A most revealing comment was made by Robert Spencer in an introduction to one of his articles on Jihad Watch today (June 17, 2007) concerning a recent survey by the Barna Group of Americans that compares and contrasts atheists/agnostics with Christians of “active faith”.
One finding of this survey is that “...most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam.”
About this finding, Spencer makes his telling comment:
I used to think that this moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam was the province of just a few fanatics, a tiny minority of extremists. . . and was just a small and irrelevant distraction in the defense against the global jihad.
When Spencer says “I used to think”, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to his state of mind prior to having seen this Barna survey. This is highly disconcerting—but, alas, not at all surprising. It is simply one of the many signs of his myopia to the nature and scope of a dominant and mainstream PC Multiculturalism in the West. The fact that he can have spent many months working on a new book (Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, which will be published in August of this year) that directly deals with this issue (as well as other aspects stemming obviously from its title), and yet this thought had not occurred to him until now, demonstrates on his part a woeful ignorance of, and lack of imaginative perspicacity about, the problem of PC Multiculturalism.
Aside from this painfully glaring lacuna in Spencer’s thought, there are a couple of other problems with his comments introducing the Barna survey, and with that survey itself:
1) Spencer adduces the percentage among atheists/agnostics for agreement with the idea that “radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam”, but he fails to note the fact that the Barna Group failed to supply the percentage about that idea for the contrasting group they surveyed, the Christians of “active faith” (defined, as their website states, “as simply having gone to church, read the Bible and prayed during the week preceding the survey”); surely, this would be a very important statistic: not only for Spencer’s point that constitutes one pillar of his book (as well as, apparently, his personal opinion as a Christian)—to wit, that relatively religious Christians tend to be less PC about Islam—but also for a better appraisal of the magnitude of the scope of PC in general, about which Spencer seems unconcerned as long as it contravenes his stubbornly held views about sociopolitical reality. (Indeed, one wonders whether Spencer was able to allow his mind to be opened about PC by this Barna survey only because it couched this glimpse of the wider scope of PC in terms of favorably contrasting Christians with atheists/agnostics.)
2) Another significant inadequacy of the Barna survey similarly goes unnoticed by Spencer: the survey, by its definition of the contrasting group (“Christians of active faith” as defined above) effectively brackets out three major sub-populations of interest for the sociological problem of PC:
a) “Christians” who are in various stages of cultural decomposition—less active (do not go to church much, rarely read the Bible, etc.) and more doubtful about, and/or less concerned in their daily life and thoughts with, the doctrines of their faith;
b) Christians who are oriented positively toward PC, often with significant Leftist colorings (e.g., the National Council of Churches types, and/or the types who would nod in solemnly self-righteous agreement with the treacly political correctness of a Bill Moyers, etc.);
c) Americans who, for want of a better term, fit roughly under the umbrella of “New Age” spirituality—a spiritual orientation that comes in a wide variety of flavors, ranging all over the map, including an interest in zen Buddhism, in Hindusm, in the Tao, in American Indian spirituality, in the pagan religions of natives more broadly speaking anywhere in the world (whether Celtic or Mayan or Australian aborigine, etc.), in some kind of spiritual “connection” to “mythic truths” as purveyed by the likes of Joseph Campbell, in Sufi mysticism, in “mysticism” in general, in Gnostic heretics and other sectarian religious movements (including magic, alchemy, witchcraft) that were “oppressed” by the Christian “authorities”, in theological beliefs that one can categorize more or less vaguely as polytheistic and/or pantheistic, and so forth (I am sure my list has not exhausted the wonderful panorama of New Age spirituality). Oftentimes, individuals under this umbrella demonstrate a relatively semi-coherent mélange of all of the above flavors sampled from the ecumenically syncretistic Cafeteria of World Religions. Members of this sub-population, as should be garnered from my description, are not monolithic: they vary in commitment—some merely dabbling in these samplings from the wonderful menu of world religions, others on a continual “spiritual quest” leading them from one thing to another, others more intense in their pursuit, leading them to actually spend time living in a zen monastery in Japan or following a Hindu swami around in Calcutta or going on a retreat with some Tibetan Buddhist yak-herders, etc.
With these three sub-populations calculated for their views on the idea that “radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam”—among other closely related and important PC ideas about Islam—it is very likely that even more data would fall into place indicating a far deeper and broader nature and scope of PC Multiculturalism. And perhaps such augmentation of data would lead the willfully stubborn Spencer to adjust, at his snail’s pace, what he “used to think” about the problem of PC even more.