Context means a lot.
At a religious service on a state college campus, a congregant violated etiquette at communion. Some reports noted that sect members bullied the congregant on the spot. The congregant fled the service, according to some reports. An advocacy group for the religious sect demanded apologies, legal action, and ostracism for the congregant. Threats of violence against the congregant started rolling in. The congregent was told he will be murdered.
A professor at a good, small midwestern state college used his pen to urge calm among the sect’s members. Threats of violence are foolish, he says. Calm down, he said.
The professor tried to put things in perspective: Threatening murder for a violation of communion etiquette is beyond the pale, one of the dangers of violent religious sects. Such actions are the opposite of American tradition.
But then the prof took a step farther: This religious sect is functioning on superstition, he said. He said the superstition can be exposed, and he would use his skeptical powers to expose the superstition, to show everyone that threats of death on such issues are unwise, unnecessary, and to be avoided.
Rod Dreher, who last week complained in his column about the lasting damage that bullies can do to kids in schools, weighed in on the communion/death threats matter with a column this week in the Dallas Morning News.
How did Dreher weigh in?
A. He calls for an end to bullying, and urges calm.
B. He says religious wars started this way, and he urges calm.
C. He calls for an end to bullying, but urges the professor to lay off debunking the religion.
D. He calls the professor hateful, and supports the side that issued the death threats.
See below the fold.
Incredible as it may be, Dreher chose “D,” supporting the side that made the death threats, and calling the professor who condemned the death threats “hateful.” Dreher lambasted the professor, but didn’t even mention the death threats that started the entire thing. Let me repeat: Dreher called the professor “hateful.” The headline (which Dreher probably didn’t have any control over) called the professor “hate-filled.” Dreher called the professor, P. Z. Myers, a “militant atheist,” but never mentioned the militant religious sect members who threatened violence and death to one of their own members — and to Myers. Nor did Dreher explain why calling for an end to religious violence makes one a “militant atheist,” or “hateful.”
Which just goes to show: Religious terrorism is all in the eye of the worshipper; to way too many worshippers, violence in defense of faith is fine, so long as the violence supports their own point of view.
Dreher’s column is grotesquely unbalanced, presenting a rosy view of just one side of a many-faceted discussion that has no rosy views. Does Dreher consider the entire case? He doesn’t present any balancing view, let alone a complete view. Today’s column makes no mention of the original incident at the University of Central Florida.
I may have to re-evaluate my previous views of Dreher’s bias. His failure to present even a semblance of a balanced case today is an astounding lapse for an opinion column.
P. Z. Myers is the biologist who blogs at Pharyngula, one of the more popular, rational and persuasive blogs on the internet.
Dreher is a member of the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News, a religious, conservative voice, usually for traditional values.
Did we learn the wrong lessons from Osama bin Laden? It sure looks that way on this issue.
- The original, “offending” post at Pharyngula
- News story from WFTV Channel 9 in Florida
- Update: It’s worse than I thought. Turns out Dreher has been following this thing for three weeks — see his earlier blog post here. Given the choice to either, report accurately and call for calm on all sides, or do a virtual Chicken Little scene with faux gravitas, Dreher chose the latter. Cracker or human life: Dreher chose cracker. What would Jesus do?
- Good summary from another blogger, Rodibidably.
- Myers at Pharyngula, on Dreher’s column: “So this is what a witch hunt looks like, as a target . . .”
- Further update, 3:30 p.m. August 4, 2008: Great googly moogly! Dreher complains that Myers and the 40 or so Myers fans who wrote to his blog “lack empathy.” Tell us Rod, is death the proper response when a Christian fails to swallow communion? Let’s start where Myers called on Dreher to show some empathy, and see if he does. Will Dreher disavow the death threats, or does he think death for failing to swallow is “empathy?”
- Even more update: For anyone at the Dreher blog who actually wants the links I couldn’t post there, here they are: Myers on Dreher and Dreher’s Dragoons;
Bomb threats here;
The hoax to try to get the cops into it;
Threats and, without any consciousness of the irony, a plea to desecrate a Qur’an.
- Dreher’s not alone. There are any number of bloggers and other commentators who are willing to wink at the death threats and stand up for the communion wafer instead. Who was it said, “Christianity is a great idea; someone should try it some time?”