It’s not easy to keep up with life and the world’s events at the same time, especially if your job isn’t–or jobs aren’t–to keep up with all of it. Nevertheless I’d like to put down some random thoughts on the subject. Most of it has appeared before in one form or another on this blog, but some of it bears repeating.
A lot of what I see on the subject bothers me because it is so shallow and banal. In this country at least, that’s pretty much across the board, whether you’re discussing élite opinion or the opinion of what Todd Starnes calls “bitter America”. Neither side of this country is ready to effectively deal with what’s going on, and the last decade plus has proven that, especially with two failed wars and a liberal construct that is now pretty much up in smoke. Up in smoke? I honestly think that the reason the Occupant and his minions were AWOL from the Paris march is that they realise that their whole paradigm of themselves, Muslims and where the world can go is toast. All the talk about Barack Obama being a Muslim notwithstanding, what he is is a transformational leftist who wanted to use Islam as a counterweight against his domestic political enemies. Shooting up a publication like Charlie Hebdo puts paid to such a strategy, and although the Paris march papers over that, reality cannot be changed.
Some in the chattering class have opined that Charlie Hebdo’s satire, to put it briefly, isn’t funny. That’s a serious problem. Philosophically, however, the founder’s philosophy matches John Lennon’s “Imagine”: if we could get rid of nations, religions, etc., the world would be fine. What neither Charlie Hebdo nor others who support their idea figured on was that practitioners of the Middle Eastern way of politics would interpret that as a sign of weakness and act accordingly, both in the West and in places like Iraq and Syria. If we’re going to continue to have free speech, free press, and the other freedoms we supposedly have in the West, we’re going to have to fight for them, both at home and elsewhere. That creates problems for the left. In a sense, when Barack Obama told the world that the future didn’t belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam, he was trying to tell his fellows on the left to cut a deal, and neither Charlie Hebdo nor those who shot the place up were in a mood to cut any deal.
One of the things that differentiates Islam from just about any other religion is that, in its system, public and private morality are an absolute unity. There can be no separation of mosque and state in the umma. Muslims used to tout this as an advantage over Christianity’s dualism in that regard, a dualism which, unfortunately, too many Christians have tried to change. That’s something that liberals, themselves political animals par excellence, understood. They thought they could manage this through their dominance in the media, government, educational system, etc. Publications like Charlie Hebdo didn’t get the memo. The only way the people who rule the West are going to “put the genie back into the bottle” (a good Islāmic concept) is to manage the religion the way it’s done in the Middle East and the way the Soviets did in Central Asia: through the appointment of imams, the regulation of mosques and religious schools, etc., all of which would basically be supervised by the state. In the West that would mean the control of all religious institutions by the state and the end of religious freedom. Liberals would love to do this to Christianity, but I frankly don’t think they have the guts to do this to Islam.
In some ways, such management would defeat the purpose of Muslims coming to the West. One of the things Muslims discover when they get here is that the freedom of religion that we’ve had up until now means that they can practice their Islam any way they think they should, just as we can do in Christianity. They don’t have to worry about some state-appointed imam telling them what to do and turning them in when they don’t do it. Many Muslims find this liberating; that’s why many Muslims are genuinely patriotic, something that doesn’t need to be overlooked. The downside of coming here is that they find a society where their serious code of conduct is not followed by the general population and even laughed at. This is hard to take, and here is where old habits die hard; it’s easy to slide into what is called “radicalisation”, especially when your imam is a serious Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood type, telling you repeatedly that you too can extend the “region of peace” if you conduct jihad. That is what has authorities (especially in Europe) buffaloed by the stiffening resolve of second generation Muslims to “keep the faith”.
At this point I don’t see a really good way out of this. We have a leadership that alternates between weakness, bullying of groups which won’t fight back, and boorish provincialism on the nature of their opponent. Topped with the fact that they don’t believe in the civilisation they’ve inherited and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.
As for what Christians should do, the Charlie Hebdo incident changes nothing. We’re still in the same situation as usual, trapped in the West in countries that really don’t want us any more and Muslims who really didn’t want us to start with. If we want to do something constructive, we should focus our prayer, relief and other efforts in places where we’re still valued (such as Nigeria) where the unfolding tragedy of Boko Haram dwarfs what happened in Paris. Boko Haram is a reaction to the simple fact that Christianity is growing very rapidly in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, sometimes at the expense of Islam. Instead of endless “me-too” we need to be proactive when our “culture” isn’t.
As my CFD I professor said, we have to play the cards we’re dealt, and it’s our turn.