Chris Matthews, John Allen, and Odious Comparisons

Deal W. Hudson
Published February 10, 2011

John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, routinely uses the phrase “Taliban Catholicism” to describe “an exaggerated allergy to anything that smacks of secularism, liberalization, or corruption by modernity – an angry form of the faith that knows only how to excoriate and condemn.” Allen says it’s become part of the “standard stump speech” that he delivers to various groups, such as the students and faculty at the University of Dallas (which he visited last year).

In defending the characterization, Allen explains that he intended it as the opposite of George Weigel’s use of “Catholicism Lite” to describe secularized Catholics. But the obvious flaw in this comparison is that there is no group of hard-line Catholics who have formed a worldwide terrorist network to kill innocent people.

Official reports of alleged Taliban atrocities include the killing of eight boys who laughed at soldiers, the burning alive of an entire family, and the killing of 100 Afghans whose bodies were hung from lamp posts as a warning to possible defectors. When members of the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul in 1996, they castrated the country’s president and tortured and killed his brother. Genocidal slaughter, murder, torture, kidnapping, and mutilation are typical Taliban tactics used to enforce their version of Muslim orthodoxy.

Allen’s comparison of certain Catholics to the Taliban is outrageous, and he ought to know better. No matter how finely he tries to draw the distinction, the phrase will continue to be used as shorthand for conservative Catholics who are trying to hold the line against secular hegemony.

Odious comparisons seem to proliferate these days when media spokesmen for the Left attempt to describe the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and religious conservatives in politics. Oddly, Muslims seem to have become the favored example, replacing Nazis as the damning comparison of choice. (Because everyone is afraid of Muslims, right?)

While Allen compares conservative Catholics to the Taliban, Chris Matthews has lately compared the Tea Party with the Muslim Brotherhood. Discussing the demonstrations in Egypt, Matthews asked GOP strategist John Feehery: “So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the tea party. They’re the ones who keep you honest and decide whether you’ve stayed too long. Whether you’ve got a ‘sell by’ date looming.”

The Jesuit-educated Matthews is, obviously, thinking by analogy here – but the analogy fails when you press even lightly, comparing the manner in which the Tea Party attempts to keep the GOP “honest” and the stated goals and methods of the Muslim Brotherhood. A recent translation of a 1995 book by the fifth leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mustafa Mashhur, who headed the Muslim Brotherhood from 1996 to 2002, tells members of the Muslim Brotherhood that in their effort to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate:

It should be known that jihad and preparation towards jihad are not only for the purpose of fending off assaults and attacks of Allah’s enemies from Muslims, but are also for the purpose of realizing the great task of establishing an Islamic state and strengthening the religion and spreading it around the world.

Comparisons with Islamic extremists and terrorists are not only odious, they also trivialize the genuine threat these groups pose to human life and freedom in the Middle East and around the world.

There was some buzz recently among Catholic bloggers on the political Left when Pope Benedict XVI called for Catholic journalists to adopt a “Christian style presence.” Though the Holy Father named no names, some immediately assumed his words were directed at Catholics like me. Indeed, I am singled out by name on one site: “Deal Hudson, the former Catholic outreach coordinator for President George W. Bush, routinely lashes out on his and other venues at ‘fake Catholics.'”

Yes, I have called Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good “fake” Catholic organizations, because they exist for the sole purpose of supporting a Democratic Party agenda to the exclusion of the Church’s teaching about life and marriage. “Fake” is a pretty tough term, but I didn’t compare them to religious groups who torture, murder, and mutilate innocent people. Which comparison wins the trophy for incivility?

The Left spends so much time talking to themselves, they become convinced that their own oft-repeated opinions constitute responsible journalism. Evidently, many of the faculty and students at the University of Dallas were willing to let Allen get away with the Taliban Catholicism comparison, but one faculty member described the phrase as “profoundly offensive,” adding that young Catholics should not be dismissed as fanatics simply because they seek “fidelity and clarity.”

“There are no suicide bombers in the Catholic church,” she went on, “but we have had an epidemic of Catholicism Lite for the last 30 years.”

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s