EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article by Willis E. Elliott was rejected by the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog. It was a response to a question on Muslim-Christian relations posted by “On Faith’s” Elizabeth Tenety and still online here. Dr. Elliott had been publishing on that blog nearly weekly for over three years. This article was the first of his they rejected, with the exception of one other that entailed only a minor revision, according to the author. In our continuing interest in freedom of speech, PJ Media presents it here.
Elizabeth Tenety of the Post posted the following topic of discussion, still online here:
The Mutual Blasphemy of Christianity and Islam.
2011 began with some bleak news for Muslim-Christian relations around the world.
Recent attacks against churches in Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt have killed dozens of Christian worshippers. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government is standing by the country’s controversial blasphemy law which critics say threatens religious minorities.
How should political and religious leaders in America and abroad deal with these challenges to interfaith relations?
Numerous religious leaders and experts contributed replies; here’s Elliott’s response, which ended up in the Post’s Memory Hole:
“Mutual blasphemers, love one another!” is the title of an essay I published many years ago. Now as then, the human project is to learn not only to live with, but to love, “the blasphemers” (meaning whichever of the two religions is not yours).
1. But the project, so defined, is not neutral. It is Christian and humanist. Christian: Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Islam, to the contrary, is essentially hostile to “the infidels.” Humanist: Calling evil good is bad news, but the worst news is violence done in the name of God (spelled out, for example, in Mohamed Atta’s theological justification for the attack he led, “9/11”).
2. Blasphemy (irreverent speech or action against a deity or religious person/belief/object) is currently in the news only when Muslims become violent, or threaten violence, when they feel offended: when we Christians feel offended, almost never do we become violent, and almost always we suffer the disrespect in silence.
In the New Testament (and other early Christian literature), much is said about nonviolence, never is violence commanded or even suggested; it is forbidden. Not so, early Muslim literature. The contrast is to be expected: Jesus was anti-violent, Muhammad was violent (a military leader as well as a religious leader).
3. Because Jesus was a failure and Muhammad a success, Christians from the start learned how to be a minority religion and survived Jesus’ failure only by the fact that he didn’t stay dead. Christians don’t know how to behave when they are in power (and, of course, have sometimes abused their power). But Islam was, from its start, majority-minded; and Muslims don’t know how to behave when they are not in power: it enrages them, makes them thin-skinned to “blasphemy,” drives them to achieve power and impose sharia, even motivates some of them to martyr-suicide in killing any they consider enemies of Allah.