Andrew Sullivan’s Christian blind spot

In a half-fantastic, half-awful piece recapping this terrible week, Andrew Sullivan breaks down the disastrous inability of the GOP to do its job—despite holding all the power in its hands—and the incredibly threat to democracy they pose.

The first half of Sullivan’s piece is absolutely worth reading, every word of it is great. Then he takes a turn into a territory where he is a blind man, but presumes himself the one-eyed king.

Sullivan attacks “the authoritarian left” (who that might be, I’ve no idea, since we rather despise authoritarianism here on the left) for progressive radio station KPFA not having Richard Dawkins on because of his Islamophobic proclamations. Sullivan goes on a bizarre rant that blindly ignores the entire first half of his own article:

Is there a Christian regime currently anywhere even close to ISIS’s caliphate?

Yes, Mr. Sullivan, there is: the very Christian regime you just spent the first half of your own piece eviscerating for how much of a threat to human life and democracy it poses.

Oh, “but our government isn’t a regime!” you cry. Well, maybe not technically speaking, but the current Administration and GOP most definitely are acting like one. And their very attacks on our institutions and the fabric of society would precisely leave, in its ruins, a Christian authoritarian regime.

How many Jewish terrorists are setting off bombs at pop concerts full of young girls?

I’m sure there’s some Palestinians who would like to share their stories with you, as long as you’re willing to extend your definition of terrorist to mean “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

But let’s look not to Jews, who very much are under attack by white supremacists the world over. Sullivan conveniently and suspiciously ignores a much bigger religion: Christianity.

Because if you live in a Christian-dominant country, people engaging in terrorist acts out of Christian-driven motivations aren’t actually Christian terrorists, somehow. (Maybe we can dub this the Christian Fallacy?)

In Mr. Sullivan’s eyes, it’s only religious terrorism if the attacker yells “Allahu Akbar!”, and not, say, when they routinely attend Christian church services and say Christian prayers the night before they plan to commit mass murder in an act of political terrorism.

It’s Christians in America that try to strip women’s healthcare rights and safety away, putting their lives at risk. It’s Christians in America that quietly fund and support misogynist regimes in countries around the world, proxy-attacking abortion rights and LGBTQ people. It’s Christians in Russia who enacted homophobic laws that put gay and trans people’s lives at risk every day.

There are no Muslims secretly funding Christians in the West to enact homophobic or misogynist laws here. That’s coming straight from within.

There is no “authoritarian left” that is trying to make Islam an “untouchable shibboleth“, as Sullivan posits. What we’re doing is simply saying: stop attacking Islam for something Christianity is doing in equal or worse degrees, right here at home and overseas.

Yes, ISIS is terrible. Yes, Islamic countries that have homophobic or transphobic or misogynist laws are terrible. But those things have very little to do with Islam.

Take the horrors of female genital mutilation. They come from culture, not religion. They come from fixed gender roles, something only the “authoritarian” left actively opposes. FGM happens by the hands of Christian, Muslim and Jewish practitioners.

Just as it’s Islamophoic to try and associate FGM with Islam and not any other religions, it’s Islamophobic to try and associate Islam with terror due to ISIS while ignoring the terrors Christianity has been and continues to inflict on us every day.

History is replete with horrors of all religions when abused by fanatics. But today, it is Islam that is clearly out in front.

Is it? Because from where I’m standing, I haven’t spent a day in my life feeling persecuted or threatened by Islamic fanatics—much as they do exist and have attacked American lives on American soil, yes—but I have spent my whole life living in Western countries, fighting Christian right-wing ideology attacking the lives of immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, and many more. And once again: You Are More Than 7 Times As Likely To Be Killed By A Right-Wing Extremist Than By Muslim Terrorists.

Sexism, homophobia, the death penalty for apostasy … all of this is to be rationalized if the alternative is Islamophobia.

What’s particularly galling to me about this bit is that all of these are rampant in American society and are much more supported by Christians than by Muslims, Jews or Atheists.

Sullivan just has it backwards, here: these aren’t to be rationalized so as not to attack Islam, but rather, we shouldn’t single out Islam for crimes that Christianity commits much more presently and at much greater scale.

Dawkins is not, moreover, attacking Muslims. In fact, in the same interview, he immediately followed up with this: “It’s terribly important to modify that because of course that doesn’t mean all Muslims are evil, very far from it. Individual Muslims suffer more from Islam than anyone else.” KPFA couldn’t read that far?

Strange that Sullivan is so eager to absolve individual Muslims from the sins of their religion itself, which he’s willing to attack, but cannot apply this same standard to Christianity, very arguably more terrorizing and dangerous in both history and present-day society. No, individual Muslims and individual Christians are not who we should attack for their religious beliefs. And I don’t think we should attack religion itself for the sins of some of its adherents, period.

But if you insist on looking at the dangers of the religion in the abstract, well then…

The greatest trick Christianity has ever pulled is convincing the world it didn’t have a dark side.