Ross Douthat's Holy War

Bloggers don't take kindly to the NYT columnist's call to crusade

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In his Monday column, the New York Times' Ross Douthat airs his take on the recent Anglican-Catholic rapprochement (which the Wire covers here and here). Pope Benedict is welcoming Anglicans back into the fold, he suggests, with "a deeper conflict in mind--not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity's global encounter with a resurgent Islam." Saying that one of the "shared fronts" between Anglicanism and Catholicism is "Islam's incompatibility with the Western way of reason," he finishes by calling Islam "Christianity's most enduring and impressive foe."

Is this a call to a crusade? Bloggers think so, treating Douthat's column like Pope Urban II's promulgation of holy war at the Council of Clermont. While they're at it, they also attack Douthat's facial hair, writing style, and contrarian instincts. Here's a selection of the best diatribes:

  • 'Jesus Needs Foot Soldiers,' explains The American Prospect's Adam Serwer, calling the column "downright nutty":
[T]here's a great deal of common ground between Douthat's perception of a grand conflict between Islam and Christianity and the tribalism of Pat Buchanan ... The major difference being that while outright prejudice against black people is largely culturally taboo, prejudice against Muslims is so acceptable as to be found expressed openly in the op-ed pages of the New York Times.
  • The Only Enemy of 'Western Reason' I See is Douthat "Ironic," says Salon's Glenn Greenwald, "that someone who is virtually calling for a worldwide religious conflagration is simultaneously condemning his targets for lacking 'Western reason.'" For that matter, he asks, "is an institution which demands acceptance from its followers of 'papal infallability'-- and ingrains in them disturbed and warped sentiments about sex ...--really an ideal candidate to lead the crusade in defense" of this "reason"? He points to the current array of American conflicts in Muslim countries: "Who exactly are the threatening, hostile and belligerent parties here?"
  • 'Bunch of Gibberish' "Douthat has," writes Stephen Suh at Cogitamus, "again, just written ... words that seem to make sense when put in connection with one another, but which, after a second or so of rational reflection, fail to make any coherent point whatsoever." He takes the Vatican's move at face value: "Benedict isn't trying to unite Anglicans and Roman Catholics against Islam, he's merely trying to bring schismatic Anglicans into his fold instead of having them set up independent shops."
  • 'Bigots' As'ad at The Angry Arab News Service says "[i]t still amaze[s] [him] that anti-Islam, anti-Muslim bigots in the West don't notice the extent to which they mimic (in style and method) classical Anti-Semites."
  • 'The New York Times' Resident Nematode,' Fingerlakeswanderer dubs the poor Douthat. "Did I just wake up in 1096?" Douthat "wouldn't recognize homophobia or misogyny if it tugged on his beard," the Open Salon blogger adds.
  • 'The Times Should Be Embarrassed' "I really don't know what the New York Times, editors are doing with Ross Douthat," writes Matt Browner Hamlin at Hold Fast. "[I]t's clear," he writes, calling the column "nonsensical" and "offensive," that "Douthat has absolutely no conception of the meaning of the words he puts to page."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.