While I would like to take credit for the large number of comments in this discussion, it is really all due to Fred Cole. I don’t think that what I wrote about the Christian mailman in my book, Still the Best Hope -- and then mentioned in my dialogue with Peter Robinson -- is particularly controversial. Having said that, it is a credit to Ricochet that such an elevated dialogue took place.
The reason I cited the Denver mailman who called my radio show was first and foremost to give credit to America’s Christians for having done something unique in the history of societies: made individual liberty a religious value, indeed a divine command.
The Christian mailman believes that it is other Americans’ right to commit what he regards as a sin – in this case, subscribing to magazines such as Playboy or Penthouse. I do not believe, as Mr. Cole does, that the mailman was “sanctimonious,” nor that he delivers such journals solely in order to protect his job. But even if both were true, it would be irrelevant to the point that I was making about the difference between the lack of individual liberty in Islam and the emphasis on individual liberty in the American Judeo-Christian values system.
For the record, Mr. Cole is mistaken when he disparages the mailman and his fellow post office employees for “sucking on the public teat.” The mailman’s salary, benefits, and retirement pension are not “on my [Mr. Cole’s] dime.” The Postal Service isn’t funded with taxpayer dollars. Its operating costs are collected from us citizens when we buy stamps and other postal services, and the Postal Service pays the U.S. Treasury for the costs of postal workers’ federal pension benefits.
But, again, whatever one’s opinion of this mailman or of federal employees generally, it has nothing to do with the issue at hand – the difference between Christians and Muslims as regards imposing one’s religion on others.
Unlike Mr. Cole, I believe that the mailman delivers what he considers sinful mail because he believes in the American religious value of individual liberty: granting freedom to those who do not share one’s religious views. Unlike the Muslim cab drivers, he does not believe he has the right to impose his view of sin on others. That’s the whole point as far as I am concerned.
Furthermore, if, as Mr. Cole contends, the mailman has sold his Christian soul for a job and pension by delivering Playboy or Penthouse, why stop there? How can a Christian mailman in good conscience deliver a Victoria’s Secret catalogue or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue? Shouldn’t he stand up for his Christian principals and refuse to deliver those sex-drenched magazines, too? And shouldn’t a Christian FedEx driver first ascertain that any sex toys he delivers are going only to a married couple? If not, why not?
Another problem with Mr. Cole’s equating the Muslim taxi driver and the Christian mailman is that he is equating sins specific to one’s religion with universal sins. A religious ban on alcohol is an example of the first. It is specific to Islam (and Mormonism), just as the ban on eating shellfish is specific to Judaism, and self-deprivation during Lent is specific to Catholicism. Yet all religions forbid anyone, not only members of their religion, from stealing, murder, adultery, etc.
The mailman and I believe that the attempt to impose on others behavior or beliefs demanded specifically by one’s religion – as Muslim taxi drivers do when they refuse service to passengers carrying an alcoholic drink -- is the opposite of American Christians’ and Jews’ belief that God demands liberty. That was the point I was making in contrasting the Christian mailman and the Muslim taxi drivers.
In the contemporary world, imposition of religion is more or less unique to Islam. Not even the most pious Mormon taxi driver would refuse to accept passengers who brought a bottle of wine or a Starbuck’s coffee into his cab. And no Orthodox Jewish taxi driver would refuse to take a passenger who was eating a ham and cheese sandwich or a shrimp roll. As a Jew who refrains from eating pork or shellfish, I would consider a Jew who refused service to a passenger eating these foods a fool – one who, moreover, made God and Judaism look foolish (a greater sin in Judaism than eating non-kosher food, let alone sitting in a taxi with a someone eating non-kosher food).
Jews believe in the liberty of others not to observe Jewish religious laws and modern Christians believe that others should be free not to live according to Christian doctrine. Large numbers of Muslims do not view non-Muslims similarly. That was my point. The mailman was right.