I understand the stink du jour is that Rosie O’Donnell noted that radical Christians can be as bad as radical Islam. Ms. O’Donnell is partially right with this statement; however, I suspect that she was putting the emphasis on the wrong word. If Ms. O’Donnell was educated in the same public school system as me, she probably learned that religion is the greatest threat to humankind. As such, she was probably repeating the left wing mantra that Christianity is as bad and that the only way to have prosperity is to wipe Christianity, Islam and other religions out of existence.
Now, I say that Ms. O’Donnell’s statement is also partially true. The key to her sentence is not Christianity or Islam, but radicalism. Anything that it radicalized poses a great threat to society.
Radicalization is not restricted to religion. The world has suffered from philosophies that have radicalized economic class, ethnic group, education systems and religion.
Different groups are more susceptible to radicalization. In this regard, it may be fair to say that Islam (at least in this point in time) is more susceptible to radicalization than Christianity. For example, when Pat Robertson suggested doing in Hugo Chavez, Christians were first in line to censure the idiot.
Sometimes the force that radicalizes a group comes from the outside of the group. In the case of Communism, workers were radicalized by “avant guard” members of the intelligentsia. That is, communists were trained in the Universities and other elite institutions, then they went into the workforce to raise people in revolution.
In the case of Nazism and Fascism, a core pagan cult managed to raise the nationalistic pride and religious pride to the point where a very large portion Italy and Germany were radicalized. Here it is important to note that not all Christians fell for the bull spouted by the intelligentsia. A great deal of the intellectual class fell for it.
There is a large number of people, some working in the university, some playing the role of pundits, etc.., who would love to be part of that catalyzing, revolutionary force. These are the people who I fear most.
It seems to me that the faddish side of American culture is that part of our country that is most susceptible to radicalization at this moment. Christian culture (with its strong emphasis on truth, tradition and individual morality) is a tad less susceptible. In WWII people from the Christian tradition were radicalized, however, I think that bad experience made they wary of other radicalization movements. I’ve met many people who claim to be Communists. They want to be the avant garde of the next revolution. They spend time trying to figure out ways to radicalize people to turn people away from Christianity. This leads me to think that, despite its many faults, Christianity might be a stabilizing force.
I admit, I’ve wonder if the bizarre logic of Mormonism and its hierarchical structure make it more susceptible to radicalization. However, I think the struggles of the last decades to stifle Mormon fundamentalism makes the group a little less susceptible to radicalization.
Ms. O’Donnell is right in saying that radical Christians can be as big and nasty a threat as radical Muslims. The radicalized Hutus killed Tutsis by the hundreds of thousands, radicalized immigrants could pose a threat to the US. A radicalized education system could pose a threat to the well being of this nation. Radicalization is the problem and not base stable philosophies or religions.
Dictionary.com lists two definitions for radical. The first means going back to its roots. A second definition means “marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional.” Radicalization generally has elements of both. Radicalization usually starts when a small group claiming to bringing an idea back to its roots. The radicals end up leading people in a completely different direction from their tradition. People wanting to maintain civil discourse and civil order do need to be wary or radicalization efforts.
Some philosophical ideologies have division at it core. A large number of the transcendental style of thinking that popped up in the post Kant world do just this. In most cases, however, the division is created by the process of radicalization.
I think I will expand this thought in a different post.
As for the case of Ms. O'Donnell, the furor over her comment highlights the dangers that exist when you attack people, as opposed to attacking the processes that turn people to extremism. We need ways to talk about the dangers that we see around us.
I am suddenly thinking back to Bush's use of the words "Islamic Fascist." This juxtaposition of the term Islam with the western term "fascist" does a great job of noting that the extremist philosophy held in the middle east is not uniquely Islam. Extremism is a danger faced by both the west and middle east.