Not getting it, again

nytIt’s not the first time I’ve written about The New York Times not getting it. Sadly, this is not the first time the NYT has missed it (remember the Holocaust).

So says Andrew Sullivan:

So we now discover that the hideously offensive and blasphemous cartoons — so blasphemous that CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post won’t publish them … were reprinted last October. In Egypt. On the front frigging page. No one rioted. No editor at Al Fager was threatened. So it’s official: the Egyptian state media is less deferential to Islamists than the New York Times. So where were the riots in Cairo? This whole affair is a contrived, manufactured attempt by extremist Muslims to move the goal-posts on Western freedom. They’re saying: we determine what you can and cannot print; and there’s a difference between what Muslims can print and what infidels can print. And, so far, much of the West has gone along. In this, well-meaning American editors have been played for fools and cowards. Maybe if they’d covered the murders of von Gogh and Fortuyn more aggressively they’d have a better idea of what’s going on; and stared down this intimidation. The whole business reminds me of the NYT‘s coverage of the Nazis in the 1930s. They didn’t get the threat then. They don’t get it now.

I’ve become more and more convinced of the importance of this issue. After some thought, I don’t feel, like Sullivan, that the NYT or the Post should print these cartoons. It would only inflame the situation and accomplish little.

But it does matter that extremist Muslims have been able to whip up a huge frenzy over how the Danes — I repeat, the Danes — have allegedly insulted an entire religion and now this group, whoever they may be, are attempting to make a free democratic state bow to their wishes.

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  • Joan O.

    I don’t understand the reference to the Dutch. I thought it was the DANES who produced the cartoons.

  • andy chamberlain

    “There is no reconciliation between Western Values and Islam – a major and violent conflict is inevitable”. Discuss. …

  • tmatt


    I am sure that it is a typo and that Daniel will correct it.

    But the DUTCH too, as in the Theo van Gogh case mentioned in my post yesterday.

  • Herb

    Finally somebody is getting it! I will not use this type of stuff in my personal relationships with Muslims (I maintain Luther’s distinction between the two kingdoms), but I fervently hope that Sullivan and others ram this down the Wahabists’ throats.

  • dpulliam

    Apologies for my mistake. It has been corrected.

  • John

    The Danes didn’t inflame the Muslims – just a couple of guys at most. Freedom of the press is painful sometimes… Oh well, when the Jews, Catholics, Buddhists etc. take it in the shorts there isn’t a backlash. Can’t give in to these extremists who are just whipping up tempest in a teapot.. Let them holler and boycott if they want.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is the blatant, in-your-face hypocrisy of the NY Times — and other mainstream media outlets — that is so infuriating and convinces many that they are a pack of cowards or anti-Christian, anti-Catholic bigots. I could understand a policy of not printing cartoons satirizing or ridiculing any religion. I could understand printing cartoons that do this to all religions. But to belch out excuses for not publishing a disrespectful cartoon of the “icon” of one religion and then — as the NY Times did — use a photo of a major “icon” of the Catholic faith (our Blessed Mother) dobbed in animal feces to illustrate a feature story on the topic of the power of illustrations — clearly shows a rock bottom insensitivity or bigotry gone berserk by the pathetic creatures running the Times. Apparently they are badly in need of an intellectual colonoscopy.

  • dk

    The two kingdoms theory seems to be popular around here. I mostly adhere to an augustinian version of it, but it is not somethign I see as non-problematic. I wonder how mennonites and others here interpret Luther’s version in light of the fact that it was developed in the context of the German Peasants’ Revolt and other Anabaptist revolutionary activities that Protestants and Catholics alike put down rather mercilessly. Luther’s view of rebels was that they were a divine scourge for corrupt overlords, but the nobility and magistrates were still justified in killing rebels far beyond what is militarily necessary because order is such a high good that civil powers are charged to protect.

    That is a case where the moral dualism, or moral antinomies of the 2K becomes a real ethical conundrum locked in tragedy. The idea of the 2K is to create a working, artificial separation of religious and secular entities, but when they come into conflict, one has to dominate. Of course in Luther’s time, the “secular” was still Christian and part of Christendom; it marked a different arena of duties and classical, “pagan”, or Old Testament morality where ends can justify means. But now secular often means anti-religion, or anti-Christianity, or anti-non-liberalized Christianity. The spectrum of reactions and counter reactions in our cultural politics today is similar many ways to the impasse I described re. Luther. In this sort of scenario, I don’t see the doctrine of the 2K doing much good. I don;t think there is an alternative either; I’m just curious about how others think about this.

  • Douglas Ian

    Another interesting take on the genesis of the whole situation on the Daily Kos:

  • Tom Breen

    Is the fact that Andrew Sullivan dislikes the NY Times these days really noteworthy? Also, what’s with his mention of Pim Fortuyn? As I recall, Fortuyn was murdered by a left-wing environmentalist. What does that have to do with the current cartoon kerfuffle?

  • Herb

    I hadn’t actually read Mollie’s posting about Luther’s Zweireichelehre or teaching about the two kingdoms (two realms) — when I posted my own thoughts, so I guess that dk is right that Luther’s teaching on the subject is pretty popular around here.

    I think I understand dk’s caution, but do not be dismayed, Mollie. My “hero”, John Stott, in his little volume on the Sermon on the Mount, agrees with us pretty much, though he also qualifies Luther, and I think provides a better basis for our understanding:

    Luther’s clear-cut distinction between the two ‘realms’ was certainly overdrawn. “It is difficult to escape the feeling,” writes Harvey McArthur, “that his teaching gave to the secular sphere an autonomy to which it has no rightful claim.” He went as far as to tell the Christian that in the secular kingdom “you do not have to ask Christ about your duty”, for it can be learnt from the emperor. But Scripture does not allow us to set the two kingdoms over against each other in such total contrast, as if the church were Christ’s sphere ruled by love and the state the emperor’s ruled by justice. For Jesus Christ has universal authority, and no sphere may be excluded from his rule. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Nevertheless, I think Luther’s distinction between “person” and “office”, or as we might say, between individual and institution, holds [emphasis mine]. The Christian is to be wholly free from revenge, not only in action, but in his heart as well; as an office-bearer in either state or church, however, he may find himself entrusted with authority from God to resist evil and to punish it.

    Well said. Perhaps we can say that Stott brings us back to total reality – we can’t get rid of the messy problem we have of having to think hard about complex issues, pray without ceasing, and acknowledging that we often don’t have the answers.

  • Herb

    And I would add that the word “messy,” which someone has said should apply to missiology today (“messyology”), often should also be applied to our ethics. For which reason I often come back in my thoughts to the Lutheran worship liturgy:

    kurie eleison, “Herr, erbarme Dich” — Lord, have mercy upon us!