And a deeply serious one:

[T]his past Tuesday, the FBI arrested 26-year old Christian radical Justin Carl Moose in Concord, NC for “providing information to create explosives” to “blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic.” Through his conversations with an FBI informant and his Facebook page, Moose expressed virulent “anger at abortion doctors, President Barack Obama’s health care plan, and plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York city.” He goes on to describe himself as “the Christian counterpart to Osama bin Laden” who “has learned a lot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics."

I think the demagoguing of Park51 is a direct result of the GOP's turn toward Christianism. It's a tipping point where mainstream American Muslims become indistinguishable from the mass murderers of 9/11 in the psyches of those too poorly educated to know the difference. Religious warfare, once begun, is hard to stop; and when it is tacitly endorsed by a political party many of whose members believe that the president is a Muslim and no one in the GOP directly attacks, rebuts and discredits this nonsense, we are in very dangerous territory. The disturbing fusion of nationalist Christianity and loathing of Obama in the Beck-Palin movement - crystallized by the Park51/Cordoba contretemps and the August Mall rally - wittingly or unwittingly gives these violent fringes a coherence and legitimacy. Because it's not just hatred of Obama at stake any more; it's a conflation of Obama with Islam and then a conflation of Islam with Jihadist terror. If that's in your mind, it takes very little to set off a chain of inflammatory acts that build on one another.

No, the GOP elites have not done this explicitly; but they have allowed these connections to be drawn in the minds of many of their followers, and in a time of economic depression, and easy Internet demagoguery, this simply must not stand. We need more Republicans like Colin Powell to stand up for the New York mosque and for American Muslims, whose admirable conduct these past nine years has been in stark contrast to much of the extremism in Europe. We need Republican leaders aggressively to counter these myths about the president, to say what McCain was forced to say in the campaign. We also desperately need them to reiterate that being a Muslim and being an American is no contradiction and no conflict; and that our war is absolutely not with Islam, but with those who pervert it and take it to violent extremes. I reiterate my request that former president Bush come out on this, to pierce the noise on the far right and defuse it as much as possible.

We are in a religious war; but it is not one religion against another. It is for freedom of religion against those who would destroy it by violence and tyranny.

We are losing this distinction. If we lose it, we are lost ourselves in a war that will forever provide its own fuel for continuation.

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