I regard these viewing practices of mine as harmless and insouciant, brief timeouts from the serious business of life and the exigencies of writing. They constitute a separate zone of artless indulgence on which reality does not impinge or, alternatively, in which reality is not mutilated. That is, until recently, when the awaited Tuesday arrived and I settled in to watch an episode of NCIS called "Faith." I soon found myself growing increasingly uneasy as the plot developed. A Marine who had converted to Islam had been murdered at prayer; in the course of the investigation, it turned out the culprit was his younger brother, who committed the crime in order to salvage the family honor, for the father, a former military officer, was now a Christian minister. A curious inversion seemed to be occurring in which Muslim honor killing, usually targeting a daughter who is deemed to have violated the tenets of the faith, was now chiastically transposed into a Christian honor killing, targeting a son who had embarrassed his observant family.
Troubled in mind, I proceeded to watch NCIS: Los Angeles, which occupied the next hour slot. This episode was called "Brimstone" and, sure enough, a strangely similar story unfolded. A group of wounded soldiers recently returned from Iraq were being systematically eliminated by a mysterious serial killer. Suspicion fell on a Muslim soldier, a member of the unit who had been disfigured by a roadside bomb and who had gone into hiding. But as the investigation continued, it ultimately became clear that our suspect had been falsely accused and that the killer was a crazed Christian evangelist and fellow soldier, seeking redemption for an imagined battlefield atrocity by blowing up his comrades.
Perhaps this deviant "reading" of the world is now to be expected. Indeed, the anti-Christian animus has gone to such extremes that, just recently, an eight-year-old Massachusetts schoolboy was suspended from class and, according to the newspaper report, "ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a figure of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross." Christianity is obviously no longer the purported "religion of peace," having been replaced in the Western imagination by a vigorous competitor. In the warped mentality of our multicultural age, it seems that violence is a property that accrues primarily to Christians.