Thursday, September 13, 2012

Religions Meet at the Embassy Doors

U.S. Embassies are currently being menaced in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen; this, under the pretext that a movie, disrespectful of Mohammad, was made in America. Thus far, the response of United States government’s has been weak and even apologetic. It is curious- and even sad –that there are Christians who would first criticize their own people and their own traditions before issuing a public rebuke to the worst offenders; that is, to militant Muslims who bully their critics with violence.

On September 12, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI became acquainted with anger of Muslims when, in his famous Regensburg address, he alluded to the “strong arm” approach of Islam. He said:

“To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.”

Indeed, immediately following his address violence broke out- directed at Catholics –in several Muslim countries. But what enables Islamic aggression is the spiritual and moral softness of the West; especially that of Christians. A few years before his Regensburg address, the pope criticized his fellow Westerners for despising their own culture and religious traditions.

In a correspondence with Marcello Pera (published in a book called, “Without Roots”), then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that our self-criticism has become a “peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological.” He then added, “It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure.”

Part of the reason why Western Civilization is on the decline is because it no longer believes in what made it great. It no longer perceives what is great and pure. When the moral law of the Gospel is set aside in favor of sexual license and loose living, the value of sacrifice weakness and the love of God grows cold. But the curious effect of all of this is an intensification of self-hatred. Think of it. Those who subscribe to a secular-liberal worldview are known for being highly critical of their own country, their own religion and even their own species (i.e. the constant reference that the animal kingdom was at peace before humans came to destroy the environment).

It is important to keep in mind a passage from a 19th century periodical. The article addressed the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The lesson is that moral decline from within always precedes the political subversion from without:

“All history warns us that we are not made to pass our days amidst the sweets of a fertile garden, inhaling its odors, plucking its flowers, and tasting its luscious fruits. It is in the struggles against difficulties that all that is best in man is nurtured into vigor and preserved from decay. Through labor we live, in enjoyment we die. The thorn of a rose tree is a better friend to us than all the perfume which exhales from its blossoms.” (The Rambler,1854)

This passage centers around Constantinople, now known as Istanbul in Turkey. This ancient city used to be the capitol of Eastern Christianity before it fell to the Muslims (Ottoman Turks, who aggressively advanced Islam). But before Ottoman Turks ever became a threat, Constantinople grew morally soft from within.

In fact, Turkey is where the seven churches in the book of Revelation were located. It was to these churches that our Lord issued the following warning: “Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)

According to Dr. Phil Jenkins, in the year 1050 A.D. there were 373 bishoprics with over 21 million Christians living there. However, with the spread and conquest of militant Islam in the eighth and ninth centuries, Muslim rule came into effect. “Four hundred years later, that Christian proportion had fallen to 10 to 15 percent of the population, and we can find just three bishops. According to one estimate, the number of Asian Christians fell, between 1200 and 1500, from 21 million to 3.4 million.” The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was the final blow.

As far as the Catholic West was concerned, there were many close calls. Several times militant Islam was poised to conquer Europe. We cannot forget that in 1571, with the Battle of Lepanto, Pope St. Pius V was concerned enough to have Catholics pray the rosary. But then Christians knew the value of their own religion; now, fewer do.

For Muslims, the religion of Islam is very important. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Western Christians and their religion in 21st century. In any event, although the political power of Islam had hit an all time low in the years following World War I, their religious intensity was sustained. This is why, in 1938, when the world forgot about Islam, the Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, was able to make the following prediction:

"[Islam] very nearly destroyed us. It kept up the battle against Christendom actively for a thousand years, and the story is by no means over; the power of Islam may at any moment re-arise...The future always comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least some partial judgment of what that surprise may be. And for my part I cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically paralyzed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable."

Secularists have a hard time believing that “religion is at the root of all political movements and changes.” Because of that, they are handicapped in assessing the real nature of what menaces Christians and Westerners in the Middle East. They do not understand, nor can they, what the “knock or the pounding on the Embassy door” means. Such behavior is not the result of a movie or an address given by a pope, it is because Christianity is a rival to Islam. Indeed, they are both applying for the same job...the job of converting the world to their religion. This is a competition that militant Islam would rather not have.

But the strong arm of Islam is able to flex its muscle because many- both Christians and non-Christians in the West –are intimidated by it. So, the easy thing to do is to appease the anger of militant Islam by criticizing the behavior of their own people. But it will not work.

The only thing that will work- the only thing that will keep the lampstand our civilization lit -is to do what our Lord Jesus said to do; and that is to “repent, and do the works you did at first.” After all, it was what the Christians "did at first"- that is, zealously proclaiming their faith and opposing that which undermines it -that gave purpose and direction to their lives. As such, they had something to live for and even something to die for.