by BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY
"Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible," [Religious historian Philip Jenkin] says.
Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages , which has not been published but is already drawing controversy.
"By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says. "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide."
It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: "And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them," God says through the prophet Samuel. "But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."
When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.
"In other words," Jenkins says, "Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian history. It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians " not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God's law if you do not."
Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.
Elements Of Propaganda
Propaganda can serve to rally people behind a cause, but often at the cost of exaggerating, misrepresenting, or even lying about the issues in order to gain that support.
While the issue of propaganda often is discussed in the context of militarism, war and war-mongering, it is around us in all aspects of life.
As the various examples below will show, common tactics in propaganda often used by either side include:
Using selective stories that come over as wide-covering and objective.
Partial facts, or historical context
Reinforcing reasons and motivations to act due to threats on the security of the individual.
Narrow sources of “experts” to provide insights in to the situation. (For example, the mainstream media typically interview retired military personnel for many conflict-related issues, or treat official government sources as fact, rather than just one perspective that needs to be verified and researched).
Demonizing the “enemy” who does not fit the picture of what is “right”.
Using a narrow range of discourse, whereby judgments are often made while the boundary of discourse itself, or the framework within which the opinions are formed, are often not discussed. The narrow focus then helps to serve the interests of the propagandists.
Some of the following sections look into how propaganda is used in various ways, expanding on the above list of tactics and devices.