The Problem and the Solution

That would be liberalism in relation to the demands of radical Islam. According to Robert Reilly, if the contest is really between Islam and secular society, freedom without meaning, Islam will win. So he proposes a return to an overtly religious society:

Islamists are not the problem; we are the problem. Were we still a healthy culture, the challenge of Islam in any of its forms would not be major. We need to recover some sense of ourselves based upon our Judeo-Christian faith; and it is our faith that ultimately undergirds the integrity of reason. The crisis of self-confidence in the West is due to the disintegration of belief, which leads to lack of will. It is the sacred which gives meaning to our lives. Evacuate the sacred, and you evacuate the meaning. What happens then?

The regnant multiculturalism in Europe makes it impossible for most of the people there to understand this problem. Perhaps the only thing that European multiculturalism can help explain is why, according to research by the Washington Institute, the Islamic State enjoys more support in Europe than it does in the Middle East.

But would a Judeo-Christian society — whatever that is — be any more appealing to Muslims than a secular one? Maybe a Judeo-Christian society would not welcome the mocking in which Charlie Hebdo engaged. But isn’t Reilly remembering that Christendom warred with Islam?

In fact, Peter Leithart reminds us what blasphemy looked like in a Christian society:

Christendom had a consistent view of blasphemy because it confessed that there is only one God. Blasphemy of this one God was blasphemy indeed; insult to others gods was no blasphemy, because other gods are idols. Other gods and their worshipers were considered the blasphemers, because they dishonored God by worshiping what is not God. Insulting the Christian God was a sin; insulting Allah was considered almost an obligation. Many today disagree, vehemently, but it has the virtue of being consistent because it doesn’t dodge the question of truth.

Leithart agrees sort of with Reilly in regarding liberalism as religiously and morally bankrupt, and so unable to sort of Islam or blasphemy:

Secular liberalism aims and claims to be beyond the possibility of blasphemy. Blasphemy can only exist where there is a sacred to violate; we are supposed to be beyond blasphemy because we have given up on the sacred.

But Leithart also knows that liberalism is the best option available:

For all its contradictions, liberalism is definitely preferable to many, if not most, of the alternatives.

That should be a sober assessment for any believer — evangelical, neo-Calvinist, Roman Catholic — who thinks culture only goes better with cult.


25 thoughts on “The Problem and the Solution

  1. Much gratitude for RR’s promotion of 20th century “classical” music in the pages of Crisis, the other topics didn’t garner much if any gratitude.


  2. But would a Judeo-Christian society — whatever that is — be any more appealing to Muslims than a secular one?

    Are you really that obtuse, Darryl? You’ve actually traveled to Turkey, and denied it’s trending more Islamic. Kemalism is in retreat.

    To the Islamic mind, Europe is no longer “Judeo-Christian” {and it isn’t} and is already collapsing of its own rot and that rot is amoralism/secularism.

    There is nothing to disrespect, for there is nothing in Europe to respect in the first place, as it “slouches toward Gomorrah.”


  3. The editors of Charlie Hebdo deserved at least a punch:

    Asked by a French reporter to compare freedom of religion and freedom of expression as human rights, Pope Francis linked his answer to the Jan. 7 attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, apparently in retaliation for the newspaper’s publication of cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

    “Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” the pope said. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”
    The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”
    Offering a hypothetical example that referred to the Vatican’s planner of papal trips, who was standing beside him as he spoke, the pope said: “It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

    The pope said those who “make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit. Every religion has its dignity.”


  4. Hold the punch, add the press release:

    The Vatican Press Office quickly quashed this interpretation of the pope’s words. In an email to the press, Father Rosica wrote:

    The Pope’s expression is in no way intended to be interpreted as a justification for the violence and terror that took place in Paris last week. The Pope’s words about Dr. Gasbarri were spoken colloquially and in a friendly, intimate matter among colleagues and friends on the journey. His words mean that there are limits to humor and satire particularly in the ways that we speak about matters of faith and belief. Pope Francis’ response might be similar to something each of us has felt when those dearest to us are insulted or harmed. The Pope’s free style of speech, especially in situations like the press conference must be taken a face value and not distorted or manipulated. The Pope has spoken out clearly against the terror and violence that occurred in Paris and in other parts of the world. Violence begets violence. Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight.


  5. But veteran Vatican reporter John Allen couldn’t be fooled:

    In sum, the pope appeared to be saying that while nothing can justify the kind of violence witnessed in the Paris attacks, that doesn’t mean “everything goes” in terms of how to present religion in public.

    In American Catholic circles, the pope’s words may be read in light of a recent controversy featuring William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a group that monitors anti-Catholic bias.

    Donohue published a statement Jan. 7 stating that “killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned,” but at the same time Muslims had a right to be angry about being “intentionally insulted” by the magazine.

    The statement triggered a wave of criticism, and generated a debate about the proper reaction to satirical or critical portrayals of religious figures.


  6. Casey seems to be a sensitive kind of guy. Maybe that’s my whole problem. Oh well, not likely to get remedied in this life.


  7. cw, as much as I feel a certain resonance with Francis (which should trouble the RC faithful), I also get the sense that he is in above his head. And I can’t imagine what his handlers think. Maybe the last time for a while the Cardinals go with an “outside the beltway” pontiff.


  8. Francis reminds me of a lot of the religious who cut their teeth in third world missions. He’s aristocratic but not in a european manner, something more akin to Shamanesque status in Zambia. In fact, a lot of them would come back to the states and decide the third world was a better situation both for them and for the faith.


  9. I guess churches are no more consoling to Islamists than satirical magazines:

    Terrorist groups have already targeted Christian individuals and institutions, with a view to achieving the maximum shock effect. In 1995, an Arab group based in the Philippines planned to assassinate Pope John Paul II on his visit to that nation, as a means of distracting attention from a related plot against U.S. airliners. (Though a Turk actually did shoot the same pope in 1981, he was not acting on behalf of Islamist causes.) When Pope Benedict made his controversial Regensburg speech in 2006, extremist Muslim groups organized protests outside Westminster Cathedral, England’s pre-eminent Catholic church, while a spokesman warned that execution awaited anyone who insulted Islam.

    Cathedrals and great churches have featured among the aborted list of targets planned by Islamist cells. Such thwarted attacks were directed at Strasburg and Cremona cathedrals, and al-Qaeda made threats against the great cathedral of Bologna. A medieval fresco of the Last Judgment in that last building depicts the Prophet Muhammad being thrown into Hell, naked, with a snake wrapped around his body, and attended by a demon. Italian Muslim activists have frequently protested against this work. Scarcely less sensitive is the pilgrim shrine of Santiago of Compostela, given its dedication to Saint James the Moor-Slayer, Santiago Matamoros. Although they do not specifically offend Islamic sentiment, other high-profile Christian buildings would attract terrorist violence because of their enormous symbolic value.


  10. So if the West finds a cause, do we return to the Crusades?

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a plan for defeating the Islamic militants, either. But I do think that I know what crucial ingredient is missing from our plans. The jihadists believe in something. The West believes in nothing. And that’s where the First Law of Politics comes into play: You can’t beat something with nothing.

    You may say that the jihadists’ beliefs are dangerous, backward, toxic, benighted. So they are. Yet the followers of radical Islam believe in them, and that shared belief gives them a cause, a sense of mission. They sneer at the West because as they see it, we have no cause, no faith, and therefore do not have the moral strength to resist them.


  11. This isn’t even about us, and the ‘caliphate’ is just the latest(rehashed) political mantle being utilized to try and wrestle control(consolidate) of ‘Arab power’. It’s politically expedient and good for Arab soundbytes and drafting Arab populism. The ‘West’ is just a convenient foil, these guys are gonna duke it out all the way ’till it impacts their own personal fortunes or one of them wins, and then ‘relent’. This is all bullsh*%. Terrorists are criminals. Kill them, jail them, maim them, try them. But this isn’t an war with the ‘West’. What a load. But it makes for good print and eyeballs.


  12. Non-religious totalitarianism may be even better than liberalism at keeping Islam in check, though. Not a lot of strife between Muslims & Christians in Tito’s Yugoslavia. China doesn’t take a lot of crap from its Muslim population. What is needed is either (a) a strong hand, or (b) a society in which everyone is too rich and indifferent to religion to really care to get riled up. It’s the in-between that’s a problem.


  13. Tom – To the Islamic mind, Europe is no longer “Judeo-Christian” {and it isn’t} and is already collapsing of its own rot and that rot is amoralism/secularism.

    There is nothing to disrespect, for there is nothing in Europe to respect in the first place, as it “slouches toward Gomorrah.”

    Erik – And you choose to live is Los Freaking Angeles?


  14. Casey’s the most truly irenic of the Callers that I’ve encountered.

    If Bryan’s working on a seedy used car lot, Casey’s over at the Cadillac dealership.

    Jason’s over at Rent-a-Wreck.


  15. CW – Frank would make a great university president, Democratic senator, Episcopal bishop on the West Coast, or CEO of a non-profit or company that was so profitable he couldn’t ruin it.

    Erik – Bingo on the last one. That’s basically the job he has now.


  16. “A medieval fresco of the Last Judgment in that last building depicts the Prophet Muhammad being thrown into Hell, naked, with a snake wrapped around his body, and attended by a demon.”

    Wow – how Pre-Vatican II


  17. To echo Sean’s last point, was talking to a guy who did intelligence work in Iraq and he said most of the insurgency had to do with various tribal squabbles that had gone on for generations. Defeating the West is not really an objective. Using hatred of the West to one up local rivals likely is.


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