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Falwell vs. Me
Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 in the San Jose Mercury News
Falwell vs. Me
The problem is religious extremism, and it can come from Christianity as well as Islam
by Barbara Egbert
 
``WHY do the Muslims hate us?'' a woman in my congregation asked. It was Sunday morning, and more of us than usual had gathered in my small East Bay church to grapple with the events of last week.

The minister, an experienced preacher and New Testament scholar, wisely focused on the real issue: the hatred that is loose in the world.

Most Muslims, after all, don't hate Americans. In fact, 6 million Muslims are Americans. Nor do Christians, or Jews, or Hindus as a group bear bitter enmity against millions of other people.

The real problem is extremism, which shows up in every country, including ours, usually under the banner of religious fundamentalism.

The Islamic world has its share of extremists. But we Christians have our share, too. Who said last week that God let the terrorists complete their deadly errands because Americans deserve it? None other than Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who claim to be the spokesmen for Christianity. They particularly pointed the finger at feminists, homosexuals, pro-choice activists, the American Civil Liberties Union, federal judges, ``pagans'' and People for the American Way.

Wow. One way or another, that list includes me, most of my friends, relatives and co-workers, and most Christians I know. I never guessed that while we worked for tolerance, equality and social justice, we were incurring the wrath of God. We thought it was just the opposite.

The zealotry that we deplore has its roots in no particular religion, but in the mind of every person who thinks he has a God-given right to endanger other people's lives in pursuit of his own divine agenda.

If Falwell and Robertson want to find the root of the problem, they can look in the mirror.

Barbara Egbert is a Mercury News editorial writer.

© 2001 The Mercury News

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