A few years back, a newly-married couple invited me to visit with them. She was a devoted Christian, one who'd grown up in the Church. He was not only "unchurched," as the label puts it, but had never even set foot in a church.
We went through the initial pleasantries as people do when first getting to know one another. Then the wife told me that in all honesty, her husband had some real problems with the Church.
"So do I," I told him. "You give me your list first."
"I don't like the way the Church goes around bombing abortion clinics," he told me.
The perception of this otherwise intelligent man was that all Christians lit fuses to blow up abortion clinics.
It seems to me that this kind of religious ignorance is what lay behind the inflammatory comments of Congressman Tom Tancredo and the responses of those Americans likely to support them and the young Muslims around the world apt to see Tancredo's comments as confirmation of their worst feelings about America. Most Muslims in the world don't know Christians and most Christians don't know Muslims; so, they become prey for caricatures.
Americans who support Tancredo's irresponsible comments show that they've been suckered into Osama bin Laden's lies. In spite of repeated repudiation of him from responsible Muslim clerics the world over, bin Laden has called his campaign of terror an Islamic holy war. But he no more represents Islam than abortion clinic bombers represent Christians or the IRA represents Roman Catholicism.
The multifaceted effort to crush what has been called Islamofascism--a weird philosophy that uses a great world religion as an excuse to advance nihilism and dictatorship--is not a religious war. The United States is, after all, a multicultural nation whose population includes many peace-loving, freedom-loving Muslims who daily make contributions to the common good, including those serving in our military. The war on terrorism is a war on a demonic ideology, akin to Hitler's Nazi movement.
As a Christian, I freely admit that I would like the whole world to know and follow Jesus Christ. But that can never happen by coercion--military or otherwise. What I want and what I believe America at its best has always stood for, is a world at such peace and enjoying such freedom that all are free to choose their own spiritual paths.
Bin Laden wouldn't agree with this, of course; but he doesn't speak for world Islam.
With his comments, Tom Tancredo has given bin Laden a ton more recruits, young Muslims who believe that America really is hostile to Islam. In so doing, the congressman has damaged the war on terrorism, given aid and comfort to the enemy, and endangered every American soldier, sailor, and Marine.