Sunday, November 11, 2007

'Radical Islam' should jolt voters, evangelicals say

'Radical Islam' should jolt voters, evangelicals say -
Following last month's Values Voter Summit in Washington, conservative Christian power-broker Gary Bauer sent an e-mail to supporters.

He ticked off the issues dear to activists in attendance. Opposition to "abortion-on-demand" and preservation of traditional marriage led the way.

Then the one-time presidential hopeful turned his attention to a different threat, one social conservative leaders hope will shake their constituents from their apathy about the 2008 presidential race.

"The war against Islamofascism is in many respects a 'values issue,"' Bauer wrote. "That may seem like an odd statement at first glance, but, as I have often said, losing Western Civilization to this vicious enemy would be immoral."
"It's the ultimate life issue," said Rick Scarborough, president of the Texas-based conservative Christian group Vision America. "If radical Islam succeeds in its ultimate goals, Christianity ceases to exist."

That might sound alarmist, but Scarborough's words illustrate how many conservative Christian leaders view matters of national security as a battle between good and evil — nothing short of a clash of civilizations.

With America at war in Iraq and continued aftershocks from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, national security is an issue for all the campaigns. But disagreement exists about how to frame the threat, with Republicans more likely to blame radical Islam and Democrats speaking more generally about terrorism.

The use of "Islamofascism" is another flashpoint. Proponents of the term argue that Islamic radicals who embrace totalitarian methods evoke European fascist movements of the early 20th century. Critics call it manufactured propaganda, a 21st-century scare tactic that fails to capture the complex causes of terrorism.
Tensions between evangelical Christianity and Islam are long-standing, too. Aside from major theological differences, the two traditions work tirelessly to win new believers and often compete. Evangelical missionary groups have long protested restrictions on access to predominantly Muslim nations in Africa and the Middle East.

The Sept. 11 attacks, carried out by Muslims who cited their religion as a motivating factor, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have further inflamed evangelical anxiety.

"These Christian right activists are very concerned with order," said John Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "And radical Islam, in the same way that radical Communism was, is a threat that would interfere with families, with good government, and also the church and the spreading of the Gospel."
So what kind of solutions do Christian conservative leaders propose for battling what they see as a real threat?

One is staying in Iraq. More than 40 conservative leaders, most of them social conservatives, signed a declaration in September warning against the "catastrophic" consequences of withdrawing from Iraq. The statement said the war "must be seen in the broader context of Islamo-fascism's war on America and Western Civilization."

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