Moral equivalence is a fancy name for ‘Whatabouterry’, the playground debating tactic of countering any argument with ‘What about …?’ with the automatic assumption of an equivalence between the two propositions. Silly enough in primary school children, not so amusing in a supposedly educated person like Barack Obama.
Speaking of IS atrocities at a National Prayer Breakfast President Obama said:
Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
Obama makes the fatal errors of all addicted to Whatabouterry, the omission of historical context, the passage of time, and the comparison of the everyday with the rare.
Terrible deeds were committed by Christians during the Crusades, deeds roundly condemned by every Christian. But consider the context. The Crusades were not imperialistic wars launched by vicious Christians against pastoral Muslims interested only in leading peaceful lives cultivating their crops and living in harmony with the environment.
The Muslim history of religious war begins during Muhammed’s life time. Within 60 years of his death Islam had swept through the Christian lands of North Africa and had taken Jerusalem. In another twenty years they had conquered Spain. Was this the result of a particularly effective campaign of tract distribution, or a violent military campaign? The ‘religion of peace’ spread by the sword. Subjugated peoples were given three choices: convert, live and pay ‘jizya’ a tax for the privilege of living under Muslim domination, or die.
The Muslim invaders of Europe were finally stopped by the Franks under Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. Finding their northward drive halted imperialistic Islam consolidated its grip on Spain and then turned eastwards, as well as focussing turning the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake.
It was only in 1095, after nearly 400 years of violent Muslim imperialism that Pope Urban II preached the first Crusade and the religious war appears in Christianity.
The Crusades began almost a millenium ago, when Obama says ‘people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ’. He ignores that in the succeeding millennium some religions grew, others remained mired in the past.
If the detestable crime of slavery was defeated in the West it is largely due to the activities of one group, evangelical Christians. In Britain and the UK the driving force behind the movement to outlaw slavery was evangelical Christianity, embodied by the Clapham Sect in the UK and the abolitionists of the USA. Last century the Civil Rights movement amongst blacks in the USA was largely led by the evangelical black churches and their ministers.
In the meantime slavery remains an integral part of the social programme of IS, Boko Haram and their affiliates. It is moral cretinism to excuse or downgrade the crimes of today because of the crimes of 200 years ago.
It is not only in the USA that such self-loathing inanity is current. In the Guardian, where else, there appeared a column saying we shouldn’t consider the West superior to IS because of the Chad Evans case.
Evans is a footballer given a two year prison sentence for rape. Following his release and a Twitter storm denouncing his attempts to return to football some argued that having served his time Evans should be given a second chance and be allowed to play football. According to Guardian columnist Deborah Orr, Evans and his supporters ‘each and every one of them’ have a ‘good deal of common cause with the ideas of… the Islamic State’.
According to this argument those who believe that having served his time a man should be allowed a second chance in life are the equivalent of a vile pseudo state who have thrown out due process in favour of killing and maiming any it considers criminals. Only in the Guardian.
Such is the terror of making a moral judgement that some progressives claim that we in the West today are no different from IS who burned to death Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh because Thomas Moore had Protestants burned at the stake more than 450 years ago and Servetus was executed in Calvin’s Geneva.
Perhaps Obama and other progressives should ask: Why does barbaric violence persist amongst Islamic extremists today to an extent unknown in other religions? Why search the distant past for instances of moral equivalence, unless the present doesn’t offer suitable instances?
Parts of Central America are as poor as the Middle East, yet with the exception, nearly 50 years ago, of the Marxist-Christian priest Camillo Torres we do not find liberation theologians taking up the gun in the cause of redistribution. The Dalai Lama is not sending suicide bombers into China to avenge the takeover of Tibet. Jews are not machine gunning cartoonists in Paris. Hindus are not flying airliners into high rises in Britain as revenge for the exploitation of India by the Raj. Prussian Lutherans are not beheading Russians because of the mass rapes by the Red Army in 1945.
Our progressives should be asking why radical Islam is spreading terror all over the globe rather by denying it, employing euphemisms to cover it, or attempting to excuse it by citing supposedly morally equivalent examples from the distant past.
This is more than a trendy posturing by progressives congratulating themselves on their ‘sensitivity’ and ‘understanding’. It is destructive of the hard won advances toward freedom made in Western society over the centuries. If all is equivalence why should we urge Islam to reform? If all is equivalence why should we, how could we, defend Western freedoms?