Saturday, December 23, 2006

Goode's fatwa

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a front page story today summing up the reactions of the last several days to the attack on the religion of others by Congressman Virgil Goode in a letter to constituents. The article included a number of comments by readers emailed to the newspaper. Here is one from a veteran who recently served in Iraq:

The letter didn't sit well with Steven McKinley of Richmond, a retired Marine colonel. McKinley wrote: "If Congressman Goode is so adamant about his feelings, I say pick up a rifle and volunteer for the reserves. We could certainly give a God-fearing man like him a waiver and let him serve his country in Iraq. Having spent the better part of 2005 in Al Anbar Province, I served with Marines of all religious affiliations. Funny how when you are fighting a war, you never get around to asking the guy next to you where he goes to church."

Then we turn to the editorial page. I have always found the editorials of the Richmond Times-Dispatch somewhat problematic in the past. However, I think they hit the nail on the head with this one this morning:
George Allen's "macaca" incident supplied late-night comics with enough material to last all season. Allen's defeat last month may have led 5th District Congressman Virgil Goode to conclude he should fill the void.

The reality of the first situation wasn't funny. The second situation isn't, either.

The Republican Goode is wrong not only to take offense at a newly elected Minnesota representative who wants to swear the oath of office while holding a Quran, but to express his exclusionist views in a letter to constituents. The congressman-elect in question is an American native who con- verted to Islam. Goode's fatwa insults Keith Ellison personally even as it mocks the religious freedom Americans say they hold dear. It is conduct unbecoming a member of the House of Representatives -- and a Virginian.

Goode's statements in interviews have deepened his self-inflicted wounds. He apparently believes Muslims eventually will win a majority in the House -- perhaps sooner rather than later. And never mind that according to certain surveys the most common form of conversion in the United States is from non-Christian faiths to Christianity. The U.S. may not be a "Christian nation" according to the definition of passionate sectarians; American religion may be growing more visibly diverse. But Christianity's status as the country's dominant creed is not under siege. If "Christian nation" refers to the preferences and practices of the people, then America will remain Christian for generations to come, world without end.

Goode argues that Islam undermines American values. The radical imams stoking jihadist hatred of America accuse the West of undermining Islamic values. A certain strain in Islam indeed threatens America and other "infidels," but Goode's statement suggests the temptation to demonize is universal.

No comments: