A reader interjects:
I agree with all the points, all of them, outlined in your Time article. But the trend in the Muslim world is of such a different magnitude to what is happening in the West as to compare a farm pond with the ocean. Yes they are both wet, but so what? The two trends are so different it is not fair to compare them.
Islam softened the harsh tribal customs of the Arabian peninsula at the time, but also codified them (guaranteeing that they would be locked into place without evolution). Christendom was during most of its history hardly Christ-like (especially in the Middle Ages) but it evolved for the better over time. Islam has not. Islam is fundamentally different than Christianity or modern Judaism. While Mohammed made the burden of proof for adultery high (four witnesses are required of the actual act) which implies a degree of tolerance, an un-married pregnant woman can even today be stoned to death. Christ avoided direct confrontation with authority and even preached a "give onto Caesar standard" which led over time to separation of church and state.
As contemptible as Rick Santorum and Reverend Dobson are, neither is sawing the heads off living women, promoting honor killings, or doing anything close to what radical Islam allows. No mainstream Christians I am aware of supported Eric Rudolph, but millions of Muslims support bin Laden and at least tens of thousands of Iraqis support Zarqawi. Until Islam reforms itself, I resent you grouping Christian fundamentalists with Muslim fundamentalists. What we deem "extreme" Christian fundamentalism is mainstream Islam. Christianity does not tolerate a "death cult" in its midst like Islam does.
This point is well-taken, and I have made it myself. But the main difference is simply that Christianism operates in America under the Constitution, which is our main buffer, and a very good one, against the kinds of excesses we see in the Middle East. But constitutions can be amended, as they were in America to prohibit alcohol, not a century ago. And they can be weakened by non-enforcement, hence the Christianist obsession with limiting judicial power. And faiths can also mutate. The kind of politicized evangelicalism today would have been unrecognizable to Billy Graham's generation. And the partisan appropriation of God is a particularly corrosive innovation. I take all the reader's points; and yet I remain concerned.