A few weeks ago, a handful of Muslim extremists killed 130 people in Paris. Many people were quick to condemn the attacks, while simultaneously defending mainstream, moderate (and liberal) Muslims. Of course, Islam had nothing to do with those attacks – they were the work of extremists who misinterpret the faith to justify violence.
Not long after, a Planned Parenthood clinic in the United States was attacked in an act of terrorism that left 3 people dead (the body count being the only tangible difference between this and Paris, frankly). In this case, liberal progressives were quick to point out the shooter’s Christian and right-wing political beliefs, asking if “moderate” conservatives and pro-lifers would condemn the attack and sort out their extremists.
A shallow analysis says “yes”.
Facebook has no shortage of memes and comments from Right Wing News and other pundits and politicians pointing this out exactly. “A week ago, religion had nothing to do with the attacks… this week, it has everything to do with it” points out one (though paraphrased, as I don’t care to type ‘libtard’ that many times).
And, in fact, I’d agree – with the caveats expressed in the bulk of this below – that we need to be very careful about cherry picking when we place blame on abstract entities like religion. I don’t think ‘Islam’, the abstract religious entity, has anything to do with the Paris attacks – and I don’t think ‘Christianity’, the abstract religious entity, has anything to do with the Planned Parenthood attack, either. Mere ‘religion’ simply isn’t that good a prediction of violent dickishness.
With billions upon billions of people adhering to a religion of some kind, if religion, the abstract entity, was to blame – and by blame I specifically mean it is the best predictor of said behaviour – for violence, we’d all be fucked way more than we are. If anyone wishes to disagree, I invite you to do the calculations that show P(violent|religious) is higher than any other factor we can look at. If it’s meaningfully higher than P(violent|breathes-oxygen) I’d be very impressed.
Anyway, with that said, why don’t I think the above alleged-contradiction is a double standard? Mostly because in order to be a double-standard, you have to contrast like with like. It is a double standard after all; it implies you’re measuring two suitably similar things differently for no real reason than Just Because.
So, in no particular order:
- Following the Planned Parenthood shooting, we have not seen an increase in anti-Christian attacks on people.
- We have not seen politicians say we should make Christians wear special badges to identify themselves.
- Some people are so desperate to shake off the Planned Parenthood shooter’s association with the rhetoric of the Religious Right that they tried to say he was a liberal trans woman. I mean, what the actual fuck?
- We don’t see states and countries close their borders to Christian refugees on the off-chance one of them is a terrorist despite a Christian having conducted an act of terror on behalf of the Religious Right.
- If you’re a Christian and called ‘James’ in the United States, you’ll probably get a better job or have to work less-hard for it than if you’re Muslim and called ‘Muhammad’.
- We don’t see the media make a big deal of the Planned Parenthood shooter’s religion as its first port of call. (in fact, I’m aware that I’ve used ‘Muslim extremist’ as a term twice in this very article, but not ‘Christian extremist’ even once – this meta-aside excluded, obviously)
- So far there have been no serious calls for the ‘Christian Community’ to condemn and dissociate themselves from the attacks. By which, I mean a call apropos of the attack alone, rather than as a facetious response to the “white=not-a-terrorist, brown=terrorist” narrative.
- Similarly, there are no serious calls for Christians to sort out their extremists. The calls that do are merely a response to the actual double-standard going on.
- Christians who publicly endorse or celebrate the Planned Parenthood shooter aren’t vilified in the press – while Muslims are the baddies even if they don’t support Daesh or extremists. In fact, some of those assholes are celebrated in the right-wing press, whose increasing popularity is encroaching so much as to be the new mainstream. So, yes, mainstream pundits have celebrated a terrorist.
- There’s no long history of treating Christians as terrorists in popular culture and fiction as the default of what ‘being a Christian’ means. Evil Muzzie-towelheads, though, are the fuel that award-winning television is made of.
Do I really need to go on with this? The list is practically endless. The surrounding background context makes these attacks very different, even though the only direct difference in the events is the number of people killed.
We’re not comparing like with like here. In order to be a hypocritical double-standard, making a big deal of religion (or not) would depend on whether those religions are viewed equally. And in the case of Christianity vs Islam, they’re definitely not. You’re sadly deluded if you feel that “the killer’s a Christian!” has the same social impact as “the killer’s a Muslim!”
So we live in a world where Muslim extremists can commit acts of terror and the entire faith of billions is vilified and thrown under the bus no matter the low levels of support those extremists have. Meanwhile fairly mainstream (in the United States) Christian politics are ‘pro-life’, and often use violent rhetoric to make their point – yet we’re met with hand-washing and denial from those people when someone takes their words literally. Now, to me, that sounds like a double standard on behalf of western culture and society.
Make no mistake, mere religion explains neither event – extreme political brainwashing does. But it seems like the majority are only happy to accept that in one case, not the other. That’s where the real double-standard lies. It’s seen as the default, The One And Only Way, and the norm. Any attempt to address that, by pointing in the direction of the Planned Parenthood shooter and saying “hey, look, Christian terrorist!” will be seen as an unbalanced view simply by its very nature of not conforming to the status quo.
And these Christian politicians, pundits and talk-show hosts, amongst countless commentators on message boards over the internet, may need it thrown in their face once or twice to see if they get the point.