Dangerous Religion--It isn't who you think.
In the media storm about the Lower Manhattan mosque, Gary Laderman, at Religion Dispatches, offers an interesting take on "dangerous religion" in the U.S. His assessment of dangerous religion might surprise some, but probably not those familiar with Laderman's other work. His target is white (Anglo-Saxon) Protestant men.
Here's a snippet:
“Christianity” of course is a meaningless label, as I’ve written before. Like “Islam” it is too broad a category to cover the radically diverse practices, beliefs, and interpretive communities associated with it. So let me be even bolder and say that Protestants, and even more specifically, Anglo-European Protestant men, would appear to be the most dangerous religious individuals in American history. Without question white Protestant males from the colonial era to the dawn of the twenty-first century have inflicted more pain, more suffering, more terror than any other individuals in this so-called “city on a hill.” >>>
While Laderman admits no one really wants to answer the question about "dangerous religion", it is a question that is asked by the general public and often our students. Even working on what I do, I avoid this question and focus more on ambiguity. Yet, I can't help but wonder about the function of the label "dangerous" in tandem with religion. What do we gain analytically by declaring danger? How does it relate to legitimacy (or so-called illegitimacy) of religious movements?
Blog editors, contributors and readers, what do you think about this assessment? How does Laderman's perspective further the discussion of what is at stake in the current media portrayals of Islam in the debate about Park51? Does applying the label to a group that most assume is innocuous help our understanding of the current controversy or does it muddy the analytical waters?