Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oppressing for Jesus

When we regard the interaction of an oppressor and an oppressed, the two obvious options are to sympathize with one of the other -- favor the whale or the plankton, the cheetah or the gazelle, the priest or the child, the jack-booted thug or the placard-carrying marcher. Alternatively, we can decline to take a side and call down a pox on all houses.

Newt Gingrich sides with the oppressors:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.
Here, Gingrich could have railed against the legalized exclusions, barriers, and inequalities that non-Muslims face in Saudi Arabia, and this would have pleased the slobbering far-right cohort he's trying to flatter. But he knew that what he did here would flatter them even more: portray Christians as the oppressed and vow to oppress back, leaving conspicuously unexplained how the idea of oppress back squares with the idea of turn the other cheek, let alone equality under the law and freedom of religion.

I don't mean to suggest that Newt Gingrich is the first to place totalizing belligerence on the list of Christ-like qualities, and not only because it would be ridiculous to credit him with any novel ideas. No, long before Gingrich even embarked on his series of marriages (each more sacred than the last), Christians were reserving love your enemies, turn the other cheek, and the like for pep talks given to those whose meekness would facilitate the day's oppressions.

The principled response to arbitrary religious discrimination would be to oppose it and call for its end in all places. This is how the US Constitution answers it, and it pinpoints where Saudi law fails. Gingrich and the knuckle-draggers he wants to attract are not interested in principled responses since these are so stubbornly binding on all sides.

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