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Onward, Christian Soldiers
March 1, 2002
By Bob Volpitto

In my opinion it is the height of hypocrisy, the epitome of egomania and the apex of arrogance. "It" refers to the Evangelical Right Wing plan to proselytize Afghanistan's Muslims. This insult to Islam sound like Ralph "Enron" Reed and Anne "Claptrap" Coulter and those of their ilk have nudged the administration of Bush/Cheney another notch to the starboard.

I suppose when Bush defined his "war" or terrorism as a "Crusade" he wasn't waxing poetic. Muslims around the world, including those in the United States, rose up against this contrived Freudian slip. "Crusade", however, was soon to be stricken from the official label of this conflict. Apologists sprang up out of all "corners" of the Oval Office. Bush was cleansed of his scripted faux pas -- or was he? I still see egg on his smirking face simply because it was cleverly and deliberately planted there.

Attempts at proselytizing down through the ages is legend.

In 1492 Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known chiefly for their generous patronage of Christopher Columbus, purged the Catholic Iberian Peninsula of its Muslims and its Jews. "Convert or die," was the demand of the Inquisition's Torquemada, with the blessings of the crown. Many chose conversion to Christianity and because known as "Conversos", though many others chose death. A great number of these "Conversos" secretly continued to practice their ancient rituals, but, when discovered doing so, were put to the fiery death at the stake or stoned to a pulp to the delight of their Christian executioners. These killings, this butchery, were considered acts of piety. Proselytizing by the sword was effective, at least to a large degree in Fifteenth Century Spain and Portugal.

Then, who can forget the fate of the Incas and Aztecs in the New World? The highly developed civilization of Peruvian Incas was put to the torch and hammer by those led by Pizarro who declared the native worship abhorrent to the one true faith. As for the Aztecs, Cortez (and later de Onate) and the holy friars who accompanied him proselytized these heathen worshipers -- Christianity by the sword triumphed in both instances. Again, those who did not profess the faith of their conquerors were executed. Another victory for proselytizing. This time in the Sixteenth Century.

There is that shameful period of American history which tells of the plight of the black slave in America. He was captured by his own people, sold to a white ship captain, transported in irons in a dank, disease ridden, rotting hold of a ship westward. As a salve to the slaves, they were converted (say proselytized) from their African tribal religions. They were convinced that though their lives on earth were a constant drudgery, there would be another life beyond death if they adopted the faith of their owners. What choice did the black slave have? He yearned first not for freedom but to be reborn and subsequently reside where life was all happiness, no back breaking labor and where singing, dancing and laughter would be eternal.

For free whites in early America the attitude toward religious freedom differed from that of bigoted European states.

In the Nineteenth Century, think of the plight of Jews in the time of the Russian Czars. In that time Cossacks rode horseback through Jewish neighborhoods on Good Fridays firing their weapons into the homes of the Children of Abraham hoping to kill the inhabitants. Pogroms were frequent and bloody. Czar Alexander formulated the solution to Russia's "Jewish Problem" by proclaiming: "One third will convert, one third will emigrate and one third will die". This Czar encouraged proselytizing, at least to a degree.

During World War II many Jewish children were proselytized when given over to Christians to be sheltered from certain death by the Nazis. Of course those children's lives were spared by clever deceptions of their adopted parents who found it also their duty to raise the children as Christians. The most remarkable tale was that of a small boy born of Jewish parents in France, adopted by a Christian couple and grew up to be the Catholic Bishop of Paris!

I could continue for many pages more about the mendacity of those who devoted their lives proselytizing in the name of their faith. The point would be unchanged. Those who have chosen an opposite avenue to God see the mockery in those who demand religious tolerence from others but do not practice it themselves.

The bizarre arrogance of the Right Wing Evangelists' assumption that their faith is the only road to a better life on earth and salvation beyond the grave defies comprehension. Are we not all children of God no matter how we define Him, or the ritual we choose to worship him and give thanks to Him for His bessings and serve Him as best our mortal understanding dictates?

Proselytizing Muslims will surely bring more incidents of violence against us. They simply don't want our religion or the western culture that goes with it. When this violence comes again to our shores will it not be the proselytizers who will be the first to ask once more: "Why do they hate us?"

Mr. Volpitto, a retired newspaper publisher, is a frequent contibutor to Democratic Underground.

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