Monday, September 20, 2004

My Jihad Against Idiocy

From Roland Merullo's impressively unenlightening column on liberals and conservatives in today's Globe:

I began to form the impression then that the conservative mindset springs from what, for lack of a better term, might best be described as an Old Testament world view: Life is harsh, God is angry, enemies ought to be treated without mercy. An eye for an eye. There is good and there is evil, and the distinction between them is as clear as the line between sin and righteousness.

This is not the first column I've read that uses "Old Testament" as shorthand for "cruel, violent, and unenlightened." I find this usage offensive, not only because it misrepresents the Hebrew Bible, but because it slights those of us who regard the "Old Testament" as scripture and aren't so morally and theologically simplistic.

Meanwhile, "jihad" has replaced "crusade" as the favored metaphor for overly zealous, often foolish and destructive endeavors. "Crusade," of course, can be used in a positive sense as well. But when was the last time you heard of a "jihad" for the environment or civil rights?

There are, admittedly, Muslims who make "jihad" seem like a pretty awful concept, and they've managed to call a lot of attention to themselves. Christian fundamentalists (l'havdil?) are also pretty high profile. That doesn't make it acceptable for columnists to use words like "jihad" and phrases like "Old Testament world view" without the foggiest notion of what they're talking about.

Am I being petty?

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