Q & R: A Double Standard in my Sanctimony?

Here’s the Q:

As a frequent reader of your blog, I am seeing a pattern that betrays the irenic tone you seek to portray.
When it comes to the United States in general, and conservatives (political or religious) in particular, you often ascribe the worst motives, and assume evil intentions. However, people who espouse an ideology you like (e.g., Michael Moore) are afforded the benefit of the doubt.
As an example, you decry the use of the codename “Geronimo” for Osama bin Laden, as well as those who would gather spontaneously to celebrate his death. Yet, when discussing topics such as the Cordoba House in NYC, you assume only good will from the Muslims involved, even when the majority of Americans do not support the project.
Why don’t you require any similar sensitivity from the Muslims (or Michael Moore)? It seems there is a double-standard in your sanctimony.

Here’s the R:

Thanks for being a frequent reader of the blog.
I think you’re right on at least one point. My posts here sometimes have a sanctimonious tone. I wish that weren’t true, and I have tried and will continue to try to avoid sanctimony, but sanctimony seems to be an occupational hazard of people who talk about ethical issues. So thanks for pointing that out.
As for ascribing the worst motives and assuming evil intentions, I imagine that happens at times too, although again I try to avoid it. I would rather assume good intentions whenever possible; I want to do for others what I would want them to do for me.
I think I can explain rather simply the other phenomenon you point out by sharing two biases I have.
First, I try to maintain a bias for people who are vulnerable, marginalized, disadvantaged, and in a minority position. I feel this as a moral responsibility because of the privilege and power I have as a white American male Christian. I do not try to maintain a bias against what “the majority of Americans” are against, but if anything, the reverse: I want to challenge the majority when we seem to be missing our responsibility to be concerned for “the last, the least, or the lost.”
And second, I try to maintain a bias that predisposes me to look for the planks in “our” eyes rather than the splinters in “their” eyes.
So Michael Moore has chosen to focus his career on exposing faults among “us” – Americans, people who profit the most from capitalism, and so on. I think the biblical prophets did the same thing. Yes, the prophets criticized “them” (the Assyrians, the Egyptians, etc.) on occasion, but their main focus was injustice and lack of compassion among their “us” (their fellow Israelites and Judeans). Michael, by the way, has set a good example by maintaining a critical eye during a Democratic administration just as he did during Republican administrations.
Second, I do decry violence and injustice among Muslims. But globally, Muslims are outnumbered, out-gunned (in the sense of all weapons), out-spent, and otherwise in the subaltern position in relation to “the West,” and so again, I think that with the power advantage comes increased responsibility. Meanwhile, many of my Muslim friends are in a better position to challenge problems in the Muslim world from inside, just as we Christians are more likely to listen to critique from an insider than an outsider. Where Muslims are in a majority, I believe they have the same human responsibility to use their advantage on behalf of minorities, not merely for self-interest.
So – I challenge my Muslim friends to speak out for Christian, Jewish, atheist, and other minorities (including LGBT people) in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Northern Nigeria for example, just as I challenge my Israeli friends to speak up for Palestinian human rights (and vice versa), and just as I count on my Christian friends to do so in the many spheres where we have the balance of power on our side.
That probably doesn’t absolve me or give me a perfect record in the double-standard or sanctimony department, but I hope it offers some explanation of where I’m coming from. I’m grateful to readers of this blog who continually challenge me to do a better job in whatever it is that I do.