The Spectacle Blog

E.J. Dionne: Christians Do Weird Things

By on 12.25.08 | 10:16AM

E.J. Dionne's new book is all about "taking back" faith from the feverish mouths of the right. Aside from the obvious silliness that comes of asserting that one can really "hijack" an entire religion, Dionne in a TNR op-ed makes a wonderful point about Christians working at an organization called "Catholic Relief":

..[W]hat's striking is that the faith of its employees is inherent in what they do, not something they wear on their sleeves. McGarry says his co-workers are not in the field to preach Christianity, even if the fact they are there bears witness to their faith.

He then notes something that makes me curious:

McGarry says his co-workers are not in the field to preach Christianity, even if the fact they are there bears witness to their faith. Indeed, in most Afghan villages, seeking converts among Muslims would be highly dangerous. The group consciously avoids preaching the Gospel, and its Afghan staff is overwhelmingly Muslim.

This pretty much flies in the face of what he later complains about:

It is strange how a faith that traces its origins to a stable, preaches love and demands good works is so often invoked to condemn, to divide and to denounce.

Never mind that he lumps Catholics, Fundamentalists, and Unitarians together. (I'm not expressing a preference, but there are real things that divide these denominations.) A number of Christian organizations go out of their way to employ and work with people of other faiths without proselytizing. (Let's put aside the weird assertion that there's value in not telling other people what you believe can help them.) I wonder if we looked over the number of Muslim organizations that do this in Christian countries, versus the number of Christian organizations that do the same in Muslim countries, how those numbers would add up?

I don't know this, so I'm putting this as a question to readers. I'm sure that there are Muslim organizations that do this. I just don't know which. But I do chafe at the idea that a religion sells itself short when it "condemns, divides, and denounces." A shepherd that allows his flock to wander off and lose itself isn't much of a shepherd.

But then again, that doesn't conform to Dionne's stereotype.

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