Could fundamentalist Christians help Mideast politics?
Egyptian activists in Cairo on March 27.
April 16th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Could fundamentalist Christians help Mideast politics?

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - As protesters battle repressive regimes in the Middle East, some commentators fear that the collapse of these regimes could pave the way for radical Islamic groups to take power.

But anyone who believes that democracy and religious fundamentalism cannot co-exist has not been paying attention to how fundamentalist Christians have strengthened American democracy, Jonathan Zimmerman, a history professor at New York University says in a provocative recent  Christian Science Monitor article.

Zimmerman writes that Americans don’t have to look at Muslim countries like Turkey to see how fervent religious parties can be peacefully integrated into a democracy:

We need only look in the mirror. Over the past four decades, fundamentalist Christians have surged into United States politics. And, in the process, they have enriched - not constricted - our democracy.

Zimmerman says the Christian Right employed virtues normally associated with liberals - reason, tolerance and mutual respect - when they decided to enter the political arena about 40 years ago.  (Many scholars would say that true fundamentalists make up a small subset of the Christian Right, but Zimmerman uses the terms interchangeably.)

Zimmerman, author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory,” writes:

I can hear you scoffing. These are the same people who want to ban abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research. What’s liberal about that?

Zimmerman says fundamentalist Christians are tolerant when it comes to tactics. They avoid heavy-handed religious appeals, believing those turn off ordinary people. They mix their religious claims with appeals to reason.

He cites a book called “The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right” to back up his point. Jon Shields, the book’s author, spent years examining anti-abortion activists at rallies and discovered they didn’t rely on explicitly Christian appeals  to argue their causes, emphasizing reason instead, Zimmerman says.

So anti-pornography organizers indict the industry’s degradation of women; opponents of gay marriage say it harms children; campaigners against gambling stress its addictive qualities, and anti-abortion activists argue that the procedure harms mothers as well as the unborn.

Zimmerman says there are Christian Right groups like Operation Rescue, which blocked abortion clinics around the country, that were explicitly religious. But he says they “alienated most members of the Christian Right.”

And what does this have to do with the uprisings in the Middle East? Zimmerman asks:

Will conservative Islamic parties like the Muslim Brotherhood follow the example of our own right-wing Christians, accommodating democratic practice in order to press their case? Or will they resort to violence and terrorism?

He ends by saying:

Let’s lay to rest the unfair caricature of the Christian Right, which has generally played by the rules of democracy. And let’s hope that the Middle East’s own religious conservatives will do the same.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Abortion • Christianity • Culture wars • Egypt • Fundamentalism • Iran • Islam • Middle East

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soundoff (449 Responses)
  1. Mercedes

    If you visit your local Christian Book Shop, they should be able to aisdve you on just what is suitable material for children of the age group you hope to teach.Personal, if I had set myself such an enormous task as to teach 6 too 8 year old children the Bible; which gives me the shudders just thinking about the little mob, I would start with things which could be interactive and fun. Obviously one needs to keep it simple as possible while holding on to truths, whilst making learning fun at the same time.For example; the classic, Noah's Ark, a true story, interactive and fun.Jonah and the Whale; an exciting story of someone trying to escape God's Will by going on a Mediterranee Cruise. As if he could!Daniel; the Lions Den, a tale of bravery and faith.Such stories are adventures to children, one could then slowly build up to the Gospels, by introducing the story of the baby Jesus.Whatever you decide to do, I will pray on your behalf all goes well, just make sure you have plenty of coffee, you may need it.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  2. cicero

    Just Who is Osama bin Ladin

    May 4, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  3. Muneef

    Maybe that is the sort of help Mideast should be given;

    History FYI:
    The different Yemenite states, Sabaa, Awsan, Hadramawt, Main, Timna, Qataban, Raydhan and Himyar, were often in agreement with regard to the role each one had to play in its own domain with regard to a generally conceived Yemenite interest. However, reunification considerations we attest only as late as the end of the 2nd century CE, and it is the Himyarites, who seem to be more conscious in this regard.

    Among the ten countries that evolve around the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, Abyssinia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar, the real leader will make the difference at the qualitative level. This involves mainly a regional vision for regional peace, concord, progress, development, knowledge and prosperity. A vision that can emanate from Yemen, that would bring forth a fresh common perspective for the entire regional population, and that would match the great historical past with modern ideals and practices


    April 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Already they produce and give or sell to the Mideast tyrants leaders a lot of weapons,tear gas bombs to use it against the their peaceful demonstrating populations....!! Isn't that good enough?

    April 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  5. Tol Trunks

    Please don't pretend Allah is not real. What that false thing they worship is the 1st wind, Apollyon (Greek), Abaddon. It is one of the fallen living creatures, it is a demon. It is white, has six wings, the face of a seagull, is 4 ft by 4ft and 3 ft through. Arabs and others no this and worship the Devil from the Holy Scriptures or the Antichrist. 2-3-2012.

    April 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  6. Adelina

    A civilization also needs sense of righteousness. All other virtues become foolishness without it. Modern democracy brought mass filth.

    April 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  7. David Johnson

    I have thought about it, and I now think the fundies could help in the Middle East. Let's send them all to Libya!


    April 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  8. Dexter Skagway

    What a dumb-ass article. Talk about obviously untrue: "Zimmerman says the Christian Right employed virtues normally associated with liberals – reason, tolerance and mutual respect – when they decided to enter the political arena about 40 years ago."

    April 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  9. Solrac

    Christianity and Islam has one thing in common, Abraham as a common father (Isaac and Ishmael).
    Islam Is the polar opposite of christianity which is built upon forgiven and love. Islam is built upon the premise of a eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
    The biblical principles that shaped American and Western democracy will never work in a non christian country. Any culture that attempts to establish a democratic society without christian principles will eventually fall into dictatorship. Any society that does support free speech and tolerance will endanger freedom.

    April 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. Tyler V

    I think there is a major difference between the Christian right (including the fundamentalists) and Islamic fundamentalism is that Christian theism has predominately (since the protestant Reformation) NOT been theonomistic. That is, they have seen the Biblical precepts as a personal moral ethic or at most an ethic for living in the kingdom of God (think Augustine's city of God)and they have largely seen the OT law with its civil and ceremonial aspects abbrogated by the death of Jesus and brought to their terminus – that they only applied to geo-political Israel and not to the church in specific or to governments in general. This is simply not the case with Radical Islam and its conception of Sharia law. So while I can appreciate this article as far as it goes, I think it does miss that major difference between the two.

    April 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  11. Muneef

    [3:0] In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

    [3:1] A.L.M.*

    [3:2] GOD: there is no god except He; the Living, the Eternal.

    [3:3] He sent down to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming all previous scriptures, and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel

    [3:4] before that, to guide the people, and He sent down the statute book. Those who disbelieve in GOD's revelations incur severe retribution. GOD is Almighty, Avenger.

    [3:5] Nothing is hidden from GOD, on earth, or in the heaven.
    Miracles Bring Greater Responsibility*
    [2:211] Ask the Children of Israel how many profound miracles have we shown them! For those who disregard the blessings bestowed upon them by GOD, GOD is most strict in retribution.

    [2:212] This worldly life is adorned in the eyes of the disbelievers, and they ridicule those who believe. However, the righteous will be far above them on the Day of Resurrection. GOD blesses whomever He wills, without limits.

    Disastrous Jealousy
    [2:213] The people used to be one community when GOD sent the prophets as bearers of good news, as well as warners. He sent down with them the scripture, bearing the truth, to judge among the people in their disputes. Ironically, those who received the scripture were the ones who rejected any new scripture, despite clear proofs given to them. This is due to jealousy on their part. GOD guides those who believe to the truth that is disputed by all others, in accordance with His will. GOD guides whoever wills in a straight path.*

    [2:214] Do you expect to enter Paradise without being tested like those before you? They were tested with hardship and adversity, and were shaken up, until the messenger and those who believed with him said, "Where is GOD's victory?" GOD's victory is near.
    [4:56] Surely, those who disbelieve in our revelations, we will condemn them to the hellfire. Whenever their skins are burnt, we will give them new skins. Thus, they will suffer continuously. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise.
    [78:39] Such is the inevitable day. Whoever wills let him take refuge in his Lord.

    [78:40] We have sufficiently warned you about an imminent retribution. That is the day when everyone will examine what his hands have sent forth, and the disbeliever will say, "Oh, I wish I were dust."
    [5:98] Know that GOD is strict in enforcing retribution, and that GOD is Forgiving, Most Merciful.

    [5:99] The sole duty of the messenger is to deliver the message, and GOD knows everything you declare and everything you conceal.

    [5:100] Proclaim: "The bad and the good are not the same, even if the abundance of the bad may impress you. You shall reverence GOD, (even if you are in the minority) O you who possess intelligence, that you may succeed."

    April 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Muneef and his fellow Sunnis yet again.

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      Analogous steps are available for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism at your request.

      April 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  12. Muneef

    The Commandments
    [2:83] We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: "You shall not worship except GOD. You shall honor your parents and regard the relatives, the orphans, and the poor. You shall treat the people amicably. You shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat)." But you turned away, except a few of you, and you became averse.

    [2:84] We made a covenant with you, that you shall not shed your blood, nor shall you evict each other from your homes. You agreed and bore witness.

    [2:85] Yet, here you are killing each other, and evicting some of you from their homes, banding against them sinfully and maliciously. Even when they surrendered, you demanded ransom from them. Evicting them was prohibited for you in the first place. Do you believe in part of the scripture and disbelieve in part? What should be the retribution for those among you who do this, except humiliation in this life, and a far worse retribution on the Day of Resurrection? GOD is never unaware of anything you do.

    [2:86] It is they who bought this lowly life at the expense of the Hereafter. Consequently, the retribution is never commuted for them, nor can they be helped.
    Major Commandments
    [4:36] You shall worship GOD alone – do not associate anything with Him. You shall regard the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, the related neighbor, the unrelated neighbor, the close associate, the traveling alien, and your servants. GOD does not like the arrogant show-offs.

    [4:37] The ones who are stingy, exhort the people to be stingy, and conceal what GOD has bestowed upon them from His bounties. We have prepared for the disbelievers a shameful retribution.

    [4:38] They give money to charity only to show off, while disbelieving in GOD and the Last Day. If one's companion is the devil, that is the worst companion.

    [4:39] Why do they not believe in GOD and the Last Day, and give from GOD's provisions to them? GOD is fully aware of them.
    [16:90] GOD advocates justice, charity, and regarding the relatives. And He forbids evil, vice, and transgression. He enlightens you, that you may take heed.

    April 18, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • Reality

      As with most Islam-based upheavals, the Sunnis and Shiites will continue their hatred for each other ending in more bloody civil wars. As usual, the Christians will be the collateral damage.

      One wonders which one of these branches of Dark Age Islam Muneef belongs to?

      April 18, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Muneef

      Dear Reality.
      It is God's wish but you would never know what could happen it is all in the hands of God and the day he wishes both to become as Two towards one target, it easy for God...after all every bird flys with pair of wings...Sunnies and Shiites are the pair of wings of the Bird of Islam to fly landing all over the Globe...it is all a matter of time only...God does do what ever he wants...

      Al-Qasas sura 28:
      Thy Lord createth what He willeth and chooseth. They have never any choice. Glorified be Allah and exalted above all that they associate (with Him)! (68).

      April 18, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Muneef

      Dear Reality.

      Am Sunni...as majority of Ye....but it doesn't matter since we both say "LaIlahAlaAllah&Muhammed Rasool Allah"&"Allaho Akber" then it is quite enough for the pair of wings to get together to fly the "Phenix" that had been for quite long under the ashes..."God's Will". Ameen.

      April 18, 2011 at 11:07 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.