Friday, September 15, 2006

Assyria, The Hammer. Faith, The Anvil.

Bravura Mark Shea post. Do read it all. He expounds much more eloquently on the theme I mentioned here.


The Post-Modern Relativist West is slowly awakening to the fact that jihadis have a reason to die while we cannot give a coherent reason to live. The Islamosphere has a God it fears, but not a God it loves. We neither fear nor love God, and find it impossible to mount a public argument for the West that holds water. So we rely on mood, image, bombast, and, in many of highest spheres of culture, a sort of Andrew Sullivanesque celebration of depravity that shouts "We're decadent and proud of it!" None of this is substantial enough to persuade a people to suffer and die in a civilizational struggle, much less to put cracks in the enemy's will to win. Everything that motivates a people to war--love of family, love of country, love of sacred things, a sense that there is something holy that is being guarded--is what our culture has laboring to extirpate for at least forty years. Family? With no fault divorce and Roe rhetoric and gay marriage reminding us that family is just a socio-economic construct with no intrinsic importance? Love of country? Please! That went out with Watergate! Everything is about power. Love is for suckers who get manipulated by players! Sacred things? What are you? One of those radical Christians bent on importing your religious enthusiasms into my life? And so on. As we have pissed away every last trace of our religious heritage, we have likewise pissed away our ability to find any basis for a common good. In antiquity, that commonality could be found in ties of blood and language: the ethnos, the tribe. In the US and the West, such ties don't exist. We are nation founded on an idea. And when the idea, rooted in even older religious ideas like "the equality of man before God" and "the unity of the human race in Adam" breaks up because the older religious ideas are wantonly rejected, then the branch cut from the tree inevitably withers.

And so we find ourselves, like ancient Israel, facing the Assyrian, the rod of judgment, and scrambling to figure out some way to oppose him. The message of the prophets was quite clear: Israel stood or fell by its fidelity to God, not by chariot and horse. As long as they cast around looking for something else to save them--an alliance with Egypt, better sacrifices to Baal, technological advances, slicker advertising and sloganeering, etc.--they were doomed. Because, at the end of the day, none of these things could supply a reason for living. They could not answer the question, "Why shouldn't the Assyrian just take your land, if you believe as much as he does that it's all about power?" The only way out was through the death of returning to reliance on God, humbling themselves, and giving up the project of trying to create a heaven-haven on earth where they could simultaneously be safe and at total liberty to ignore God.

We've been attempting the same project. The result is that we have disintegrated in our ability to reply to Radical Islam. They worship power and we call it "evil". But our most sophisticated public discourse then tells us, "Of course, they worship power! Everybody does! That's all there is! All of human history is nothing but the struggle for power! All that crap about 'good' and 'evil' is the emotional manipulation used by the power brokers to get suckers to fight for them." And we are stunned when people find it difficult to fight for a society that believes this in its heart.

I propose a different path, ultimately the only path there is: return to God.


I mean (as I have been saying for several years now) that only a healthy spirituality can heal a diseased spirituality. The inflamation of Radical Islam cannot be healed by the equal disease of postmodern relativism (which believes just as much as Radical Islam that might makes right).

Benedict's point in his much-maligned speech at Regensburg is that reason and faith are not enemies: a point as much contested in Islam as it is in the post-modern West. For Christians, the Logos is the Word of Wisdom by which God spoke the universe into being. For this reason, nature cannot be the enemy of faith because the same God who created nature also entered that nature when the Word became flesh in Christ. So, though some Christians have sinned against their own tradition by forcibly demanding conversions, nonetheless this is not at the heart of the Tradition. Christianity demands a radical respect for the freedom of the human person, since conversion must always take place freely.

But neither post-modern relativism nor Radical Islam take seriously anything but power. For post-modern relativism, appeals to the dignity of the human person made in the image of God are simply masks on the struggle for power. After all, there is no God, says the post-modernist, so this is simply a plea by the weak in the hope of gaining sympathy or appealing to piety. And the purpose of that is to gain allies in the struggle for power. Meanwhile, Radical Islam, following one (but not the only) line of thought from the founding premisses of Islam, sees a God who is bound by nothing, including reason, and who can therefore contradict himself if he sees fit, in his inscrutable supreme Power. This, combined with several Quranic texts which nakedly advocate violence to spread the faith have created a potent brew which have served to make Islam increasing tenuous as an intellectual project and increasingly reliant on mere violence as the means of achieving its ends. Hence we find the weird spectacle of Muslims burning down Europe to protest the suggestion that Islam is violent and spokemen like Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam saying, "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence".


The point is simply this: Catholic faith really believes it can stand up to scrutiny, so it is not brittle like Islam. Islam is the hammer. It advances, in no small part, by threatening violence and it holds its ground by the same tactics. The Christian faith began, and remain to this day, as the anvil. It gets continually pounded and winds up wearing out the hammers. The reason there was a Pope giving a talk at a university in Regensburg is because the Catholic faith had such faith in reason as a creature of God that the medieval Church invented the university. The faith of Benedict and the Church is that the human heart hungers for truth: both the truth of revelation and the truth of reason. The fear in the brittle soul of Islam, as in the fading soul of the West is that there is no truth but power. Only the Risen Christ, who conquered the raw killing power of Hell with truth and love, can lead both sides of our current civilizational clash past that nihlistic faith and back to their senses as human beings.

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