I had the best of both worlds growing up, receiving a fun present for each night of Chanukah, then being afforded the opportunity to leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus and wake up the next morning to mountains of gifts under our Christmas tree. After my parents were divorced when I was about six years old, the traditions continued for a while until it became apparent that my Catholic upbringing was overshadowing my Jewish heritage.
This Christmas was wonderful. I was not only able to attend church with my wife and daughter, but also light a menorah at night with my father and his wonderful wife. We all got a good laugh when, after the menorah was lit, my two-year-old daughter spent nearly an hour circling the dining room table singing “Happy Birthday” and trying to blow the candles out. Watching her interpretation of Jewish holiday tradition, I made a silent promise to myself that I would do some reading and some listening in hopes to learn more about my father’s faith — not to in any way displace my faith in Christ, but simply to learn and be able to pass that perspective down to my child.
Just like with political ideology, where I think it benefits everyone to understand the hearts and minds and ideas and ideals of those who occupy the diametrically opposed spot on the political spectrum, I think it’s healthy to take a “family practice” approach to religion. Being about as certain of my own faith as a man can be, I think we do a disservice to ourselves and our neighbors by not, at the very least, attempting to understand the views of those who adhere to other faiths. Each faith brings its own unique perspective, its own set of ideals, morals, traditions. Whether inherently good or bad, knowledge of those tenets can only serve to benefit everyone involved.
This, in part, is why I was so dismayed to receive many of the e-mail messages which came in response to [redacted]‘s piece last week. Despite his combat service for this country, and despite his saying to me that he would “gladly do it all over again and fight for their right to hate,” some readers accused me of being ignorant when it came to radical Islam and begged me to make sure he didn’t contribute here again, others chastised me for abandoning my Christian faith in giving a forum to a Muslim.
I understood the concern, I understood where these readers were coming from. I really did. I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the honor killings, the terrorist attacks, the not-so-gentle erosion of traditional European values through what I call “Jihad from within.” Since the attacks of September 2001, however, we’ve been searching for and hoping for moderate Muslims to speak out against such terror and violence — here, we have one who is not speaking out but one who also fought, in combat, in a U.S. Army uniform. Yet, the bitterness in the e-mails I received surpassed those received when this Web site exploded just after I broke the Berg v. Obama story.
It didn’t make sense to me. To say that I was somehow unaware of the threat presented by radical Islam was ludicrous; to say that I was betraying my own faith was just downright insulting.
Chris is an Alawite Muslim, and from what I’ve read and what he has told me, Alawites are considered by some practitioners of Islam to be heretics, to be outcasts. Chris–who admits to have a sense of humor when it comes to much of the specificity-related mud slung back and forth–explained that, in many ways, Alawites are “the Islamic version of Mormons, in that we consider ourselves to be Muslims but most Muslims consider us a cult.”
He explained that Alawites celebrate Christmas and Easter and the epiphany, and look upon Jesus Christ and Moses as prophets, but not at the same level as Muhammad. Jesus is not looked upon as the Savior, much like as seen in the Jewish faith.
His wife, Chris says, does not wear a burqa. “She’s a typical midwestern wife,” he said, mentioning at the time that she was currently wearing a pink fleece sweater and jeans.
It was actually my choice to include information regarding Christopher’s faith in the personal blurb accompanying his introduction, the same information you’ll find at the foot of the pieces he writes at America’s Right. He was ambivalent on the matter. I chose to do so for much of the same reason as my hope to educate my daughter about her grandfather’s faith.
Conservatives are so often derided as being cookie-cutter WASPy types, pigeonholed into a Mitt Romney-ish mold — only without the Mormonism and the name which immediately evokes visions of Little League and our national pastime. With any luck, in a few weeks’ time when the stable of talented writers here at America’s Right begins to fill out as planned, we’ll have a couple of Christians, a Mormon, a Muslim, a Jew, and possibly a few Hindus as well. All Americans. All conservatives. All able to articulate the tenets of conservatism with knowledge and passion and a hope to make even the slightest bit of difference with regard to the direction in which our nation is heading.
Diversity is crucial, but not in the way that the liberals seem to think it is. Diversity at the expense of talent, superficiality at the expense of substance, is just plain stupid. The multicolored and multicultural staff of writers I hope to put together here were not chosen because of their faiths or their heritage, but rather because they are people I associate with, people I trust, people I know feel just as deeply about the health, well-being and prosperity of our country as I do.
Whether it comes from the hearts and minds of a black man, of a white man, of a Christian or a Jew or a Mormon or a Hindu or an Alawite Muslim, the message is essentially the same — smaller government, lower taxes, responsible spending, free markets, secure borders, strong military, strong national defense, aggressive but reasoned foreign policy, belief in the inherent value of life, dismay at the degradation of our culture, and more. Yes, there may be minor deviations here and there, but that’s the value in presenting so many different worldviews with the same core beliefs.
More perspectives, different takes on these fundamentals, are a good thing. If I were to deny my daughter the opportunity to learn and understand why her grandfather lights candles to remember his own father, or eats a certain way, or calls in September to wish us a happy and healthy new year, I’d be neglecting my duty as a father to guide her as best possible through these formative years of her life. Likewise, if I were to refuse to take this opportunity to spread the message and merits of conservatism with the help of such a diverse group of talented individuals, I’d be doing a disservice to all of you.
I’m looking forward to some pretty good things in 2009. Sure, the political climate may not be exactly what we’d hoped, but like a certain famous fictional Philadelphian, I’ve always felt comfortable fighting from the underdog’s corner. With the help of some pretty fantastic people, I feel as though we can make a difference for 2010, for 2012, and beyond.