In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, President Bush and other conservatives were often heard to claim that Islamic terrorists attack the United States “because they hate our freedom”. While their perspective was widely criticized for being overly simplistic and ignorant of the real motivations of terrorists, some conservative Christians took it even further. Not only did they concur with this – they actually endorsed it. To them, these acts of terrorism were simply the natural consequence of America being too liberal and angering Islamic extremists with our excess of freedom. On this point, both the Christian conservatives and the Muslim terrorists are in full agreement: our nation is exercising its freedom in a way that they don’t like. This affords them the opportunity to shift the blame to anyone they disagree with, and claim that these overly liberated Americans are responsible for provoking the terrorists with their freedom.
This remarkable stance began to take shape almost immediately following 9/11. Less than a week after the attacks, televangelist Jerry Falwell appeared on The 700 Club to say:
…what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact – if, in fact – God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. …
I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, you helped this happen.
From Jerry Falwell’s point of view, these attacks were actually permitted by God as a righteous and deserved punishment of America for allowing liberal values to exist within its borders. And if this was an act of God, then clearly He’s right, and we’re in the wrong. Anyone who doesn’t follow the Reverend’s version of Christianity is literally at fault for bringing down God’s wrath in the form of 19 hijackers.
Of course, Falwell was universally condemned and forced to apologize for his outrageous statements. But does that mean this incredible mindset was quashed for good? Don’t bet on it. The view that liberals and their freedom are to blame for inciting terrorism against that very freedom has appeared time and time again in the years following September 11th. In 2004, prison minister Chuck Colson claimed that America is enabling terrorists by making them angry with our civil rights. In Christianity Today, Colson said:
When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.
Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America’s decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.
Yes, simply for exercising our rights in ways that terrorists don’t like, we are the ones at fault for the decision of terrorists to attack us for having those rights. From the perspective of a good Christian Watergate felon, it makes perfect sense – why shouldn’t people despise us for being gay and having abortions?
In 2007, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza gave such attitudes even greater exposure by writing an entire book founded on this premise. Resurrecting Jerry Falwell’s remarks after 9/11, he asks:
What impact did the abortionists, the feminists, the homosexual activists and the secularists have on the Islamic radicals who conspired to blow up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Unfortunately this crucial question got buried, and virtually no one has raised it publicly.
In the introduction to “The Enemy at Home”, D’Souza writes:
I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage – some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice – but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.
…the cultural left has fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially those in the Islamic world, that are being overwhelmed with this culture.
Yet again, a Christian conservative singles out our freedom and our culture for being so offensive that religious extremists could not help but attack us. The responsibility of terrorists for judging us as disgusting and deserving of death barely rates a mention – it’s hardly objectionable to someone who agrees with their assessment of the so-called “cultural left”.
Again and again, far-right Christians have placed the blame with American freedoms instead of religious extremists. In January of this year, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, claiming that US alliances with other countries would be jeopardized by having gay soldiers fighting alongside anti-gay Muslim troops. Not once did it occur to him that the problem lies with their prejudice, rather than our tolerance. Recently, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera spoke out against a gay rights event hosted at the US embassy in Pakistan. LaBarbera stated:
The Obama administration is making a huge mistake by promoting homosexuality in this in-your-face kind of manner, which is now igniting the ire of Muslims across the world. It gives Muslims one more reason to oppose and hate the United States.
Of course, he never thought to question whether rage and hatred are an appropriate response to gay rights. After all, why would he? Rage against gay rights is exactly what he wants.
Perhaps the most vivid articulation of this argument came from the Archdiocese of Guam in 2009. In a letter opposing a bill to allow civil unions, the archbishop stated:
Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice. …
It makes no sense for the U. S. Government to send our boys to fight Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while at the same time it embraces the social policies embodied in Bill 185 (as President Obama has done). Such policies only furnish further arguments for the fundamentalists in their efforts to gain more recruits for the war against the “Great Satan.”
As the archbishop sees it, America is sorely lacking in the virtue displayed by Islamic extremists when they execute gay people and inspire suicide bombings. If only our nation could be so selfless!
What’s clear from all of this madness is that Christian conservatives are not above the appeasement of terrorists when they believe they share one another’s values. The notion that we should remake ourselves in the image desired by extremists, and thus “defeat” them with our obedience to their demands, would normally be seen as laughable. But where their views happen to intersect, conservative Christians will silently align themselves with these terrorists and brandish them as a threat against us if we don’t do what they say. Whenever it suits their goals, they see no problem with blaming Americans rather than those who would attack us. Just like the Islamic terrorists they warn us about, they’ll gladly ignore our civil rights if they get in the way of their religious values. Yes, we do have an enemy at home after all. If terrorists really do hate us for our freedom, these Christians are right behind them.