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Onward Christian terrorists

2 December 2008

I hesitated to blog about this, because Nouslife and Alan Hirsch have already done so. But the more I read these “lessons” from a book by Catholic theologian and ethicist George Weigel, called Faith, Reason, And The War Against Jihadism: A Call To Action the more evil they seemed to be.

  • Lesson one: The great human questions, including the great questions of public life, are ultimately theological
  • Lesson two: To speak of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as the “three Abrahamic faiths,” the “three religions of the Book” or the “three monotheisms” obscures rather than illuminates. These familiar descriptions ought to be retired
  • Lesson three: Jihadism is the enemy in the multi-front war that has been declared on us
  • Lesson four: Jihadism has a complex intellectual history, the chief points of which must be grasped in order to understand the nature of the threat it poses to the west
  • Lesson five: Jihadists read history and politics through the prism of distinctive theological convictions, not through the lens of western assumptions about the progress of dynamic of history
  • Lesson six: It is not “Islamophobic” to note the historical connection between conquest and Muslim expansion, or between contemporary jihadism and terrorism. Truth-telling is the essential prerequisite to genuine interreligious dialogue, which can only be based on the claims of reason.
  • Lesson seven: The war against jihadism is a contest for the human future that will endure for generations
  • Lesson eight: Genuine realism in foreign policy takes wickedness seriously, yet avoids premature closure in it’s thinking about the possibilities of positive change in world politics
  • Lesson nine: In the war against Jihadism, the political objective in the middle East and throughout the Islamic world is the evolution of responsible and responsive government, which will take different forms given different historical and cultural circumstances
  • Lesson ten: in the war against global Jihadism, deterrence strategies unlikely to be effective, because it is almost impossible to deter those who are committed to their own martyrdom
  • Lesson eleven: Cultural self-confidence is indispensable to victory in the long-term struggle against Jihadism
  • Lesson twelve: Islamist salami tactics (also known as the salami-slice strategy, a divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition) must be resisted, for small concessions in the name of a false idea of tolerance inevitably lead to further concessions, and into further erosions of liberty and security
  • Lesson thirteen: We cannot, and will not, deserve victory (much less achieve it) if we continue to finance those who attack us, therefore, a program to defund jihadism by developing alternatives to petroleum based transportation fuels is a crucial component of the current struggle
  • Lesson fourteen: Victory in the war against global jihadism requires a new domestic political coalition that is proof against the confusions caused by the Unhinged Left and the Unhinged Right
  • Lesson fifteen: There is no escape from US leadership

I can agree with the first two (with the addition that the term “Judeo-Christian” should also be retired, as it too obscures more than it illuminates). But the rest is a crescendo of jingoism and chauvinism — a different strain of the same disease as jihadism, and apparently equally drug resistant.

Thirty years ago I read similar literature in South Africa, where people were issuing calls for the church to be missional, not for the kingdom of God, but for the earthly Republic of South Africa, to “save South Africa from communism”.

I will cite the chapter headings of one such pamphlet called “Pray or perish” by F.J. Huegel and Norman Grubb, with a foreword by Francis Grim (a leading “light” of this movement).

  • Our very existence threatened
  • We stand alone
  • Horror of communist domination
  • Enemies of God
  • Traitors, cowards and ostriches
  • Soldiers of the Cross
  • Ideology for South Africa
  • Prayer that changes history
  • We must awake… or perish!

At the time it was published, 1976, most white Christians were praying for “the boys on the border”, while black churches in the townships were praying for their children who were being killed in the townships by the “boys on the border”.

It is sad to see America falling into the same paranoia and the same apostasy — because Weigel seems to be advocating the same thing — the substitution of ideology for Gospel; and substituting the same national self-confidence (we’re always right and never wrong) for repentance.

Saying this does not justify terrorism at all. But fighting terror with terror, terrorism with terrorism, leads only to the victory of terror. Jesus said perfect love casts out fear. Fear doesn’t cast out fear, terrorism doesn’t cast out terrorism, not even when you call it “shock and awe”.

You cannot expect others to renounce jihadism if you do not renounce it yourself. Declaring a jhad on jihad makes no sense at all; it is a contradiction in terms. It is attempting to cast out Beelzebub by Beelzebub.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 December 2008 3:26 pm

    Declaring a jihad on jihad…
    Well put.

  2. 4 December 2008 3:22 am

    I just read that Mumbai Muslims were attempting to prevent the Mumbai terrorists from being buried in the local Muslim cemetery, saying they were “a black spot” on their faith.

    And the excellent Gallup review of “What a Billion Muslims Think” suggests that Muslims, as a group, are far less likely to believe the taking of civilian lives is ever acceptable than are Christians, as a group.

    Alas, when I tell many of my right-wing friends of these things, they say, “You can’t trust everything you read,” and press ahead. Fortunately, their numbers are on the wane in the USA.

    That perfect love casts out fear is indeed a needed message in this discussion.


  3. 5 December 2008 12:29 am

    I protest. George Weigal deems himself THE Catholic voice, but he does not speak for the Church; US bishops have been very critical of the response to 9/11, as has the Holy Father.

    I personally find his economics to be thoroughly protestant.

    I am glad that someone mentioned the Gallup poll, Who Speaks for Islam? As I recall, the figures of those supporting violent acts in the name of their religion are about the same for Muslims and Christians, or close.

    The Church, of course, has always allowed the conduction of just war, meaning (the short version) defensive war. It does not justify pre-emptive war.

    And what is the Orthodox position?

  4. 5 December 2008 12:58 am

    Well said, Steve. As Asimov had one of his characters say somewhere, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

    and yet… and yet… did not Jesus himself at least once resort to violence, driving out the traders from the Temple with a whip? But here’s what’s easy to miss in that story: these were his own people that he turned on. When war threatens across the world, is it not our own hearts that we need to examine? Like charity, perhaps true jihad must start at home…

  5. 5 December 2008 5:10 pm

    The temple story is a tricky one. Firstly, the bible doesn’t speak of Jesus actually hitting anyone. Secondly, I think there are reasonable grounds to interpret his actions as propectic street theatre. You need to eliminate that as an alternative reading.

  6. 5 December 2008 6:45 pm

    Phil wrote: “those were his own people he turned on.”

    An important, and often-missed theme, of the NT. Jesus never harangues outsiders; his dust-ups are with the conservatives of his day, who are ever dissatisfied with the ease with which he puts rule – even Bible – aside to care for people.

    Jesus is tender to outsiders and confrontational to insiders. In the USA, the church has a reputation for being confrontational to outsiders and a comfort to insiders.

  7. 17 December 2008 8:17 pm

    In fact, in the John version of the cleansing of the temple the whip of cords is linked to driving the animals out (read it again, in Greek if possible).

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