Imagine this – a group of Muslim after-school clubs have a standardised study program which teaches, among other things, that the Iranian fatwa promoting the assassination of Salman Rushdie is a positive expression of religiosity. How long do you suppose it would be before outrage that such clubs got recognition would be all over the news and the internet, and such groups were at length denied the right to proselytise for their violent religious beliefs?
Well, if you have no trouble imagining that, explain to me your position on the Good News Clubs developing a standardised study program which promotes unquestioning obedience to a God that wants you to kill those who do not believe? Is that “religious expression” in your book? Or do you recognise that this is exactly the same thing?
The way I see it, about the only relevant difference between the two examples is that extremist Christian dogma advocates largely rhetorical violence – whereas extremist Muslims have a list of actual people for their dragoons to kill, extremist Christians tell stories about how King Saul was insufficiently obedient to the will of God because he didn’t slay _all_ the Amalekites, just lots and lots of them. But given that this Biblical verse has been cited by numerous of history’s baddies just before they, in actual fact, tried to go King Saul one better and obliterate their enemies, I think this is a cold comfort. This is nothing less than a band of extremist Christians trying to make genocide look like an act of “faith”.
Every time Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens) starts babbling in a television interview about how extremist Muslims have a right, according to their religious traditions, to kill Salman Rushdie, reasonable people push back against this kind of phony piety and defend those threatened by extremist violence. Hopefully, those same reasonable people will push back here. This is equally well phony piety, and our responsibility here is equally well to defend those threatened by extremist violence. When Christianity also generates ridiculous apologists for a toxic culture of violence, we need to stand up to them as well.