When Wright's Wrong.
I've often thought that N.T. Wright should stick to what he knows - New Testament history, and when he does he is brilliant. Joseph Loconte critiques Wright's political thinking:
The historical analogy to European fascism has its limits, and no one really knows how much of the Islamic world endorses, or sympathizes with, the objectives of Osama bin Laden. Yet the ferocity, ruthlessness, and staggering vision of his cult of nihilism--the establishment of a global Islamic dictatorship--is plain enough. Why, then, do numerous Christian leaders and institutions seem ambivalent or chronically naïve about this threat? The problem is not confined to liberal theological voices such as the National Council of Churches or Chicago Theological Seminary, or to cranky pacifists such as Stanley Hauerwas or Jim Wallis. The unwillingness to confront the rise of Islamic extremism extends to theologically conservative thinkers and educators: those who are influencing a generation of believers on issues of church and state, war and peace.
The latest and perhaps most troubling example is that of a British church historian much admired by American evangelicals, the Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright. The Christian church owes a great debt to Bishop Wright's scholarly work on the resurrection of Jesus and the life of Paul. Indeed, it's hard to name a living academic who has done more to defend the historical integrity of the New Testament. "I'm a classical historian," he once told the BBC. "And I have used all the tools at my disposal to discover more and more about who Jesus was." Wright has employed those tools--careful analysis, a willingness to weigh evidence, intellectual curiosity--to advance the claims of the gospel over a long career.
Since being named Britain's fourth-ranking bishop, from Durham, Wright's views on various religious and social issues have received widespread attention. A few years ago he also joined Britain's House of Lords, a political position, and recently has applied his mind to the war on terrorism. A careful look, however, at his political thinking--in writings, sermons, interviews, and public statements--suggests that Wright has abandoned the critical tools that served him so well in the academy.
Just consider Wright's most recent commentary for Newsweek's "On Faith" blog, anticipating the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Remarkably, Wright sees little difference between the ideals of Western democracies and those of Islamic terrorists. "What I wish we could say to terrorists and others: Look, we take our religion seriously too, and it leads us to different conclusions from you. We might be wrong; so might you; but in the name of whichever god you invoke, would it not be a better thing for us all to talk together about the issues at the heart of our respective faiths than to try to achieve dominance by violence?" Adding to the ambiguity, he closes with this line: "Unfortunately, they could quite well come back at us and say, 'You mean, like you westerners have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last five years?'"
We expect to hear this sophism of moral equivalence from spokesmen at Al Jazeera television or the Arab League--not from orthodox Christian ministers. Yet it somehow has emerged as a central argument in Wright's critique of the war on radical Islam.