old Testament, and (2) He argued that Jesus’s non-violent teachings in the New Testament applied only to individuals but not to states.  Prof. Bellamy writes:

Ambrose argued that there were two grounds for justifying war. First, he found evidence in the Old Testament to support the view that not only was violence sometimes justified in order to protect others from harm, it was sometimes required on moral grounds or even directly commanded by God (Swift 1970:535). Second, Ambrose agreed dthat Jesus’ teaching forbade an individual from killing another in self-defence…Nevertheless he argued that whilst an individual may not kill to save himself, he must act in the defense of others…

Ambrose argued that “wars could only be fought in self-defense (broadly understood, as in the Roman tradition), when directly commanded by God, or in defence of religious orthodoxy”(Ibid.).  He ”demanded that the state should not tolerate any religion other than Christianity” (p.112 of Ralph Blumenau’s Philosophy and Living).  Heretics and pagans should be fought, both within and outside the Empire.

Ambrose melded the Church to the state’s powerful military.  ”Ambrose proposed that the incorporation of nails from the Cross into the imperial helmet and bridle symbolised Christianity’s support for enduring secular military authority” (p.77-78 of Prof. Michael Witby’s Rome at War).  He ”used Christianity to uphold imperial power” (Ibid.), but also used the imperial power to uphold Christianity.  The Church provided the state with the religious justification for war.  The Church, in return, benefited from these wars by using the state to enforce the faith and punish “barbarians” (pagans and heretics). Prof. Mary L. Foster writes on p.156 of Peace and War:

Ambrose, former praetorian prefect and then bishop of Milan (339-397)[ was] the first to formulate a “Christian ethic of war.” He drew upon the Stoics, particularly Cicero (106-43 B.C.), and legitimized the view by referring to holy wars spoken of in the Old Testament from Abraham and Moses to Maccaebus. Ambrose further justified the view by arguing that Christianity was, and must be, protected against the barbarians by the armed force of the Roman Empire. Both Augustine and Ambrose saw the Christian Empire as empowered to resist paganism and heresy.

For Ambrose, wars fought against pagans and heretics were, by definition, just: “if a Christian general fought a pagan army, he had a just cause” (Prof. Joseph F. Kelly on p.164 of The World of the Early Christians).  In fact, the machinery of the state should be used to conquer the world under the banner of Christianity.  Prof. Reinhard Bendix writes on p.244 of Embattled Reason:

Ambrose justified war against those who do not belong to the community of the faithful [pagans and heretics]…Warlike actions are justified [against the non-believer]…The goal of Ambrose was to establish a universal faith. All people should be brothers in the common, Christian faith, even if wars against non-believers were needed to accomplish this ideal…

Discrimination against pagans was justified in the eyes of Christian Fathers like Ambrose by the absolute belief in Christ as the only road to salvation. Accordingly, it is man’s religious duty to proclaim, and fight for, this truth in the whole world. Ambrose wrote his commentary decades after Christianity had become the dominant religion of the Roman world, recognized and supported publicly. With this support, Ambrose could presuppose a universal ethic based on a shared belief in [the Christian] God and on that basis fight in the name of the church against the heathens who were still the great majority [outside of the Roman Empire].

Ambrose declared an all-out war against paganism, and recruited the Roman emperors to do so.  ”No one was more determined to destroy paganism than Ambrose,” who was “a major influence upon both [Emperors] Gratian and Valentinian II” (Ted Byfield on p.92 of Darkness Descends).  In a letter addressed to the Roman emperor, Ambrose wrote:

Just as all men who live under Roman rule serve in the armies under you, the emperors and princes fo the world, so too do you serve as soldiers of almighty God and of our holy faith. For there is no sureness of salvation unless everyone worships in truth the true God, that is, the God of the Christians, under whose sway are all things. For he alone is the true God, who is to be worshiped from the bottom of the heart, ‘for the gods of the heathen,’ as Scripture says, ‘are devils.’ (Ibid., p.93)

Here, we see a reciprocal relationship emerging between the Church and Roman state.  The Church legitimated Roman wars to expand the Empire and protect its hegemony, so long as the state enforced the Christian religion by fighting against heretics and pagans.

Jews, for example, were infidels worthy of death.  James Carroll writes on p.104 of Jerusalem, Jerusalem that Ambrose “wanted to kill Jews (since, after all, Christian heretics were being killed for denying details of orthodoxy, while Jews rejected the whole of it).”

Prof. Madeleine P. Cosman writes on pp.262-263 of the Handbook to Life in the Medieval World (Vol.3):

The church’s attitude toward war would indelibly be changed by Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and the so-called Edict of Milan (313), which recognized Christianity as a religion that could be practiced openly; church and state could now be conjoined in the same cause. A momentous meeting in the year 397 of Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan (d. 397), and the emperor Gratian resulted in the declaration of Christianity as the official state religion and the concomitant outlawing of other “pagan superstitions.” Church leaders began to encourage rulers to wage a holy war on pagans for the sake of God and the church to defend the empire from heretical “traitors.”

There is much discussion, even in some scholarly circles, about “just war” vs. “holy war.”  I have read countless books where Western authors write of how it “was only during the Crusades that the Christians developed the concept of ‘holy war’ like the Islamic concept of jihad.”  These are all bogus discussions.  Quite clearly, the Christian just war tradition was the legitimization of “a holy war on pagans” from its very inception.  This is the case starting with the originator of the doctrine itself, Saint Ambrose, who harnessed imperial power to promote the Christian faith, a partnership that would outlast the Roman Empire itself.

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Disclaimer:

None of this is meant to characterize Christianity as inherently violent.  Rather, it is meant to disabuse people of the notion that Christianity’s just war tradition has been any less troublesome than Islam’s jihad tradition.  This article is part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, which answers the question (answered incorrectly by most Americans): Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (II): Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

Note: This article is page II of a series on the Christian just war tradition.  If you haven’t already, might I suggest that you first read page I (the introduction): What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (I)

The First Three Centuries (0-313 A.D.)

It is often argued that Jesus Christ (7–2 BC to 30–36 AD) preached pacifism and that this was the stance of the early Church.  According to this standard narrative, the Church “fell from Grace” with the conversion of Constantine and it was only then that pacifism was abandoned.   Such conventional wisdom, however, is not very accurate.

As for Jesus of the Bible, a closer analysis shows that he was not opposed to violence (see: Jesus Loves His Enemies…And Then Kills Them All).  He was (basically) non-violent during his lifetime, all the way up until he was nailed to the cross.  At that time, Jesus was not in a position of authority, power, or capacity to do otherwise.  He was at the mercy of his enemies.

However, in the Bible itself Jesus promises to kill all his enemies when he returns.  At that point in time, he would no longer be a persecuted preacher but a “Warrior King” commanding large armies of both heavenly and earthly beings.  How can it then be said that Jesus of the Bible believed in pacifism?  His use of non-violent means was temporal and tactical, not principled and value-based.

It hardly matters what people do when they are not in a position to do otherwise.  It is once they are in a position of power and authority that what they do really matters.  Imagine, for instance, if the Dalai Lama practiced non-violence while his people were still under Chinese authority but at the same time he issued proclamations that he would wage war against the Chinese and kill all their leaders once his country is liberated.  Would anyone think of him as pacifist if this were the case?

As for the early Church, the characterization of it as pacifist is also problematic.  Modern scholarship has moved away from this outdated conception.  For example, Prof. James Turner Johnson, considered “one of the most influential contemporary interpreters of the [just war] tradition today,” notes that the “evidence presents a picture not of a single doctrine [within the early Church], but of plurality; not of universal rejection of war and military service, but of a mixture of acceptance and rejection of these phenomena in different sectors of the Christian world” (p.17 of Johnson’s The Quest for Peace).

There was no one view among early Church fathers with regard to war and military service.  Instead, the evidence suggests that there existed a multitude of views on this issue, a fact that “challenges the conventional view of the early church [as uniformly pacifist]” (Prof. J. Daryl Charles on p.108 of War, Peace, and Christianity).  Prof. James Turner Johnson, Prof. J. Daryl Charles, and many others have argued the point that even those Church fathers who were opposed to military service were so not because of a principled belief in pacifism but (1) because they believed the return of Jesus to be imminent and (2) because being a part of the pagan Roman military would involve idolatry.

Prof.  J. Daryl Charles notes that the early Church’s abstention from military service was due to “the predominance of a conspicuously otherworldly expectation–the expectation of the coming of Christ’s kingdom” and the “rejection of idolatrous practices within the Roman army” (Ibid., pp.109-110).  Neither reason could be used to support a principled belief in pacifism.  As for the first reason, this implies that the early Church was not opposed to the use of violence, only that they were waiting to use it upon Christ’s return (an event they believed would occur imminently, even in their own lifetimes).  If, for example, the Tamil Tigers abstained from violence until their leader was released from jail, would anyone believe this to be support for pacifism?

Furthermore, this “otherworldly” attitude applied not just to military service but to all “worldly matters.”  They were in a state of “praying continually, watching and fasting, preaching to all they could reach, paying no heed to worldly matters, as things with which they had nothing to do, only accepting from those whom they taught as much as was absolutely necessary for life” (p.86 of Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones’ The Church of England, Vol. 1).  They did not involve themselves in matters of state at all, including but not limited to military service.  One cannot equate this to a belief in pacifism any more than it would mean a rejection of governance.

In other words, just because early Christians did not believe that they themselves should not participate in such functions did not mean they thought it was wrong for others to do so.  For example, many Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel enroll in religious schools and are thus exempted from military service.  As religious students and rabbis, they believe that their lives should be dedicated to Jewish studies and many expect the rest of society to support them.  But even though they themselves refuse to serve in the military, many of them strongly support the Israeli military and indiscriminate violence against Palestinians.  When other Israelis criticize them as chickenhawks for refusing to serve in the military (even as they push Israel to perpetual war), the standard response by these Ultra-Orthodox Jews is that they serve the IDF in a religious capacity: they pray for the military’s success.  No rational person would have the temerity to say that these Ultra-Orthodox Jews are pacifist.  They might not want to go to war themselves, but they are certainly not opposed to it.

Likewise, the early Church was not opposed to war or the Roman military itself; they just didn’t want any “worldly” function in it themselves.  The Church fathers actually prayed for the success of the Roman military in its imperial wars against “barbarians.”  Here, we see the emergence of a theme that emerged with the early Church and sustained itself throughout Christian history:  the support for European imperialism.  Prof. Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez writes on p.78 of The Encyclopedia of Religion and War:

In fact, numerous Christian writers in the first three centuries already affirmed that God ordained the existing imperial powers, including their coercive functions, for maintaining order, restraining sin, and advancing the gospel. The injunction of Paul to “be subject to the governing authorities” whose authority has been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1-7 NRSV; cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17) was echoed in the writings of Justin, Tertullian, and Origen (185?-254?). Each author acknowledged the benefits of Roman order as part of God’s plan and assured the authorities of Christian support and prayers.

Prof. Palmer-Fernandez goes on to say that “these early writers were also expressing appreciation for the value of a Pax Romana maintained by force.”

The Church fathers saw themselves very much in the same way that Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel see themselves, and as pagan Roman priests in that time also did.  Prof. Darrell Cole writes in a section entitled “Fighting Through Prayer” in his book When God Says War is Right:

The Christian pacifism movement claims Origen (A.D. 185-254) as a hero, but it’s hard to decide whether the term “pacifist” can truly and fairly be applied to him, at least in the way we think of it today. To modern ears, pacifism means the complete rejection of warfare as an inherently immoral practice. This was not Origen’s view, though he was certainly opposed to Christians becoming soldiers.

The only work where Origen was concerned with Christian participation in warfare is the polemical Contra Celsum written in response to a Roman philosopher named Celsus…[He argued] that all Christians should be give the same considerations as those in the pagan priesthood who were not required to give physical service in the military, but instead served the cause by praying for the emperor and the soldiers to triumph in battle.

[Origen wrote:] And, of course, in war time you do not enlist your priests. If this is a resonable procedure, how much more so is it for Christians to fight as priests and worshipers of God while others fight as soldiers. Though they keep their right hands clean, the Christians fight through their prayers to God on behalf of those doing battle in a just cause and on behalf of an emperor who is ruling justly in order that all opposition and hostility toward those who are acting rightly may be eliminated. (VIII.73)

Moreover, Origen added, Christians supplied an irreplaceable aid to the emperor. By overcoming in prayer the very demons that cause wars, Christians actually help more than soldiers. So even though Christians did not go on campaign with the emperor, they did go to battle for him “by raising a special army of piety through our petitions to God” (VIII.73).

This support and prayer for Rome’s military was at a time when the imperial armies were ever expanding the Empire’s borders.  During this time, the Roman Empire was involved in many wars: in the first three centuries A.D., Roman legions conquered lands in modern day Germany, Britain, Wales, Scotland, Romania, etc.   Also included in these conquests (and prayed for by the Church) was the conquest of parts of the Middle East.

The early Christians remained passive participants in the military effort not for long.  In fact, the “evidence…is fairly strong that from A.D. 170 onward there were significant members of Christians in the [Roman] army, and ‘the numbers of these Chrisitans began to grow, despite occassional efforts to purge Christians from the army [by the Romans], through the second and third centuries into the age of Constantine. We may estimate the number of Christian soldiers at the beginning of the fourth century in the tens of thousands’” (p.112 of Prof. J. Daryl Charles’ War, Peace, and Christianity; he is quoting Johnson’s The Quest for Peace).

Once Constantine converted to Christianity, the early Christians no longer faced the barrier to military service they once had: they no longer needed to fear indulging in the pagan practices of the military.  Furthermore, by this time, the Church had realized that Jesus Christ may not be coming back as soon as they thought.  As such, it is no surprise that soon afterward Christian theologians would formally tackle the issue of war.  Is this not a strong indication that it was the issue of paganism, not a principled adherence to pacifism, that compelled the early Church to be so uneasy with military participation?

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According to the “fall from Grace” theory, the Church suddenly changed its views about pacifism with the conversion of Constantine.  If this were really the case, then the question arises: of what relevance is early Christianity’s supposed pacifism during a time when it was not in a position of power?  What does it say about such a belief if, the moment Christianity assumed power, this “pacifism” was suddenly abandoned for a policy of imperialism?

The truth is that there wasn’t a sudden reversal of opinion, but rather a gradual development of an idea that had already taken root with the early Church.  With the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the West’s imperial power and Christianity would formally fuse together.  It would be, as we shall see, a bond that would endure the test of time.

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Disclaimer:

As I mentioned in the introduction, my intention is not to demonize the entire faith of Christianity.  There exists no shortage of Christians today who endorse pacifism and oppose America’s unjust wars in the Muslim world.  Such people have my utmost respect.  If some of them base their pacifism in their belief that the early Church was pacifist, I don’t see any reason to expend energy trying to set the record straight.  I only chose to address this issue since some anti-Muslim Christians forced my hand by continually arguing this point (the early Church was pacifist, look how peaceful our religion is compared to Islam, etc.).

Having said that, I don’t think pacifist Christians should think any of this should stand in the way of their pacifist beliefs.  As I mentioned earlier, the early Church fathers seemed to differ among themselves.  Anti-military views certainly existed, and even if one cannot find clearly principled pacifism, this is still a starting point that the modern-day Christian can draw on.

Furthermore, I think people of all religions–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–would be a whole lot better off if they didn’t feel the need to validate their beliefs by looking at how their religion was practiced in a mythical “golden age” of the past.  This very much limits freedom of thought and religious interpretation.  What is needed are new, more merciful and compassionate readings of the text.

By knowing the reality of one’s tradition, reformist believers will be better equipped to deal with the arguments raised by right-wing followers who will bring up a lot of the same points I brought up to justify their beliefs.  See, for instance, this article by none other than “Dr.” Robert Morey.  Reformist, liberal adherents of religion will be in a stronger theological position if they base their views in fact instead of myth.  Instead of always needing to validate your beliefs by citing some guy who lived hundreds of years ago, why not just use a much simpler line of argumentation like the following:

The early Church had a mixed view with regard to war, with a portion of them rejecting military service.  After reflecting on the issue myself, I tend to be on the pacifist side.  My own reasons might not be the exact same as those held by earlier Christians, but there is much overlap.  Furthermore, I don’t need to be 100% beholden to their views.

Simple.

To be continued…

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (I)

This article is part 11 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

It is common to hear comparisons between  the so-called “just war tradition” in Christianity and the jihad of Islam.  We are told that Jesus of the New Testament was non-violent and that the early Church was pacifist.  According to this standard narrative, it was only with Constantine that the Church “fell from Grace” and accepted a very limited concept of defensive war, one that sought to limit, restrain, and constrain war.  We are told that the violent acts committed by Christians throughout history were done in contradiction to this doctrine.

Many Westerners seem to be under the impression that we can draw a straight line from the ancient Greeks to St. Augustine to Thomas Aquinas to Hugo Grotius to modern international law.  This very selective, cursory, and incomplete understanding of history creates a very “generous” depiction of Christian tradition.  Once this mythical and fabricated history is created, it is compared to the jihad tradition of Islam.  No such “generous” depictions of Islamic tradition are harbored; if anything, the most cynical view possible is taken.

Such an unfair comparison–coupled with a completely Western perspective on contemporary world affairs–begs the question: why is Islam so violent?  Why is the Islamic tradition so much more warlike than the Christian one?

Many right-wing Christians and even secular people of the “Judeo-Christian tradition” exhibit a great deal of religious arrogance, especially when it comes to this subject.  Repeatedly, we are told to compare the supposedly peaceful Christian just war tradition with the allegedly brutal Islamic jihad tradition.

Occasionally, Christian polemicists have some level of shame and recognize that the history of Christianity has been marred by war and violence: the Crusades, the ethnic cleansing of the Americas, and the colonial enterprise come to mind.  We are assured, however, that these occurrences were “in direct contradiction” to official church doctrine.  This is what career Islamophobe Robert Spencer argues, for instance, in his book Islam Unveiled.  This is, we are told, completely unlike the Islamic offenses throughout history, which were supposedly in line with traditional Islamic thought.

In this article series, I will prove that this understanding of the Christian just war tradition is mythical, fanciful, and misleading.  Throughout history, there were serious shortcomings to the Christian understanding of just war–both in matters of jus ad bellum (the right to wage war) and jus in bello (right conduct during war).  Specifically, just war doctrine was restricted to Christians and Europeans.  Its constraints simply did not apply to “infidels”, “pagans”, “heathens”, “barbarians”, and “primitives”.  The Christian just war tradition was not just exclusivist but through-and-through racist.

One could reasonably argue that such a critique suffers from a modern bias: using contemporary standards to evaluate pre-modern societies is not something I generally encourage.  Yet, if we insist on critiquing historical Islam based on such standards, then surely we should be willing to apply the same to Christianity.

Additionally, this shortcoming–the lack of application of the just war principles to infidels–is hardly a tertiary issue.  Instead, it lies at the very heart of the comparison that is continually invoked between Christianity and Islam.  One could only imagine, for instance, the reaction of anti-Muslim critics if the dictates of war ethic in Islam were applicable to fellow Muslims only.  Had this been the case, such a thing would not be seen as a mere “shortcoming” but indicative of the “Islamic supremacist attitude.”  This wouldn’t be understood as something that could be relegated to a footnote or a few sentences buried somewhere deep in a huge text (which is the case with books talking about the Christian just war tradition).  Instead, pages and pages would be written about the injustices of the Islamic principles of war.

This double standard between believer and infidel, were it to exist in the Islamic tradition (and it does, to an extent), would become the focus of discussion.  But when it comes to the Judeo-Christian tradition, such things are relegated to “by the way” points that are minimized, ignored, or simply forgotten.  Western understandings of the Christian just war tradition create a narrative by cherry-picking views here and there to create a moral trajectory that is extremely generous to that tradition.  Meanwhile, Islamic and Eastern traditions are viewed with Orientalist lenses, focusing on the injustices and flaws (particularly with regard to religious minorities).  This of course may be a result of a primarily Eurocentric view of history: how did their war ethic affect people that were like me?

Yet, if we wanted to extrapolate an overarching theme of the Christian just war tradition, it would have to be this: the Christian just war tradition did not limit war (as is commonly argued) but instead, for the most part, served to justify the conquest and dispossession of indigenous populations. This was not merely a case of misapplying or exploiting doctrines.  Rather, the doctrines were themselves expounded in a way so as to facilitate such applications.  Many of history’s famous just war theorists were generating such theories to provide the moral arguments to justify colonial conquest.  The tradition was more about justifying wars than about limiting violence to just wars.  The Christian acts of violence throughout history were not in spite of Church doctrine; they were more often than not because of it.

Why is it that, even in some scholarly books, the Christian just war tradition towards fellow believers is compared to the Islamic attitudes towards war with unbelievers? Either the Christian treatment of Christians should be compared to the Islamic treatment of Muslims, or alternatively the Christian treatment of infidels should be compared to the Islamic treatment of the same.  It is the unfair comparison between apples and oranges that serves to reinforce this warped understanding of the matter.

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An error we must avoid is conflating the modern-day just war doctrine with the historical Christian just war tradition.  Although St. Augustine laid down some principles that, through a long process of evolution, found themselves in today’s doctrine, it should be noted that Augustine’s views of just war were, by today’s standards, extremely unjust.  One must compare this proto-doctrine with what was practiced in traditional Islam, instead of retroactively superimposing the modern concept of just war onto Augustine.

Indeed, “one of the most influential contemporary interpreters of the [just war] tradition today, James Turner Johnson, goes so far as to say that to all intents and purposes, ‘there is no just war doctrine, in the classic form as we know it today, in either Augustine or the theologians or canonists of the high Middle Ages. This doctrine in its classic form [as we know it today], including both a jus ad bellum…and a jus in bello…does not exist before the end of the middle ages. Conservatively, it is incorrect to speak of classic just war doctrine existing before about 1500″ (Prof. Nicholas Rengger on p.34 of War: Essays in Political Philosophy).

In other words, for 1500 years–roughly seventy-five percent of Christian history–there was no real just war doctrine. Shouldn’t this fact be stated when comparing Christian and Islamic traditions?  The just war doctrine–as we know it today–arose during a time when the Christian Church’s power was waning, hardly something for Christians to boast about.

And even after that–lest our opponents be tempted to use this fact to their advantage (that the Christian world distanced itself from the Church unlike in the Islamic world)–the just war doctrine that was established continued to be applied, from both a doctrinal standpoint and on-the-ground, to only Christians/Europeans.  This continued to be the case in the sixteenth century and all the way through the nineteenth century.

It was only for a fleeting moment in the twentieth century that just war doctrine became universal.  It is an irony that in no other century was just war theory so horrifically violated, and this by the Western world (with the United States dropping two atomic bombs on civilian populations).

This brings us to the situation today: Jewish and Christian neocons and extreme Zionists in the United States and Israel are leading the charge against the just war doctrine, trying to use legal means to change it to accommodate the War on of Terror.  Many of our opponents are the most vociferous proponents of doing away with such quaint principles as just war, at least when it comes to dealing with Muslims.

Is it this fleeting moment in Christian history, in which for a fraction of a second the just war doctrine really existed, that our opponents use to bash Muslims over the head with?

*  *  *  *  *

The standard meme among Islamophobes–and wrongfully accepted by the majority of Americans–has been that Islam is exceptionally violent–certainly more violent than Judaism and Christianity.  When we look at the scriptural sources, however, this does not bear out: the Bible is far more violent than the Quran (see parts 123456-i6-ii6-iii6-iv789-i, and 9-ii of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.)

Among the many other “fall back” arguments used by our opponents, we are reassured that Judaism and Christianity have “interpretive traditions” that have moved away from literal, violent understandings of Biblical passages–altogether unlike Islam (so we are told).  Robert Spencer writes on p.31 of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

The Islamophobes then temporarily move away from quoting the scriptural sources but instead focus on comparing (1) the traditional interpretations of the canonical texts, and (2) the modern-day understandings of said texts.  In both respects, we are told, the Judeo-Christian tradition is more peaceful than the Islamic one.

In the previous article series (entitled Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?), I addressed the Jewish side of “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”  [Note: That article series is being modified before the last couple pages will be published.  I have decided to take reader input and mellow it out quite a bit, i.e. remove the images, change the title, etc.]  I proved that both traditional and contemporary Jewish understandings of the scriptural sources could hardly be used to justify the argument against Islam.

But when it comes to such matters, it might be more important to address the Christian side of the coin.  Considering that Christians are in the majority in this country, it is more common to hear right-wing Christians invoke bellicose comparisons between their faith and Islam.  Robert Spencer, an anti-Muslim Catholic polemicist, relies on this comparison routinely.

In order to shield himself from possible “counter-attack,” Spencer uses an interesting argument.  In a section entitled “Theological Equivalence” in his book Islam Unveiled, Spencer writes:

When confronted with this kind of evidence [about Islam’s violence], many Western commentators practice a theological version of “moral equivalence,” analogous to the geopolitical form which held that the Soviet Union and the United States were essentially equally free and equally oppressive.  ”Christians,” these commentators say, “have behaved the same way, and have used the Bible to justify violence.  Islam is no different: people can use it to wage war or to wage peace.”

I am one of these “Western commentators.”  Spencer cites ”the humanist Samuel Bradley” who noted that “Central America was savaged” because of “this country’s God.”  Bradley quoted “Spanish conquistador Pizarro” who slaughtered the indigenous population, by his own admission, only “by the grace of God.”

But, Spencer rejects such “theological equivalence,” arguing that Pizarro violated “the Just War principles of his own Roman Catholic Church.”  Spencer is not just arguing that the modern-day just war theory would prohibit the European conquest and dispossession of the Native Americans, but that even in the time of the conquest and dispossession itself the Church’s just war doctrine did.  He is arguing that the Christian acts of violence throughout history were “fundamentally different” than those committed by Muslims, since–according to him–the former were done against the just war doctrine of the Church, whereas the latter were endorsed by the Islamic religious establishment.

But, as I have argued above, this is patently false. The Christian just war tradition was used to justify the conquest and dispossession of the Native Americans, one of the greatest crimes in all of history.  In fact, these doctrines were formulated for that exact purpose in mind.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

Naturally, as was the case with the article series on Jewish law, there is the chance of offending well-meaning and good-hearted Christians.  Let it be known, again, that nowhere am I trying to paint the entire Christian faith or community with a broad brush.  There exists no shortage of Christians who oppose war (especially America’s current wars in the Muslim world) and who advocate peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.

Critically evaluating religious traditions can be uncomfortable, but the problems therein should not be ignored nor should we pretend they don’t exist.  Honest evaluations of the past can be the key to coming up with more tolerant answers for the present and future.

I have already discussed some of the problems with the Jewish tradition.  This article series deals with the Christian tradition.  Rest assured, however, that a future article series of mine will take a critical look at the Islamic tradition as well.  However, because Islamophobia has become so rampant and pervasive in our culture, I do not think that this should be done before we first look at the problems inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition that our society is based on.  Once that is done, we can then look at the Islamic tradition from a more nuanced, balanced, and helpful perspective.  This is the purpose of this somewhat controversial article series.

To be continued…

Update I: A reader pointed out that I made many claims above but did not back them up with proof.  I should clarify that this page is just the introductory piece to the article series and simply states what I will prove.  It is just a statement of my thesis; the proof to back the thesis up is still to come–hence, the “to be continued…

Majority of Americans Believe the Bible is Literally True and the Word of God

This article is part 7 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim bigots fear-monger about Islam and Muslims by demonizing the Quran, calling it a “book of violence and war.”  This, they argue, is quite unlike other religious scriptures, and is especially unlike the Bible, which is a book of love and good morals.

We threw cold water on this argument by reproducing oodles of violent passages found in the Bible (see parts12345 , and 6 of this Series), showing that the Bible is in fact way more more violent than the Quran.

Instead of defending their initial argument (the oft-repeated claim that the Quran is a uniquely violent holy book, far more violent than the Bible) or even their “fall back” argument (the claim that the violent Biblical passages are merely “descriptive” unlike the Quran’s violent passages that are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”–a claim that we refuted in part 6 of this Series), Islamophobes quickly move on to their next “fall back” argument:

Jews and Christians no longer believe in the inerrant nature of the Bible, unlike the Muslims who take the Quran as absolutely accurate. We are told that Jews and Christians have moved beyond the Bible (even “tossed it aside!”), whereas the primitive Muslims continue to follow their archaic holy book.  Therefore, the argument goes, invoking the Bible is hardly relevant, since “most Jews and Christians no longer give credence to it.”

This argument is not grounded in fact, however.  A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that a majority of all Americans (63%) believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God, with less than a quarter (24%) disagreeing with this belief.  This is quite amazing when one considers that about 20% of Americans are neither Jewish or Christian! The percentage of those who believe in the literal meaning of the Bible jumps to 70% for Protestants, and becomes overwhelming (89%) for Evangelical Christians in specific.  Meanwhile, 77% of Republicans believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Pew Research poll bore out fairly similar results, with 78% of Americans believing that the Bible is either the actual or inspired Word of God.  This view is held by 88% of Protestants, 82% of Catholics, and 91% of other Christian groups.  Contrary to the emerging scholarly consensus that the Biblical stories such as Exodus and Conquest are “best regarded as a myth”, only a minority of the public at large (19% of Americans, 11% of Protestants, 16% of Catholics, and 6% of other Christian groups) believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends.”

Quite the opposite of what our opponents claim, most Christian-Americans very much believe in the accuracy of their scriptural texts.  This explains, for instance, why only a minority of Christians in America believe in evolution, with “60 percent of Americans who call themselves Evangelical Christians…favor replacing evolution with creationism in schools altogether.”

Whether it’s evolution or abortion, Christian-Americans take the Bible very, very seriously.

* * * *

As always, our opponents will rely on a “fall back” argument and claim that the case of Europe is different, that the United States is far more religious than the “bastion of atheism” across the pond.  The Christians in Europe, we are told, aren’t that serious about their religion.

We will preempt this argument by pointing out that only a quarter of the world’s Christians are in Europe.  The other three-quarters are in North and South America, Africa, and Asia.  Latin America has as many Christians as Europe does, and they take their religion very seriously.  So too is the case in Christian Africa and Asia, which together accounts for far more Christians than in Europe.  It is a reasonable assumption that the Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia take the Bible very seriously.  Therefore, the “but Europe is different!” excuse is of limited utility.

The majority of Christians actually live in the developing world.  It is of course expected that our opponents will insist on comparing the minority of Christians in the First World to the Muslims in the Third World.

* * * *

The “official view” of the Church reinforces our assertion: “The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant.” Both the Catholic Church and mainstream Protestantism (certainly Evangelical Christianity) view the Bible as accurate.  This is a doctrinal view that has always been held and continues to be held by “mainstream Christianity”.

Anti-Islam ideologues further misleading arguments when they exaggerate between the views about “inerrancy” between Christians and Muslims.  One “mainstream Christian view” posits that the Bible does have some “errors” in it.  The anti-Muslim ideologues shrug off the violent verses in the Bible by arguing that “well, we don’t believe that the Bible is without errors, unlike the Muslims!”  This deceptive argument implies that the Christians believe that those violent verses are erroneous/inaccurate.

Yet, this “mainstream Christian view” holds that the Bible is “98.5% textually pure” and “the 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words ‘the,’ ‘but,’ etc.”  In fact, none of these errors “affect[] doctrinal truths.”  Certainly, these “errors” do not encompass the violent holy wars that are narrated about the Biblical prophets: “In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents.”  Nor do they include the exhortations to violence (“prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” calls to holy war against infidels) found in the Book of Psalms.

What then is the relevance of this argument except to obfuscate the issue?  The fact is that only 6-16% of Christians in America recognize the Bible as “ancient fables, history, and legends.”  That having been established, we could care less about whether or not the word “the” should have been “a” or the other way around.

Neither is it relevant whether or not one believes the Bible is “literally” the Word of God or the “inspired” Word of God, as both amount to the same thing: a text that is considered accurate by its followers.  As one popular Evangelical site, GotQuestions.org, puts it: “Inspiration means the Bible truly is the Word of God…Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and authoritative…Without a doubt the Bible is what it claims to be—the undeniable, authoritative, Word of God to humanity.”

As long as the majority of Christians don’t believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends” (which they don’t), whether they consider the Bible the literal or inspired word of God is largely inconsequential to the argument at hand.

* * * *

Unfortunately, we could not locate any poll about Jewish views towards the accuracy of the Bible.  But as far as “official views” go, Orthodox Judaism (the only strand of Judaism recognized by the state of Israel) takes the Hebrew Bible very, very seriously.

* * * *

Lastly, it is rather quite telling that the Islamophobes have now fallen back on the argument that “Jews and Christians have tossed the Bible aside”: is this not a sign of surrender and an implicit admission that the Bible glorifies and exhorts violence and that there is no reasonable way of denying this?  The need to invoke the argument (or rather, to fall back on it) is an indirect  admission that the contrary could not be convincingly argued.

Compare this reaction to Muslims, who instead of needing to rely on the “but we don’t take the Quran seriously” defense, can reasonably argue–using the mitigating verses of the Quran–that the Quran calls for war in self-defense only (Just War Doctrine).  Worded another way: the Bible is so violent that it simply can’t be defended, at least not using the same standards the anti-Muslim ideologues employ against the Quran.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (IV)

This is page IV of IV.  To return to page I, go here.  To return to page II, go here. To return to page III, go here.

Many Westerners continue to think of the Quran as a book of violence, which stands in sharp contrast to the Bible, a book of love.  In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Catholic apologist Robert Spencer (kingpin of the anti-Muslim cyber-world) feeds into this Orientalism-on-steroids view of Islam.  Spencer claims that the Quran is the single most violent religious scripture on earth.  He dismisses any comparison to the Bible, arguing that “there is nothing in the Bible that rivals the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence.”

We responded by producing oodles of violent Biblical passages (see parts 1234, and 5 of this Series), which are in fact way more violent than the Quran.  The Bible, unlike the Quran, sanctions the targeting and killing of civilians (including women, children, and even babies); it sanctions genocide.  No such thing can be found in the Quran.  One simply cannot find any verse in the Quran that calls to kill babies like the Bible explicitly does.

Spencer et al. respond to these passages by claiming that the Biblical passages are merely “descriptive”, unlike the Quran’s violent passages that are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal.”  Anyone who follows such debates knows how crucial this counter-argument is to the anti-Muslim camp.  It has been the shield with which they protect their hypocrisy, insulating themselves from Mutually Assured Destruction in these My-Holy-Book-is-Better-Than-Yours Holy Wars.

In this article (see pages  III, and III), that counter-argument (so loved and cherished by Islamophobes) has finally been laid to rest: it has been shot dead like bin Ladin.  Clearly, there are verses in the Bible that condone violence–passages that are prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments to wage holy war against unbelievers and to enslave them–at least according to the standards and methodology employed by Robert Spencer et al. against the Quran.

The Islamophobes have immediately reacted by claiming that “you can’t possibly compare those Biblical passages with the Quranic verses!” and then focus on (and magnify) some perceived insignificant difference between the phrasing of the two books.  Yet, if we place the two texts side by side, there seems little reason to appreciate any significant difference at all (at least in a way that would benefit the Bible).  If we consider the Quranic verses to be “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”, then certainly the Biblical passages (discussed on pages 1-3) are as well.  In fact, there is ample reason to consider them more so.

The Bible, for instance, says:

Psalms 149:5 Let godly people triumph in glory. Let them sing for joy on their beds.

149:6 Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment on the people,

149:8 to bind their kings with chains, and their leaders with iron shackles.

The only way Robert Spencer and his minions can explain why these verses “don’t count” is by arguing that these were psalms attributed to King David and that therefore should not be understood as universal commandments; rather, these apply only to a specific person (David) in a specific time (thousands of years ago) in a specific scenario (the divinely sanctioned war with the inhabitants of Canaan).

Yet, if these Biblical verses “don’t count” because of this reason, then the Quranic verses he cited should also “not count” either since the same exact reasoning can be employed.  These were Quranic verses revealed to a specific person (Muhammad) in a specific time (1,400 years ago) in a specific scenario (the war against the enemy tribes of seventh century Arabia).

Once again, Spencer’s own selection of quotes is all the proof that is needed to refute him.  Spencer writes (emphasis is ours):

Islamic apologists more often tend to focus on several Old Testament passages:

* “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

* “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.  Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

* “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.  But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18).

Strong stuff, right?  Just as bad as “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Qur’an 9:5) and “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” (Quran 47:4) and all the rest, right?

Wrong.  Unless you happen to be a Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite, [the Seven Nations] these Biblical passages simply do not apply to you.  The Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction.  Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.  The Old Testament, in contrast, records God’s commands to the Israelites to make war against particular people only.  This is jarring to modern sensibilities, to be sure, but it does not amount to the same thing.

Notice that he cites verse 9:5 as proof of the Quran’s “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal command to make war against unbelievers.”  Yet, on the very same page of his own book (p.29 ofThe Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades) Spencer quotes verse 9:13 of the Quran (just a few lines down from 9:5), which says:

“Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first?” [Qur’an 9:13]

You can read this verse at the top right hand corner on p.29 of Spencer’s own book (click the image below to view):

Clearly, the Quranic passage is not talking about any or all unbelievers for all time.  Rather, this Quranic passage was revealed with regard to a very specific situation and against a very specific group of “unbelievers”, namely those “who broke their solemn pledges [peace treaties]…and attacked you first”, and who even tried to “drive out the messenger” from the city.  Just as Spencer et al. argue that those Biblical verses apply only to nations that no longer exist, so too can Muslims today argue that this passage is only against those who “drove out the Messenger” (Muhammad).  Since the Prophet Muhammad is no longer alive, couldn’t it be said that there is no “folk” on earth who could drive him out, and therefore the passage does not apply to anyone any more?

Another key phrase in the passage is “they did attack you first”, which supports the idea that the Quran, quite unlike the Bible, endorses war in self-defense only.  This point will be explored in a future article in the Series.  But for now, we can safely say that the passage is–at least as much as the psalms are–speaking about a very specific situation and a very specific people: namely, “a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first.”  If this explanation suffices for our opponents with regard to their own holy book, then why can’t Muslims also use it for their own scriptures?  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Robert Spencer has also relied on another common tactic of deception used by Islamophobes to convince the reader that the Quran contains “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” commandments to wage holy war with infidels.  He quotes verse 9:5 as follows: “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.”  By wrenching this verse out of context, the conspiratorial Islamophobe convinces the reader that the Quran instructs Muslims to kill non-Muslims wherever, anywhere–even at the gas station, the bookstore, or even at the local Walmart!  If you see a pious Muslim at Walmart, be very careful, because his holy book commands him to kill you “wherever”!  (The Muslim’s failure to do so is only a reflection of his taqiyya or his ignorance of his own religion!)

This phrase found in 9:5 (“slay the unbelievers wherever you find them”) is actually a repetition of an earlier verse (2:191), which also says: “slay them wherever you find them”.  This was not, however, an open license to wage war against all unbelievers anywhere, everywhere.  In fact, the verse is mitigated by what comes before and after it:

2:190 Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities! For God loves not aggressors.

2:191 And slay them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places wherever they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter.  And do not fight them at the Sacred Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you there, then slay them.Such is the reward of disbelievers.

2:192 But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

2:193 And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for God.  But if they cease, let there be no hostility except towards those who practise oppression.

The word “wherever” was clarifying an issue that the early Muslims faced: was it permissible to fight in the Sacred Place (the environs of the Holy Kaaba)?  It was from this place that the pagans drove the Muslims out (and hence the command to “drive them out of the places wherever they drove you out”).

Many of the early Muslims felt uncomfortable fighting in the holy place where it was normally not permitted to do so.  According to Islamic belief, it is forbidden to hit anyone in the Sacred Place (the environs of the Holy Kaaba).  Even killing an insect within the Sacred Place is prohibited, so how could the Muslims fight and “slay” enemies therein?  To this, the Quran answers: “slay them wherever you find them”, i.e. even if it happens to be inside the Sacred Place.

The word “wherever” is not sanctioning violence everywhere; rather, it is permitting fighting in the Sacred Place if necessary.

Reading the entire passage altogether, it is impossible to conclude that this is an open-ended call for global warfare and unending aggression, especially since “God loves not aggressors.”  More importantly, the passage itself shows that it is about a very specific situation and against a particular people.

Spencer also cites  47:4, once again only partially reproducing the verse; here is Spencer’s rendition:

“Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” (Quran 47:4)

It becomes very obvious why Spencer chose to omit the rest of the verse, which in its entirety reads:

47:4 Therefore, when you meet the disbelievers in battle, smite at their necks, until you have defeated them, then firmly bind them (as prisoners).  Afterward, free them out of generosity or by ransom–until the toils of war end. Thus are you commanded.  God could have defeated them Himself if He had willed, but His purpose is to test some of you by means of others. As for those slain in the way of God, He will not let their deeds be for nothing.

The verse is hardly a “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandment to wage holy war against infidels”.  Instead, it is a command given to the early Muslims with regard to a particular battle they were involved in.  The Muslims were instructed to fight the enemy (“smite at their necks” in holy speak), take the enemy soldiers on the battlefield as prisoners, and then free them “out of generosity” (grant them their freedom of out of grace) or free them “by ransom” (exchanging them for Muslim prisoners of war or for a fee).

Compare the Quran’s treatment of prisoners of war in these verses (of Spencer’s own choosing!) with the Biblical verses quoted by Robert Spencer himself:

Deuteronomy 7:2 When the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.

The Quran says that “[after] you have defeated them” and have taken them as prisoners, “free them”; on the other hand, the Bible says “[after] you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them”–which, as we have seen, in Bible talk means exactly that: ethnic cleansing and genocide.  The Quran says to free them out of generosity as a favor to them, whereas the Bible ominously warns: “show no favor to them”.

As can be seen, Spencer’s own selection of verses proves our assertion and what Prof. Philip Jenkins argued:

By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane. Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.

Conclusion

As always, there is a need for an important disclaimer here.  Nowhere are we trying to say that Judaism/Christianity/Bible are violent, full stop.  Rather, what we are saying is that if we use the same methodology that Robert Spencer and the other Islamophobes employ against Islam/Quran, then in that case Judaism/Christianity/Bible are even more violent.  Therefore, any conclusions that follow should apply equally or more so.  Indeed, this becomes even more apparent when we expose the manipulation of texts, the misleading use of tactical ellipses, and the sleight of hand tricks employed by Robert Spencer et al.

There are many ways that moderate Jews and Christians “restrict” the violent verses of the Bible.  Insisting that Jews and Christians must understand their holy text in a certain way would not only be obtuse, it would be counterproductive.  Yet, why is it that these anti-Muslim ideologues allow theological and textual acrobatics when it comes to the Bible, but meanwhile they forbid the contextualization of Quranic verses?  Certainly it is much easier to “constrain” the violent verses of the Quran than it is for the Bible, since the Quran itself almost always cushions these verses in between mitigating verses.  This contrasts quite considerably with the Bible, which has violent verses wrapped in violent passages.

When we published pages I-III of this article, Islamophobes quickly responded by arguing that the Biblical passages we cited don’t actually call for open-ended and universal violence against heathens.  To “constrain” the meaning of these verses, they use various explanations and arguments: “these passages only refer to a specific situation, time, context, and people” or “that’s just the Old Testament”, etc. etc.  To bolster these claims, they look for proof in the Bible itself.

But the truth is that for every proof they provide for their argument, another can be found against it.  There is nothing in the Bible that clearly and unequivocally supports either of these or other such arguments.  Some would even say it’s “textual acrobatics”.  As we stated before, there is nothing wrong with mitigating the Bible’s violence in this way; it’s even quite laudable.  The question though is: why do these same people insist that absolutely no contextualization can be done with the violent-sounding Quranic verses?

Pound for pound, there is far more violence in the Bible than in the Quran.  Specifically, the Bible sanctions the killing of civilians (women, children, and even babies), and endorses wholesale genocide.  Moreover, there is more “explanation” necessitated and more textual acrobatics needed to mitigate these violent Biblical passages.  So why then focus on the Quran?  Here, an appropriate Biblical verse is applicable:

Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (III)

This is page III of IV.  To return to page I, go here.  To return to page II, go here.

No amount of ink has been spared by anti-Muslim ideologues fear-mongering about the traditional Islamic concept (now long abandoned and not implemented in a single Muslim country–not even in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia or Iran) of jizya and dhimmi–the latter which is pejoratively (and incorrectly) referred to as “dhimmitude”. It is an incorrect usage (and certainly not academically accepted) since “dhimmitude” is an amalgamation of the words “dhimmi” and “servitude”; the dhimmi system was second-class citizenship but not servitude–a significant difference, as noted by Prof. Mark R. Cohen:

The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.

On the other hand, the traditional Christian concept of Perpetual Servitude of heathens was, as the name itself indicates, servitude.  It was a form of slavery that heathens were subjected to (including Jews and Muslims).  The term “dhimmitude” was coined by a loony old lady named Bat Ye’or, a conspiratorial pseudo-scholar and extremist Zionist Jew.  The term was popularized by Catholic apologist Obama-may-be-a-Muslim Robert Spencer.  It is quite ironic that in attempting to coin a demeaning enough term to demonize Islam, the Zionist Jew and Catholic apologist accidentally used a term that is actually found in their own religious tradition!

The historical experiences of dhimma and of Perpetual Servitude have been compared here.

Perpetual Servitude in the Bible

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer cited a passage from Deuteronomy (20:10-17) to prove that the Bible’s commandments to wage holy war apply only to the Seven Nations and not to anyone else.  We have proven this claim to be completely false (see here).  In fact, this Biblical passage advocates genocide for those heathens living inside of Israel, and Perpetual Servitude for those outside of it.  This injunction implies “the nations”, by which is meant the entire world.

On pp.35-36 of his book, Spencer cites a hadith (saying attributed to Muhammad) that urges Muslims to offer their enemies Three Choices: (1) “Invite them to accept Islam”; (2) “If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya”; or (3) “If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them”.  The text itself (and the academically dishonest use of ellipses by Spencer) will be discussed in a future article in the Series.  For now, however, we will–simply for argument’s sake–accept Spencer’s claims that Muhammad offered unbelievers these Three Choices only (conversion, tribute, or death).

Is it not odd that the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer, along with his extremist Jewish Zionist and Christian Crusader-wannabe comrades, are so indignant of Muhammad for offering these Three Choices and yet are completely silent when it comes to Moses who restricted infidels to these choices long before Muhammad ever did?  Moses is alleged to have said (almost two millennia before the idea ever came to a man named Muhammad):

Deuteronomy 20:10 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.

20:11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you (as tributaries).

20:12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.

20:13 When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.

20:14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.

Moses and the Bible thus offered infidels only Two Choices: (1) become forced labor (Perpetual Servitude) or (2) war.  Both resulted in slavery.  And in both circumstances, conversion was necessary.  (The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to give up their native religion and renounce idolatry for the God of Israel.)

Even if we accept Spencer’s argument about the Three Choices (again, simply for argument’s sake), this was still better than the Two Choices of Moses and the Bible.  There are at least a few reasons why:

1) If an unbeliever paid the jizya, he could retain his religious affiliation.  Meanwhile, an unbeliever under the Biblical model was forced to worship the God of Israel.

2) Dhimmis were considered free persons as opposed to slaves, and it was forbidden to enslave them.  On the other hand, perpetual serfs were “owned” by the state.  For example, the Gibeonites became the slaves of Joshua, the leader of Israel.  Similarly, Jews became perpetual serfs of the Church and/or Christian state.

3) Dhimmis were free to choose their form of livelihood, barred only from military and high governmental positions.  For example, Jews in the Islamic world were known to be physicians, lawyers, scientists, merchants, traders, bankers, and agriculturalists.  Under the Biblical model, an unbeliever became “forced labor” and could no longer choose his own profession.  This is the essence of servitude and why it’s so much worse than second-class citizenship.  The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to become “wood cutters and water carriers for the [Jewish] community” (Joshua 9:27), “which was a very low and mean employment.” Similarly, Jews in Christian Europe were banned from virtually all fields and restricted to the “hated” profession of money-lending, considered at that time to be worse than prostitution.

4) Dhimmis retained the legal right to own property.  This contrasted sharply with the case of perpetual serfs.

5) If an unbeliever opted to convert to Islam, he was to be considered an equal. Meanwhile, perpetual serfs were forced to convert and still considered unequal serfs.

6) If the unbelievers chose to fight off the Muslims and if the Muslims won, the conquered population–including the men–weren’t massacred.  Instead, they still became a dhimmi population–with all the rights associated with that position.  If, on the other hand, the unbelievers didn’t submit to Perpetual Servitude, the Biblical model called for the slaughter of every single man.

To conclude, the concept of dhimmitude Perpetual Servitude is found in the Bible, and originated from Moses.  Most importantly, the Bible contains “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments” to wage holy war against infidels, and to enslave them, to subjugate them to Perpetual Servitude–something far worse than the dhimmi system.

The obsession over the concept of dhimmis and jizya by the self-proclaimed defenders of the Judeo-Christian tradition certainly does seem to be a case of projection or simply of wholesale ignorance.  What the Islamophobes attribute to the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran is still better than what Moses or the Bible advocated.  This fact will of course be ignored, obfuscated, or downplayed by Robert Spencer et al.–which is consistent with the Islamophobic methodology of “whatever violence is found in Islam always ‘counts’ and whatever violence is found in Judaism or Christianity ‘doesn’t count’ and never counts.”

Always remember:  Jewish or Christian Violence Never Counts, and Muslim Violence Always Counts.

Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four pages, the next page to be published tomorrow.

Update I: Page 4 is now available here.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (II)

This is page II of IV.  To return to page I, go here.

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer claims that the violent verses in the Bible are only “descriptive” whereas those in the Quran are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal.”  However, this argument is simply not supported by the facts on the ground, as we explained on page I.  There are many violent verses in the Bible that are “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”–at least using the same standards that Spencer so mirthfully employs against the Quran.

The Battle Psalms

The Book of Psalms is amongst the most commonly read and recited part of the Bible by both Jews and Christians.  “Throughout the world many Jews recite the Book of Psalms each week or each month.” “The Psalms are some of the most widely read portions of the Old Testament. They have a long history of popularity in the Christian tradition, so much so that often the Book of Psalms has been bound with the New Testament in pocket editions.”

The Psalms are attributed to King David, who waged violent holy war against heathens and committed atrocities that can only be described as genocide (see part 3 of this Series).  Many of the Psalms are war poems, glorifying holy war against heathens.  No wonder then that even today “when Israel is at war, Jews gather to recite Psalms” and “many Yeshivot and synagogues recite Psalms (especially Psalms 20, 83, 121, 130, 142 …) daily for the protection of Jews in Israel from terrorism.” (Certainly, ethnic cleansing–which is called for in this particular selection of Psalms–is one vengefully satisfying, albeit ineffective, way of dealing with terrorism.)  Christian soldiers in the U.S. military routinely recall and recite the Psalms as they sustain their illegal occupations in the lands of the Saracen heathens.

The Bible proclaims:

Psalms 149:5 Let godly people triumph in glory. Let them sing for joy on their beds.

149:6 Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment on the people,

149:8 to bind their kings with chains, and their leaders with iron shackles.

Using Spencer’s own standards, this is a “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” proclamation of holy war against “the heathen”.  Far from letting “God handle the unbelievers”, this Biblical passage empowers men to do God’s bidding–with the sharp edges of a sword no less.  After all, Psalm 18:34 says of God: “He teaches my hands to war” and 144:1 says: “Praise be to the LORD, who is my rock, who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.”

Other verses more graphically depict how the Jewish and/or Christian believers will themselves “see vengeance” and exult in bloodletting:

58:10 The righteous will be glad when they see vengeance, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

The believers pray to God: “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked” (3:7), “Strike them with terror” (9:20), “let death seize my enemies” (55:15), “trample our enemies” (60:120), “destroy them!” (74:11), “terrify them” (83:15), and “let them perish in disgrace” (83:17).

It cannot be claimed that these verses ask for the intervention of God without any human action.  Rather, the Psalms are calling for divine support to aid human soldiers on the battlefield.  This becomes abundantly clear from numerous passages contained therein:

18:29 With [God’s] help I can advance against a troop [of soldiers]; with my God I can scale [an enemy] wall.

18:30 God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

18:31 For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?

18:32 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

18:33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.

18:34 He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.

18:35 You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great.

18:36 You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

18:37 I will pursue my enemies and overtake them; I will not turn back till they are destroyed.

18:38 I will smite them through, so that they shall not be able to rise: They shall fall under my feet.

18:39 You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet.

18:40 You have also given me the necks of my enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

God’s aid is certainly sought, but it is the human who will become God’s agent of vengeance.  It can almost be considered that God was thought of as another fighter on the battlefield:

108:11 Have you rejected us, O God? Will you no longer march with our armies?

108:12 Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!

108:13 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Psalm 83 is one of the most commonly recited parts of the Bible and is in fact read “daily” by many pro-Israeli Jewish congregations.  This psalm calls for God to do to the enemies of Israel what was done to the people of Midian.  As we read earlier, the Israelites killed every Midianite man, and enslaved their women and children.  The passage also lists other peoples who were defeated and destroyed by the Israelites.  This prayer in the Book of Psalms reads:

83:9 Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,

83:10 who perished at Endor and became like dung for the ground.

83:11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,

83;12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.

83:13 Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind.

83:14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,

83:15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.

83:16 Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O LORD.

83:17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.

Far from rejecting the wars and genocides of Moses, this prayer in the Bible–recited by Jews (and Christians) worldwide–hopes for similar treatment of other infidels, especially those who have the unfortunate fate of being deemed enemies to Israel.

Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four parts, the next part to be published tomorrow.

Update I: Page 3 is now available here.

Update II: Page 4 is now available here.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (I)

This article is part 6 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), anti-Muslim Catholic apologist Robert Spencer calls the Quran a “book of war” that is “violent and intransigent.”  In contrast, he argues, “there is nothing in the Bible that rivals the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence.”  This view is held by the general public as well; in the words of Prof. Philip Jenkins:

In the minds of ordinary Christians – and Jews – the Koran teaches savagery and warfare, while the Bible offers a message of love, forgiveness, and charity.

This viewpoint is used to promote bigotry against Muslims and Islam, and to fan the flames of Islamophobia.  Fortunately, we’ve “utterly destroyed” this viewpoint (see parts 1234, and 5 of this Series), and have categorically shown that the Bible is far more violent than the Quran.  As Prof. Jenkins puts it:

In fact, the Bible overflows with “texts of terror,” to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery.

The Bible sanctions genocide, something that one simply cannot find any equivalent of in the Quran.  In the Bible are verses calling for the slaughter of civilians, with explicit calls for the butchering of women, children, and even babies.  Even the most violent-sounding passages in the Quran do not come close to saying this.

The “Descriptive vs. Prescriptive” Defense

Keenly aware of the fact that the horribly violent verses in the Bible sound far worse than anything in the Quran, Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim ideologues have to explain why these Biblical passages “don’t count” (whereas the violent sounding Quranic verses always “count”).  This follows an important rule of thumb employed by Islamophobes, as we explained in a previous article:

All violence in the Quran “counts” whereas whatever is peaceful in the Quran “doesn’t count”, and whatever is violent in the Bible “doesn’t count” and whatever is peaceful in the Bible “counts”.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

Islamophobes argue that the violent passages in the Bible “don’t count” because “the Biblical verses are merely descriptive, not prescriptive like in the Quran.”  In other words, the Bible only records anddescribes the violence committed by Judeo-Christian prophets, without prescribing believers of today to carry these acts out.

According to this view, the God of the Bible only commands war against the people of the Seven Nations, who simply do not exist any more.  Since they don’t exist any more, those Biblical verses are effectively dead letters. This is how the pro-Christian argument goes anyways.

The ultra-conservative Catholic organization The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property summarizes Spencer’s argument in a sympathetic review of his book:

Biblical references record God’s commands to specific people to wage war against certain groups for a particular purpose and a limited time period. These passages are a historic account of God’s dealings with His people. Conversely, the Koran’s more numerous violent passages call upon Muslims of all times to fight unbelievers with impunity and spread Islam with the sword.

And in Robert Spencer’s own words (found on pp.28-31 of his book):

Islamic apologists more often tend to focus on several Old Testament passages:

* “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

* “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.  Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

* “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.  But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18).

Strong stuff, right?  Just as bad as “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Qur’an 9:5) and “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” (Quran 47:4) and all the rest, right?

Wrong.  Unless you happen to be a Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite, [the Seven Nations] these Biblical passages simply do not apply to you.  The Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction.  Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.  The Old Testament, in contrast, records God’s commands to the Israelites to make war against particular people only.  This is jarring to modern sensibilities, to be sure, but it does not amount to the same thing.

Robert Spencer reproduces Biblical verses to prove his claim when in actuality these verses are all the proof needed to refute his claim.  One does not need to go further than his own page in his own book to see how fallacious his basic argument is!

The first passage is Deuteronomy 7:1-2, which orders the believers to “utterly destroy” the people of the Seven Nations:

When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

The believers are forbidden to sign a peace treaty with the people of the Seven Nations (“you shall make no covenant with them”), and they must be ethnically cleansed (“you shall utterly destroy them”).

The next passage Spencer cites explains what to do with all nations other than the Seven Nations:

When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.  Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

In his book, Robert Spencer completely omitted the verse in red above. Notice how the words in red (Deuteronomy 20:15) simply do not appear in Spencer’s rendition of the passage.  Take a look for yourself (click on the image to view):

This time, Spencer didn’t even bother using those ever so strategic ellipses to manipulate the meaning of a passage.  One wonders at the convenient omission of Deuteronomy 20:15 and whether or not this is a mistake or deception.  It is certainly a very helpful “mistake”.

Furthermore, Spencer didn’t reproduce 20:17 either:

20:17 But you shall utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Whatever the case, the Biblical passage (the one that Robert Spencer uses as a proof) is actuallysaying that the general rule is that heathens are to be offered terms of “peace”, which entails being reduced to “forced labor” (perpetual servitude).  (This is the Bible’s version of “peace”, and the same type of world “peace” that Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”, will bring during his Second Coming.)  If the heathens reject these terms of “peace”, then in that case they are to be attacked and every single man (including non-combatants) is to be killed.  Meanwhile, the women and the children are to be enslaved, and the animals and all property are to be taken as booty.

After stating this general rule, the God of the Bible clarifies that this does not apply to the people of the Seven Nations, who must be “utterly destroy[ed]“.  The women and children cannot be taken as slaves because the believers “shall not leave alive anything that breathes.”  In other words, Spencer’s rationalization could be applied to Deuteronomy 20:16-17 (the genocidal verses advocating “utter destruction”) but not to Deuteronomy 20:10-15 (the verses advocating perpetual servitude of heathens).

The Bible thus advocates genocide against heathen residing inside the Promised Land, andperpetual servitude of heathen outside of it.  Genocide is the rule for the Seven Nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites), whereas perpetual servitude is the rule for all heathens other than this.  The enforcement of this Biblical rule (genocide inside the Promised Land and slavery outside of it) can be seen in the story of Gibeon.  As infidels, the Gibeonites were forced to choose between genocide and slavery (both options requiring forced conversion); we explain this story here [pdf document].

The Battle Psalms

Above have we refuted the argument that the Bible calls for holy war against the Seven Nations exclusively.  But the juiciest Biblical verses are actually found in the Book of Psalms, including this doozie:

Psalms 149:5 Let godly people triumph in glory. Let them sing for joy on their beds.

149:6 Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment on the people,

149:8 to bind their kings with chains, and their leaders with iron shackles.

There’s much more in the Book of Psalms, and that’s up next…

Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four parts, the next part to be published tomorrow.

A Christian Stealth Jihad in the United States?

Christian Stealth Jihad?

Christian Stealth Jihad?

A favorite theme of the right-wing nutjob community in the US is to fantasize about the threat of an Islaimc Shariah takeover of the United States.

They accuse every effective Muslim leader and every successful Muslim organization in one way or another of scheming to institute Islamic law (Shariah) as the official law of our government.

The pictures they paint in their books, radio shows, and blogs range from Muslims conspiring for a hostile takeover (through violent Jihad) to Muslims conspiring for a peaceful takeover of the United States (through perfectly legal means).  The latter is what the sages of the nutjob community – yes I am aware that’s an oxymoron – are terming stealth Jihad.

Stealth Jihad of course is the take over from within, the slow and gradual but forced transformation of American government from our current constitution to Shariah (Islamic law), a process to be achieved through the system, in the light of day, in a perfectly legal and peaceful manner.

There are many problems with this old wife’s tale of which the following are a few:

  • – Muslims constitute less than 3 million people according to the Pew Research Center, that’s less than 1% of the United States. So whatever effort they are going to invest in, it had better subdue more than 99% of the American people, that’s 297 million free, discerning, intelligent people.
  • – If Muslims indeed are working on a peaceful takeover of the country, what does that assume about the 3 million, that they have superhuman ability to influence and brainwash everyone else? And what does it assume about the 297 million others, that they are hapless, helpless, gullible morons that can easily be brainwashed?
  • – There is in fact not a single Muslim organization of note that has as its mission “the Islamization of our legal system” or anything even close to suggesting replacing the US constitution with the Shariah. Not ISNA, not CAIR, not MPAC, not MAS, not MSA. The claim originates from lifelong detractors of American Muslim organizations and leaders and their efforts to enfranchise their minority communities, never from the mission statements of Muslims themselves. (I challenge any of those detractors to point LoonWatch to any of the mission statements of the above organizations that would prove us wrong.)

So far so good.

Well so what about working to replace our secular constitution that separates between Church and State with some religious canonical rules and regulations that does not? Are there any organizations out there that in fact claim such a thing as their mission?

The answer is yes.

One such organization is a radical group by the name of Reclaim Oklahoma For Christ (reclaimoklahoma.org). Here is the mission statement from their website:

To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative and educational systems; and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society today.

Hmm, America’s Christian Heritage? So America only has one heritage? There are no Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Buddhist Americans, Atheist Americans, etc? We are all one big homogeneous group with a single religious heritage determined for us by this group. If you are anything but Christian, tough luck for you, drop your heritage and get in line to assume THE American heritage as this group sees it.

More importantly, notice the explicit language involved in the phrase: the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative systems.

So basically, the goal of this group is not just see the US government, schools, universities and society at large dominated with their religion and it’s holy book, the Bible, but with a “fundamental” interpretation thereof.

So, here’s a pop quiz, what does one call working to subject America – its “legal, legislative, and educational systems”, as well as “all citizens” to the “fundamental” teachings of someone’s religious holy book, its values, rules, etc? Oh yes, “working to dominate America with Sharia via a stealth Jihad!”

That’s right folks, there is an ongoing stealth Christian Jihad out there for Christian Shariah to dominate US government and society.

Mind you, unlike with the Muslims, it’s not a mother population of 3 million mostly struggling immigrants we are talking about here, but a mother population of 70 million linguistically native, religiously fervent, politically savvy mainstream looking citizens. Talk about stealth.

And guess what? The “reclaiming America for Jesus” bible-thumping bunch ARE in fact in full “infiltration” (to use a favorite Spencer term) of our government, our educational system, and society at large. It’s a population that does not just have 2 members in congress like with the Muslims, but dozens in congress and the senate, not to mention the sprawling mega-churches, the business tycoons, media conglomerates, universities, and well-funded lobby groups. Their tangible effect can be seen from changing tax-payer funded school curricula and student history books in Texas to affecting our federal laws on abortion, to influencing our foreign policy (including the push for misguided wars in the Middle East some of which have occurred like Iraq and others for which they are still pushing).

Hutaare (Christian Warriors) Militia

Hutaare (Christian Warriors) Militia

And guess what, it turns out it’s not all stealth. There are pockets of this population that is willing to go the violent terrorist route to reclaim America for Jesus!

Where is the excitable hairball known as Robert Spencer? Why the silence, Bob? This is totally up your ally if indeed your beef is with “stealth jihad” and “religious shariah” taking over the US, and not necessarily Muslims per se as you often claim? Do you see why people think you are a blabbering hypocrite?

And where are the screeching wails of your foul-mouthed sidekick, Pamela Geller? Cat got your tongue Pam?

Where is Brigitte Gabriel, and Nonie Darwish and Wafa Sultan and the other sweaty cheerleaders of the big cry against the imminent “Islamic takeover”? No good book deals here for you ladies? No speaking tours opening up where you get cash bags and back pats from your ringmasters?

Where are the monitoring websites, and the blog craze, and the concerned members of congress, and the warnings of the expert talking heads, and the tell-all books? No money in this business? Thank God for the Muslims!