“Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t” by Robert Spencer (Regnery Books, 264 pages, $27.95)
In his latest work, Robert Spencer is agitated because a group he characterizes as “liberal pundits” has glossed over the real differences between Islam and Christianity. This misrepresents the dangers of the former while obscuring the virtues of the latter.
Spencer acknowledges that Christians have behaved violently, but his key thesis is that violence is an aberration in Christianity while it is endemic to Islam. His approach, as in his other works, is to make highly selective use of the evidence in order to demonstrate his point.
Thus the military expansion of Muslim empires from the seventh century onward justifies the Crusades as a form of defense, while the violent expansion of the Holy Roman Empire throughout Europe and the Spanish and Portuguese conquests and forced Christianization of Latin America go unmentioned. Violence on the “Muslim Street” is highlighted while populist Christian racist violence in the U.S. South, or in enforcing apartheid in South Africa goes unmentioned.
Nor would it be any great trick to find, in our modern world, Christian leaders issuing threats as virulent as those found among Muslims. Spencer is correct in saying that Islam and Christianity are different, both historically and in their basic worldview and ethos. And those differences are consequential in shaping social values and forms of government. Unfortunately, the caricatures he puts up in place of the actual religions do little to help us really understand those differences and what they mean for the future of humanity.