A real concern in the present crisis is whether those fleeing the violence will embrace our western values of tolerance and freedom of conscience. Hopefully, they all will, but militant Islamists realize that for their more moderate Muslim cousins to do so means giving tacit approval to our Christian roots. They reject that.

Ironically, much modern thought would do the same. Religion of all sorts is lumped together and orthodox Christians especially are vilified as part of the problem; “fundamentalist” has become a handy put-down for anything that suggests real devotion, regardless of its object. Indeed, much of what passes for conventional wisdom in our day says that religion of any sort is the cause of much of the bloodshed and strife in the world today.

But they forget the Christian emphasis on the individual conscience is what laid the foundation for our modern concept of human rights. So when we speak of fundamentalist religion, we must bear in mind what the fundamentals of a particular religion are.

Martin Luther King Jr. found the moral basis of his human rights movement by appealing to our Christian heritage, rather than denying it. He insisted the problem was that society was not taking Christ’s words seriously enough when people allowed the oppression of the African American.

And he triumphed, because he had the right fundamentals: service, love, the real dignity of all people as those made in God’s image.

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