More on “[T]he Islamic Fundamentalist Charge That … the U.S.A. … Is the ‘Great Satan’ Is Not Without an Element of Truth”

I blogged an item earlier today about the Catholic Archdiocese of Agana (Guam) for this paragraph in its criticism of the proposed Guam domestic partnership bill (links are in the original post):

The culture of homosexuality is a culture of self-absorption because it does not value self-sacrifice. It is a glaring example of what John Paul II has called the culture of death. Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice. Terrorism as a way to oppose the degeneration of the culture is to be rejected completely since such violence is itself another form of degeneracy. One, however, does not have to agree with the gruesome ways that the fundamentalists use to curb the forces that undermine their culture to admit that the Islamic fundamentalist charge that Western Civilization in general and the U.S.A. in particular is the “Great Satan” is not without an element of truth. It makes no sense for the U.S. Government to send our boys to fight Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while at the same time it embraces the social policies embodied in Bill 185 (as President Obama has done). Such policies only furnish further arguments for the fundamentalists in their efforts to gain more recruits for the war against the “Great Satan.” …

I quoted the paragraph, and then just said “Appalling.”

It turns out that quite a few readers were perplexed by what I found appalling here, and some faulted me for not being more specific. I had thought that the paragraph spoke for itself, but let me just outline a few items:

1. Consider the favorable citation of the death penalty for homosexual behavior. I know Catholicism condemns homosexuality; I disagree with such condemnations, but I’m surely not appalled by reasonable discussions of whether or not homosexuality is immoral and harmful or not. Yet to speak of deliberately killing homosexuals for their homosexuality with anything other than condemnation — now that is appalling.

Yes, I realize that later the paragraph acknowledges that Islamic fundamentalist culture is “brutal at times,” but the statement is “It may be brutal at times, but ….” Yes, I realize that later the paragraph says that “[o]ne, however, does not have to agree with the gruesome ways that the fundamentalists use to curb the forces that undermine their culture,” but that seems to me to refer to the subject of the preceding sentence (terrorism) and not to the death penalty for homosexual behavior (as opposed to just terrorism). And again, it comes in the process of defending that culture’s reaction to homosexuality, and holding it up as something that should at least be considered respectfully.

2. Consider the choice of Islamic fundamentalist culture as the supposed exemplar of “a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice” — coupled with the supposed evidence of such valuing, which is the culture’s “ab[ility] to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men).” That too is appalling.

Aren’t there other cultures that produce plenty of people who can engage in “self-sacrifice” without murdering many other people in the process? Might those cultures not be better ones to look to in making choices for our own culture? Or are those cultures just not anti-homosexual enough for the Archdiocese’s purposes?

And who exactly is the one here who’s supporting a “culture of death”?

3. Consider the suggestion that there is an “element of truth” in the notion that the U.S. is the “great Satan” because it does not sufficiently punish or discriminate against homosexuals and homosexual behavior. Perhaps homosexuality is immoral; perhaps allowing it is unwise; but to suggest that a government’s declining to police people’s consensual sexual lives is even in some measure “great Satan” behavior — that’s appalling.

Plus if tolerating homosexuality makes us Satanic, what about tolerating atheism? What about tolerating religious beliefs that Catholics view as idol worship, and thus as the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments? After all, the self-sacrifice-valuing fundamentalist Islam provides for repressing conversion away from Islam (including to Catholicism) by death. Should we look up to them on that, too?

4. Finally, consider the suggestion that we should decide what rights and privileges our own citizens should have based on what Islamic fundamentalists think — that, too, is appalling.

And it is especially so given just how far we’d have to go in order to make Islamic fundamentalists less troubled by our position on homosexuality. Al-Qaida recruiting, I suspect, isn’t much influenced by domestic partnership laws in Guam, or domestic partnership laws in America generally. Presumably knowing that we have openly gay public figures (even government officials) who are respected rather than imprisoned is a much more significant marker of our gay-friendliness. I take it we’d have to change that, too, if we really make “repress[ing homosexual] behavior” as a means of combating Al-Qaida recruiting into a driving force of our domestic social policy.

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Again, I’m not expecting the Catholic Church to come around to the view that homosexuality is morally permissible. Nor do I find anything appalling in their having a contrary view, arguing for that view, or opposing domestic partnership benefits or marriage benefits for homosexual couples. My sense is that providing same-sex couples the same marriage-related benefits as are offered to opposite-sex couples will be good for society, and is the fair thing to do; but perhaps I’m wrong on this, and in any case, reasonable people should continue discuss these questions.

Yet the Archdiocese of Agana’s statement goes far beyond the bounds of reasonable discussion. All it can do is appall.