Christians More Militant Than Muslims!

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission, says fundamentalist Christians are a far bigger problem than Muslims. And, no, he's not anti-religion.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, says fundamentalist Christians are a far bigger problem than Muslims. And, no, he’s not anti-religion.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones, The Telegraph’s religious affairs correspondent, draws attention to the controversial remarks (“Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government’s equalities boss“):

Trevor Phillips warned that “an old time religion incompatible with modern society” is driving the revival in the Anglican and Catholic Churches and clashing with mainstream views, especially on homosexuality. He accused Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more militant than Muslims in complaining about discrimination, arguing that many of the claims are motivated by a desire for greater political influence.

But his actual comments are much more nuanced than that headline or lede suggests. (And, in fairness, Wynne-Jones puts the remarks in context later in the piece.) Here’s the main news article (“Trevor Phillips wades into debate on religion in modern society“) on the interview–also by Wynne-Jones:

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph before the publication of a landmark report into religious discrimination over the last decade, he attacks “fashionable” views mocking and marginalising religion and say his Equality and Human Rights Commission will stand up for believers.
But he also warns religious groups of the danger of extremism, saying some Christian activists are not fighting for their religion but for political influence – and says that his own background as the son of immigrants from Guyana means he fears “undiluted” attitudes to homosexuality risk Afro-Carribean communities not integrating into the mainstream.

Mr Phillips today becomes one of the first and most high-profile figures in public life to warn people of faith feel “under siege” from “fashionable” anti-religious views – which he admitted the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been wrongly identified with. “The thing I’ve become anxious about in recent times is this – there is certainly a feeling amongst some people of belief that they are under siege, that they are often disadvantaged, that they are looked at and considered in some way different and their faith makes them less worthy of regard,” he said. “There is a view that says religion is a private matter and it’s entirely a choice. I think that’s entirely not right. “Faith identity is part of what makes life richer and more meaningful for the individual. It is a fundamental part of what makes some societies better than others in my view.

“I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege. They’re in a world where there are a lot of very clever people who have a lot of access to the airwaves and write endlessly in the newspapers knocking religion and mocking God. The people who want to drive religion underground are much more active, much more vocal. There is no doubt there’s quite a lot of intolerance towards people of faith and towards belief. “There’s a great deal of polemic which is anti-religious, which is quite fashionable. People can sometimes think we’re part of that fashionable mocking and knocking brigade. We’re not that.”

After much more along those lines, he made his more controversial remarks:

In a highly provocative comment Mr Phillips said he believed Anglican and Catholic churches were seeing growing congregations from African and Carribean backgrounds with “old time” views which put them at odds with mainstream Britain.

“In the Christian and Muslim faiths migration has given some of the great faith institutions a massive shot in the arm,” he said. “I come from that kind of community. We like our faith strong and pretty undiluted. If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.

“I think there’s an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society. “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.

So, he’s making a very nuanced point about the influence of immigration on religion in the UK, not comparing Christianity and Islam per se.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Islam, Quick Takes, Religion, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    Ah! Subtle, nuanced points. Lets see how that plays in the conservative media!

  2. Tano says:

    Everybody wants to be a victim! Its the only game in town1 Now the (overwhelming) majority Christians are the poor oppressed victims, of that nasty X% (where X is some pretty small number) of “militant” atheists – where “militant” means using the same type of rhetoric against Christians as they have used against non-believers for 2000 years. (actually, its probably a lot milder, and it is restricted just to rhetoric, unlike what the Christians have wrought…)

  3. Jeff says:

    they are more militant complainers … Muslims don’t complain in the UK they just kill you to get their way …

  4. PGlenn says:

    Actually, Phillips is promoting a radical vision. it’s just that A). He wishes to protect traditional ‘old time” Chrisian individuals from being discriminated against, mocked, or attacked en route to the progressive future; B). His vision is very much in keeping with “mainstream” progressive thought.

    The implications of Phillips’ argument is that church activities that go beyond counseling individual believers (sermons, discussions, confessions, etc.) become “public services’ (performing marriages, managing adoptions, etc.), which are therefore under the domain of the progressive state. In defending believers, Phillips merely means to protect individuals’ freedom of individual thought, expression, and so forth, but not the freedom to act in concert with others in pursuance of that faith.

    He defends that argument using a red herring: that, otherwise, we’d have to allow Shariah Law. Wrong.

    Obviously, charities/churches cannot operate under their own rules. The quetion is: Under what system of rules will we live? The U.K. and American both have a legal code, political culture, etc. that are/were Christian-based, which is beneficial to everyone living under it, including atheists and Muslims..

    Phillips and other progressives want to replace that system with a progressive code that takes a much more expansive view of the state while also striving to protect individuals from “intolerance” and ‘discrimination.” Such a path has been trod before, with horrific results.

  5. Axel Edgren says:

    “The implications of Phillips’ argument is that church activities that go beyond counseling individual believers (sermons, discussions, confessions, etc.) become “public services’ (performing marriages, managing adoptions, etc.), which are therefore under the domain of the progressive state.”

    No, you paranoid religious person. They are the domain of any state, not just progressive ones. The state honors and legally defines marriages and adoptions. Without the state, adoptions and marriages would just be ceremonies that could be undone.

    As a taxpayer, I want contracts with important economical and social effects to be the domain of the state, not you insular and selfish religious groupings. Taxpayers should decide what a marriage is and who should handle adoptions – you churches should just accept their decisions.

    “The U.K. and American both have a legal code, political culture, etc. that are/were Christian-based, which is beneficial to everyone living under it, including atheists and Muslims.”

    PARTIALLY christianity-based, which is why those legal codes work. The bible is a flawed text that cannot serve as anything but a suggestion for proper law. But Christianity is still a real social problem, especially in the UK and the US. In fact, all Abrahamic followers are liabilities to the health of a nation, because they are ultimately loyal to the metaphysical world, rather than their fellows in society.

  6. PGlenn says:

    @Axel:

    Who said I was necessarily a “religious person”? After all, I commented that a Christian-based socio-legal “code” is beneficial to all, including atheists; therefore, I might be an atheist and believe that such a code is beneficial.

    My point about marriage, adoption, and other “rites” was incomplete and poorly worded. Yes, the state ultimately determines what are legal marriages and legal adoptions, determinations which in turn have other legal ramifications.

    However, up to now, the state has performed the associated ceremonial “rites” only for those who asked the state do so. Obviously, many people choose to perform these rites within a faith community, administered by a church. There, the church determined the rules for administering those rites.

    Phillips is arguing that the performance of those rites (and associated rules) shall fall under the domain & authority of the state, which is an expansive view of the state: traditionally, Christian churches had “domain” over certain aspects of marriage, adoptions, etc., but Phillips and other progressives are proposing that they forfeit what (limited) domain they previously had.

    Note: Phillips is NOT restricting his definition of “public service” to those services supported by taxpayer funds.

  7. Anon says:

    Equality czar: “The most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian.”

    This statement doesn’t square very well with the reality of the past decade or so. Moreover, I’d like to know how this man has measured “slighted” feelings with a degree of accuracy that would allow him to compare groups that way.

    He seems to trivialising the concerns of Christians in Britain whilst elevating the grievances of the Muslims.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    He seems to trivialising the concerns of Christians…

    Which concerns would those be? Perhaps that gay people are gaining access to legal protections that they should have already had? Phillips is correct that many Christian denominations are trying to poach followers from other dominations that are doing things like allowing females and gays to be pastors…that Christians, of all people, would complain of being victims (in our country especially) is quite amusing…

  9. mattb says:

    Anon wrote:

    Equality czar: “The most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian.”

    This statement doesn’t square very well with the reality of the past decade or so. … He seems to trivialising the concerns of Christians in Britain whilst elevating the grievances of the Muslims.

    I can’t speak for British Evangelicals — or provide more than anecdotal data for the US — but I’m inclined to say that the statement about “feeling slighted” is probably quite accurate within the US. The “slighting” of Christians (along with Conservatives and White Males) has been a huge talking point for the last decade plus in the most public of conservative circles. Take the amount of play, for example, Bill O’Rielly has gotten with “The War on Christmas.”

    One could argue that the Jewish, Atheist, and Muslim (to a far lesser degree) faiths all have better (or more effective) legal representation* and thus have been able to effect changes that have reduced the public role of Christianity. And since, in the US at least, Protestant/Evangelical Christianity is the assumed norm, the resulting changes have lead to that feeling of persecution/slighting.

    * – Some could even extend that argument to Catholics (which some Evangelicals don’t see as a true Christian faith).

  10. Jay Tea says:

    This is so true. The Catholic church right down the street from me is threatening to behead those who eat meat on Fridays. There’s a Methodist church that is holding a fund-raiser to build car bombs. Just the other day, a Southern Baptist suicide bomber took out a dance hall. The Seventh Day Adventists burned down a liquor store for selling booze on a Saturday. And the Mormons attacked a TV station that aired the Tony Awards, because they performed a bit from the “Book Of Mormon” musical.

    And don’t get me started on those Lutherans…

    J.

  11. matt says:

    Jay Tea : What?

  12. rodney dill says:

    Hilarious Jay Tea

  13. Bob says:

    Label it correctly, BS

  14. mattb says:

    And don’t get me started on those Lutherans…

    ‘Dem are really radical — especially those MLS folks.

    But seriously Jay-Tea, the majority of violence you are describing ISN’T happening in either the US or Britian. The attacks that did are being conducted by a small subsection of the population.

    That said, if we are talking about feeling “slighted” — at least in the US — listen to conservative media. Seriously. Generally speaking the message is that Christians (again Evangelicals and Protestants) are the VICTIM of the modern world. Ditto white men.

  15. Jay Tea says:

    mattb, let me cite you some simple examples: Piss Christ vs. Mohammed cartoons. Virgin Mary made of elephant dung vs. “The Satanic Verses.” “The Last Temptation of Christ” vs. “The Message.”

    Both pairs irritated very religious people. Only one side resorted to murder attempts and actual deaths.

    J.

  16. mattb says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Again… where did the mass deaths happen with the Cartoons? The quick scan of Wikipedia suggested that there were largely peaceful protests in the Netherlands — with some arrests — and some Death Threats.

    the reaction INSIDE the US by Christians to Piss Christ was quite similar to what actually happened in the Netherlands — i.e. protests and death threats (and in the case of Piss Christ ultimately an attack on the painting).

    With the Mohammed cartoons, the actual violence took place in oh-so-stable (economically, socially, and financially) places like Pakistan and Gaza City.

    Here’s the thing… Just as I — as a Protestant Christian — don’t see my practice of Christianity (and related violence) as the same as that of lets say the American and Ugandan Christians who lent direct support to a proposed law that would further criminalize Homosexuality — including imposing the death penalty for certain types of action. Likewise — the issue that Herman Cain and other make — is trying to equate a Muslim Citizen living in London or Detroit with those living in Pakistan by reducing everything to religion and choosing the worst case scenario.

    Again, note that the original article — and my response — were specifically looking at what is going on *inside* the UK (original article) and the US (my discussion of the general feeling that Christians are slighted).

  17. Bleev K says:

    Jay Tea, some reading material for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Temptation_of_Christ_(film)#Attack_on_Saint_Michel_theater.2C_Paris

    I wonder how you’re going to spin that one.

  18. Jay Tea says:

    mattb, Wikipedia says cartoon-related riots killed over 100 people worldwide, and a Muslim tried to assassinate cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Denmark.

    Bleev, your article says 13 injured. When “The Message” was shown in Washington, DC, Muslims attacked the Washington, DC chapter of B’Nai Brith and killed two people to keep the film from being shown.

    I didn’t say that Christians are blameless, I said (well, implied, but meant) that Muslims are far more extreme. And the examples I cited show that quite thoroughly.

    J.

  19. Bleev K says:

    Yeah, Jay, I guess trowing bombs in a theater is not extreme.

  20. Jay Tea says:

    Bleev, what part of “I didn’t say that Christians are blameless, I said (well, implied, but meant) that Muslims are far more extreme” didn’t you understand?

    J.

  21. mattb says:

    @Jay tea:

    mattb, Wikipedia says cartoon-related riots killed over 100 people worldwide

    If you read the wikipedia link I provided, all deaths happened in Near/Mid-East countries (again apparently in Pakistan and Gaza).

    Next:

    and a Muslim tried to assassinate cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Denmark.

    How does the action of “a [single] muslim” assassinating a cartoonist differ from the action of “a christian” assassinating an abortion provider who had been an ongoing attack target for Right Wing Media Pundits?

    Further, it should also be noted (and I’ll repeat it below) that artist Andres Serrano received death threats and someone did in fact attack the painting.

    As I pointed out, action in the west (i.e. where Phillips and I are situating our argument) was largely the same for both the cartoons and the piss christ — largely peaceful protests, some death threats, and legal action. In fact, given how Piss Christ became the focal point for Jesse Helm’s explicity Christian based efforts to defund the NEA, we could say that the Christian resentment for the slighting of the painting had a far more immediate culturally pervasive effect within the US than the Mohammed cartoons did in Europe.

    To put this in a different perspective — on the Jindal thread you have been arguing that racism is just an expression of a larger, more historic issue. Yet here, you refuse to decouple western practice of Islam from it’s practice in the Near/Middle East. You also seem to completely gloss over the fact that the places where the worst protests and all of the deaths happened were in some of the most politically and socially repressive countries on earth (and also some of the poorest). Instead the only answer is Islam and that Islam is the MOST violent, the MOST evil, the MOST anti-everything.

    I’m not arguing that a particular sect/strain/intepretation of Islam didn’t have something to do with the revolts. And you don’t seem to be arguing that there isn’t a racist element to the attacks. But where we divide — at least in the case of these protests — is that you don’t seen to want to consider if the violent protests might have a lot to do with unrest caused by the underlying social and political structure (This is a problem through out the near/mid east and one of the reasons why the Saudi State tends to “export” all of it’s angry young men to fight for the cause rather than fight their own government).

    As I said, if one looks specifically at conservative media, and it’s rally standpoint of things like “The War on Christmas” (resentment of people saying “Happy Holidays” for example or the acceptance of “fake” cultural holidays that compete with Christmas) — the day to day resentment and feeling of slighting is largely on the part of Christians.

    I will give you that if we were discussing what is going on in the Near/Mid East then things change entirely. But the point that you conveniently keep missing is that Phillips arguement was about WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE UK (and since I can’t talk about it, I’m telling you about my personal and research experience as to WHAT IS HAPPENING WITHIN THE US).

  22. mattb says:

    @Jay Tea, in an attempt at peace, let me change this slightly for you:

    that Muslims who live in the near/far east are far more extreme than those who live in the west (who are for the most part inline with the broad range of beliefs and militarism found in most western religious denominations)

  23. matt says:

    mattb, let me cite you some simple examples: Piss Christ vs. Mohammed cartoons.

    Oh you mean the piece of “art” that was violently attacked by Christians who damage it and the display beyond repair? Who threatened to kill the artist on a daily basis for weeks/months?

    The big problem with the Mohammed cartoons was that some imans added some fake cartoons to it such as Mohammed having sex with a dog and said claimed those were the real cartoons and a lot of local idiots fell for it. The fake cartoons circled the world before the real ones had a chance to boot their boots on.

    Virgin Mary made of elephant dung vs. “The Satanic Verses.”

    Oh the painting that caused Christians to sue the dung out of everyone involved and the painting itself was damaged by a Christian who smeared white paint on the canvass? There were also death threats involved.

    “The Last Temptation of Christ”

    The movie that resulted in protests by CHristians world wide? The film itself was banned in several countries including Mexico. Even to this day it’s banned in the Philippines and Singapore. How about the French fundamentalist group that threw molotov cocktails inside the Parisan Saint Michel movie theatre while the movie was showing? The date for that bit of terrorism was October 22 in 1988. The National Front also engaged in a lot of other terrorist attacks in the name of Christianity too 😛

    Are you really sure you want to go with this angle?