The misguided church

Still confusing pacifism with religion.

The Church of England's latest opinion on Middle Eastern affairs ranks among its most bankrupt. A recent report commissioned by the church's bishops endorsed apologizing to Muslim leaders for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. That invasion removed a sadistic tyrant who bragged publicly about paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers - who intimidated his people by tossing them into shredders, allowing his sons to rape their choice of women and gassing entire villages. Yet to the authors of the report, "Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11," none of that matters. "We do believe that the church has a visionary role for reconciliation beyond that of any government," one of the authors, Bishop Richard Harries of Oxford, told BBC Radio. That role involves what the report called "truth and reconciliation" meetings with Muslim leaders that would give Christian counterparts the opportunity to perform a "public act of institutional penance" for the West's "long litany of errors" in dealing with Iraq, including the 2003 war. Beyond the obvious betrayal of British troops in the field, the report symbolizes two more substantial, disturbing tendencies among liberal Christian intellectuals: profound ignorance of Islam and a virulent pacifism that embraces appeasement. The report's addendum concerning Iran's nuclear program illustrates the second tendency. "Teheran might forgo a nuclear weapons capability if the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) delivered a suitably attractive incentive package," the report stated. "The non-nuclear weapon states need to be presented with rather more convincing arguments and incentives than they have been up to now, as to why it might be in their best interests not to go nuclear." The report also suggests universal nuclear disarmament as the ultimate solution: "If certain countries retain their nuclear weapons on the basis of the uncertainty and potentially violent volatility of international relations, on what basis are the same weapons denied to other states?" Such rhetoric ignores the malignant, totalitarian, imperialist ideology governing Iran but accurately reflects the ethos of the Christian Left. Joseph Loconte, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, traced that ethos to what Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called the "pitiless perfectionism" of Christian utopians before World War II. Niebuhr used the term to describe "the impulse to hijack Jesus and the 'gospel of love' in order to construct ideal political and economic systems," Loconte wrote for Fox "Internationally, it made pacifism the highest good: War involved too many ethical ambiguities to be a just alternative," Loconte continued. "Such pacifism, Niebuhr wrote after the fall of France, amounted to a 'preference for tyranny' over democratic freedom." Loconte included the Archbishop of Canterbury and the World Council of Churches among "the contemporary heirs of this spirit [who] invoked the ethics of Jesus to condemn the liberation of Iraq as 'immoral.' Yet they've said virtually nothing about the totalitarian horrors that Saddam inflicted on a generation of Iraqis." ACCOMPANYING that attitude is what French historian Alain Besancon called an "indulgent ecumenism" that assumes a greater convergence between Christianity, Islam and Judaism than actually exists - and refuses to hold Muslim leaders accountable. Though all three faiths are monotheistic, Islam rejects the doctrines of atonement and redemption that define Christianity and Judaism. Moreover, no concept of a covenant between God and humanity exists in Islam. Instead, Allah decrees his law "by means of a unilateral pact, in an act of sublime condescension [that] precludes any notion of imitating God as is urged in the Bible," Besancon wrote in Commentary magazine. Islam also rejects the Christian doctrines of original sin and the necessity of mediation between God and humanity. In the Koran, Jesus "appears... out of place and out of time, without reference to the landscape of Israel," Besancon wrote. Most importantly, Judeo-Christian and Muslim concepts of divinity revolve around one irreconcilable difference. "Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and even more so to the Christian conception of God, is 'Father' - i.e., a personal god capable of a reciprocal and loving relation with men," Besancon wrote. "The one God of the Koran, the God Who demands submission is a distant God; to call him 'Father' would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege." IN THE quest for dialogue and reconciliation at any cost, liberal Christians fail to demand from Muslim leaders the same kind of scrupulous moral introspection they demand from themselves. When has any Christian leader challenged the sheikhs of Al-Azhar, Islam's most prestigious university, to issue fatwas against bin Laden, Zarqawi, al-Zawahiri, suicide bombers, Iranian theocrats, et al? "The biggest weakness of the West right now," wrote Wolfgang Bruno, "is our inclination to blame ourselves for whatever happens, and for reaching out to 'win the hearts and minds' of people who profess to kill us and destroy our civilization." Nothing exemplifies that weakness more profoundly than the Christian Left does, as represented by the Church of England's pathetic bishops. The writer, who is Catholic, is based in California.