Subject: This seems Radical... for National Review|
May 27, 2003, 1:55 p.m.
Onward, Christian Missionaries
Evangelization in Iraq.
The program initiated by sundry evangelical Christian ministers to accost Islam by teaching the tenets of the Christian faith to those who seek to bring that faith to Muslims is very good stuff, overdue. There is, of paramount concern to them, the commanding message felt by these Protestant missionaries. One of them put it this way to a reporter from the New York Times: "If I had the answer for cancer, what sort of a human would I be not to share it?"
That is the theological commandment and it is entirely honorable, especially when it tells of men and women willing to spend their lives, and even to risk them, to pass on the word of the Christian faith.
But it is also very important in tactical perspectives.
Some commentators have opined (frequently, in this space) that the war against the extremist Muslims must be fought not only by Marines in Iraq, but also by proselytes. The first approach is and will continue to be the effort to mobilize Koranic teachings that would seem to deplore exercises in the extremism we are now combating. When the Americans were taken hostage in Iran by the Ayatollah in 1979, a few Koranic leaders were rounded up who were willing to deplore what had been done as contrary to Muslim commandments. And that pursuit of moderate voices in Islam continues today, as we hear and relate the here-and-there voices of the Muslim leader who deploys such as suicide bombers and agents of 9/11.
A special difficulty is that the "moderate" Muslim voice arouses the antagonism of the militant, which antagonism seeks satisfaction, from time to time, in mayhem. The wrath of the militants is feared not only by non-militant exegetes of the Koran, entire governments are intimidated. It is not safely assumed that leaders in Egypt and Syria, let alone Iran, could survive a genuine effort to isolate and discredit those of their own countrymen who are calling for death to infidels and who cheer at any bulletin telling of the success of a suicide bomber.
The Christian evangelical approach meets the problem head on. One evangelist, from Beirut, advocates assembling passages from the Koran that establish that Islam is "regressive, fraudulent, and violent," to quote the Times report by Laurie Goodstein. "Here in the Koran it says slay them, slay the infidels. In the Bible there are no words from Jesus saying we should kill innocent people." Some evangelical leaders have been direct in branding the Islamic faith as badly disoriented. As ever, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Vines are widely quoted, Mr. Graham having said that Islam is "a very evil and wicked religion." We learn that a dozen books are circulating, written by Christians or disillusioned Muslims, who urge confrontational exchanges with Islam.
Now the modern temper shrinks from anything confrontational, even between a father and his 12-year-old son caught smoking. Nowhere, and quite properly so, was our venture in Iraq dressed in crusaders' battle dress. Still, basic postulates of Western civilization have to be defended as such, and their provenance is substantially Christian. The commandments to neighborly love and the sanctity of human beings are enjoined by the Christian gospel, and historical failures to live by the Word have been acknowledged as ignoble Christian failures. But there is no prospect of a Koranic Vatican II on the horizon, which would deplore the excesses of today's Muslim militants or the persecution of Salman Rushdie.
Diplomacy is fine and is necessary but it sometimes demands politically correct professions of equality of faith, at the expense of right reason. Ronald Reagan saw through to this problem when he said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire and that Communism would end up on the ash heap of history. Something like that needs to be said about Muslims, to the extent that they are identifiable as agents of terrorism.
| RE: This seems Radical... for National Review|
While I certainly concur that it would seem to be in our interest to convert Muslims to Christians and thus not have them be enemies (Lincoln said the best way to eliminate an enemy is to turn him into a friend; whether he followed his own advice is debatable, but I digress); I can't help but find Buckley's way of thinking rather cynical, and more in line with self-interest than over concern for Muslim's souls.
Yes, as Christians, we should be following Christ's Great Commission to preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, of course. But we should be doing this because it was Christ's commandment, that is, we should be doing this for spiritual reasons, and not for temporal reasons - that is, we should be doing it out of concern for their souls.
As much as I care about this world, it pales in comparison to considerations of the next, and I believe that ought to be so for all of us who are indeed Christians.
If we are Christians, let us be Christians not only outwardly but inwardly, and let us do so because we believe Christianity is true, not because of its social utility - how very neo-con, to look at faith in such a cynical light; is it no wonder they are slowly giving up the battle against radical egalitarianism? "Faith is something for others to believe, not us Beltway sophisticates, but those "flyover country" yokels, since they need it.", seems to be their attitude, in my opinion. "We should kill all their leaders and force them to convert to Christianity!" said Ann Coulter after 9/11; not exactly a Christian response, which just goes to demonstrate the sort of cynicism they exhibit, as described above.
"Our diplomats and our generals have prescribed roles to play, but ahead of diplomacy and military action are our philosophers..."
Our philosophers? Sorry; I don't think of Christian evangelists as "our philosophers", i.e. the West's court thinkers; instead they - we who believe and tell others as commanded - are Christ's ambassadors, not merely proponents of a human-generated system of thought, on the same level as Nietzsche, Kant, Socrates, Plato, etc. etc. (I know there are Christian thinkers that can also be classified as philosophers, of course; but they are Christian thinkers, not belonging to our society as a whole as do the others mentioned, "our diplomats and our generals".)
"Diplomacy is fine and is necessary but it sometimes demands politically correct professions of equality of faith, at the expense of right reason. Ronald Reagan saw through to this problem when he said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire and that Communism would end up on the ash heap of history. Something like that needs to be said about Muslims, to the extent that they are identifiable as agents of terrorism."
Fine, but why not also say something about the many people outside of the U.K. and Ireland who financially support the IRA? Why not attack them, too, for aiding and abetting terrorism? It's not only Muslims who are agents of terrorism! (Terrorism is merely a means to an end, not an end in and of itself; used by many groups for various different purposes, hoping to effect change. Someone recently said something to the effect that a "War on Terrorism" makes as much sense as a "war on pride" or a "war on sloth" - I forget who said it, but I heartily concur; it's too abstract a concept, and not explicitly defined. I'd also say a "war on terrorism" makes as much sense as a "war on poverty", the "War on Drugs", but then, Washington always seems bent on treating all problems, be they domestic moral issues or international diplomatic ones, as a crusading "War" to be fought. Muslims aren't the only ones who fight Jihads, it would seem. "War is the continuation of politics, by other means", said Karl von Clausewitz; "War is the health of the State", said Randolph Bourne; history has borne both out...)
If we're not going to mostly focus on men's hearts and relationship with God (or lack thereof), let's attack ALL sources of terrorism - and work on solving the problems which give rise to the sorts of conditions that make terrorism look like a viable option.