How wise the jihadists are in assessing the West. We are weak. Our worship of material prosperity and their apparent disdain for it leads us value our earthly existence more than they do and that gives them a big advantage. How else to explain multi-lingual, world-traveling Ph.D candidates willing to blow themselves up for allah?
And yet in our terms it all seems so trivial. How easy it was--in one sense--for the FOX reporters to gain their own release.
Allah blah, blah, whatever. Doesn't count 'cause my fingers were crossed and I coughed and blinked and everyone back home knows it was a brutal no-win set-up and I had no choice.
You say you want a video? And it's not going to be like Nick Berg and Danny Pearl? Heck yeah! No problemo, man! You want me to strip naked and dance like Barney the Dinosaur while reciting the Koran? Can do, babe! Here, let me show you. Roll the tape, Achmed!
It would be just as easy for us as a culture to give the jihadists exactly what they want--a verbal profession of faith--a profession that in our frame of reference has come to mean less and less, and in many circles virtually nothing.
Public prayer makes us nervous--graduation speeches watered down by school administrators to bland affirmations of goodness, ice cream, being kind to kittens and respecting the rain forest and the cosmos. Presidential inaugurals that refer to the deity as often as their predecessors are cause for a national media kerfuffle. We have the deconstructionists to thank for all that--for the increasing malleability and ultimate meaninglessness of language and dilution of what used to be solemn oaths and commitments.
The culture of "whatever meets the culture of "deadly seriousness in Islam.
We've run up against a movement within Islam that makes the term "fundamentalist" seem quaint in its traditional Christian context. It's a movement in which every stinking word in a little book (and don't you dare rumple the pages!) is from allah. And don't even think about arguing or joking about it or changing a semicolon or an accent or we'll slit your throat you dhimmi pig!
It's a funny conflict when you think about it.
All the Islamofascists want is for us to say just one little thing: that God has a particular name and that a 7th century pedophile is his prophet.
What's the big deal? (Hold that thought just a moment longer...)
The reporters did what they had to do to get back to their families and continue living their lives, we think. Who wouldn't? They're rational. They're human. They said what they had to in order to be released. Who can blame them? It means nothing, we say to ourselves. They had guns pointed at their heads. The alternative--probably for both, even if only one had refused--was a slow, ugly beheading and who wants that?
Nor have we heard the reporters publicly renounce Islam in favor of anything else. Why would they, we think? Doing so would only invite other fanatics to hunt them down and kill them. Islam ratchets. Renunciation isn't an option. Apostasy is punishable by death. No exceptions. We all know that. No sense baiting an angry tiger.
The conventional wisdom of course, is that the renunciation is implicit in their situation. And anyway, goes the thinking, whatever it is that they choose to return to faith-wise is their business. Faith that's not shared doesn't need a name or a counter-profession. It's private. Non-specific secular humanism doesn't either.
Let them alone, we say to ourselves. They're back and that's the only thing that matters. Thank... Umm... Well... thank the stars... thank goodness... thank whatever.
There was once a time when it wasn't so. There was once a time when ordinary men and women with families and homes and perfectly bright futures and plenty to go back to--just like most of us, and just like the FOX reporters--were so convinced of the beautiful truth that God had come into the world for their sakes and sacrificed His only son that they did the irrational thing and refused to profess loyalty to Roman gods they knew to be false. They allowed themselves to be hung on crosses and ripped apart by lions and pierced with arrows and burned and beaten and minced in innumerable ways.
Most of them could have avoided such fates quite easily. They didn't. And people paid attention. Even Rome eventually paid attention. On their suffering and in their memory was born a great religion of peace--one that doesn't have to say so repeatedly in order to be taken seriously. Yes, we Christians have stumbled and stumbled and stumbled again, but the ideal remains utterly clear. There is no active admonition to subdue and convert by the sword--or even to cut off an ear.
Faith must have outward expression but only as a sincere upwelling of something deep within one's heart. If it's only the outward expression, it means nothing. If it's only the inner feeling, it's ineffective.
Those same courageous individuals at the dawn of the first milennium could have said simply, "whatever". Roll the tape, Achmed. Hand me the script, Caesar... and we never would have remembered them. Nothing would have been built.
They were not so different from us... except in their reverence for words and oaths and the infinitely rippling impact of public expressions of faith (or lack thereof). They are the saints of old. They are alive and watching. They are praying for a few brave souls to hold back the waves of bowel-clenching dread and say to their captors:
'No'. I will not bow to a false god. Behead me if you wish. I know my salvation is in Christ. I know the world is watching. I know what I must say. I know what I must do. Your will, not mine, oh Lord.
Imagine such a spectacle: a modern saint on the nightly news--a wholly different kind of martyr. Not the kind we're used to hearing about who blows himself up on the subway. Just as firm in conscience, but utterly submissive in body. Imagine. More powerful than the greatest army...
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Kobayashi Maru (H/T Anchoress):