In the Battle for Our Values, Be Prepared to Speak

Our local library has a used book shop attached to it. On a recent visit I bought several books, and as I was checking out, the librarian noted one of the books I was purchasing: What's Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (of Ground Zero mosque fame).

I was buying this book to better understand America’s enemies. But this prim older woman misunderstood my intentions and began fawning over the author, saying she had seen him speak, exalting his good sense, and extolling the excellence of his book. When she noted my sour expression, she sternly admonished me:

You know, they aren't all bad … just like not all Christians are like Timothy McVeigh.

I thought my head might explode.

How dare this self-righteous, misguided fool assume anyone who does not approve of Imam Rauf is a bigot? How dare she compare all Christians to Timothy McVeigh, the one terrorist in recent memory tagged as a Christian by the media? Is she unaware that murdering hundreds of innocent men, women, and children is diametrically opposed to everything Jesus preached and everything Christianity stands for? I'm an agnostic Jew, and even I know that.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not shy or reticent about expressing my views, but I was so enraged and stupefied by this woman's brazen ignorance, I was at a loss for words. I mumbled something to the effect that McVeigh could hardly be considered Christian, to which she replied: "Well he thought he was." I weakly responded: "They said the same about Hitler, but that doesn't make it so." And I beat a hasty retreat before my emotions erupted.

Had I exhibited more self-control, I could have told her that Timothy McVeigh’s stated reason for his terrorism was in protest of government actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge, gun control legislation, and other acts he viewed as "fascist." Nowhere did he attempt to justify his actions with the Bible or Christianity. In fact, though McVeigh was raised a Catholic, he considered himself an atheist.

I might have named dozens of Muslim extremists who have recently committed acts of terrorism which they justified with direct quotes from the Qur'an. Not stories or anecdotes, like in the Bible, but imperatives to do exactly what they had done in the name of Allah. Then I could have asked her to name an equal number of Christian terrorists, and smugly watched as she sputtered and stalled for time.