Roll Call carries an interesting piece by Stuart Rothenberg today. Normally I can’t stand Rothenberg’s writing. I’m not quite sure why, but he has always rubbed me the wrong way. Today, though, he hits a home run.
[T]he angle they were hoping I could comment on was what President Bush had to do to respond to the possible execution [in Afghanistan of a convert from Islam to Christianity] to ‚Äúsatisfy‚Äù Christian conservatives.
Frankly, I was shocked at the question, since the underlying premise was that the president of the United States would respond to the possible execution primarily in the context of domestic political pressures.
I guess the people working on the story had visions of the president, Karl Rove and a couple of other White House staffers sitting around talking about what the president had to say to make Pat Robertson, James Dobson or Gary Bauer happy.
Any time there is a story that even remotely touches on religion, this is the track the media take. It doesn’t matter whether the story is actually about religion. In this case, it isn’t. My parents always taught me to assess arguments based on whether you would be having the same discussion if you changed one word. In this case, that word is Christianity. Rothenberg asks the question.
‚ÄúAre you suggesting,‚Äù I asked rhetorically, ‚Äúthat the president ‚Äî or any normal American ‚Äî would react differently if someone were being executed because he or she had converted to Judaism or to Islam?‚Äù Why else bring the Christian right into the story?
That’s the perfect question. If the man in question had converted from Islam to Judaism, they would ask how the president would appease Israel, or Jewish Americans, but the story line would have nothing to do with a fractured base. If he had converted from Islam to Hinduism, we would probably have never heard the story.
The media love to tell this story of the fractured GOP base, even if it has nothing to do with the story. In this case, I find most of my fiscally conservative, non-religious friends and I are on the same page with the Christian base. We find it ridiculous that we have overthrown an extremist government only to replace it with one that aspires to the same level of craziness and intolerance. The only problem that creates for the Administration comes if they choose to do nothing and allow that craziness to fester.
That’s not a problem of religion, however, that’s a problem of conscience.
As Rothenberg explains:
Some things involve simple truths that don‚Äôt require over-interpretation. Like the question of whether it‚Äôs OK to execute someone because of his or her religious beliefs.