As we head into the fall of 2014, the world seems to be a very dark and uncertain place for those who practice the Christian faith. Between the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (and the resulting slaughter and displacement of Christians in the middle east) and the seemingly relentless advance of secularism and rejection of traditional Christian values in the West, many Christians are wondering how Christianity can survive and advance in our modern world. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico talks on this topic with Os Guinness, public intellectual and author most recently of Reniassance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times. Guinness reminds us that our generation is not the first generation of Christians to face a world in flux, and gives advice on how Christians should face the uncertain future.
Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote about ‘Our Sentimental Humanitarian Age’ at the American Spectator. He argues that “soft liberalism is incapable of confronting the evil in man.”
Sometimes, however, an event occurs that highlights the more fundamental crises that bedevil a civilization. The rise of a movement as diabolical as ISIS, for instance, has surely underscored the bankruptcy of what might be called the sentimental humanitarian outlook that dominates so many contemporary shapers of the West’s cultural consensus.
Sentimental humanitarianism has several features. One is the mind-set that reduces evil to structural causes. “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” proclaimed Rousseau in his Du contrat social. From this, many concluded that evil would disappear if the right people were put in charge to change the structures.
Sentimental humanitarianism also assumes that all religions are more-or-less the same and, given the right conditions, will vacillate their way towards something as innocuous as today’s Church of England. But as a wise recently retired pope once wrote, a major failure of imagination since the 1960s has been the disinclination to concede that there are “sick and distorted forms of religion.” (more…)
It’s easy to think that ISIS is about religion. They toss around phrases from the Quran, and have announced that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now “caliph,” or a successor to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. But ISIS is about as much about Islam as Hitler was to Christianity…which is to say, not much.
R.R. Reno reminds us that bloodthirstiness and an insane drive to power are nearly as old as humanity, in a piece entitled “From Cain to ISIS.” Reno spends some time comparing al-Baghdadi to Hitler, who proclaimed much of his platform was based on Christianity – in an ideological and warped way.
Hitler’s rise to power was aided by many factors that also find parallels in today’s Middle East. His extreme nationalism and his anti-Semitism were widely popular in inter-war Germany. Although most respectable middle-class Germans kept their distance, Hitler’s vision inspired a highly committed core of supporters willing to make great sacrifices. Among the elites he was seen as déclassé and too extreme, but was viewed by many with sympathy and even supported. His radicalism was thought good for Germany—a galvanizing force, a useful counter to communism, a commendable expression of strength.
Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico made an appearance on Thursday afternoon on Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neal Cavuto. Recently, Cavuto has been addressing the topic of multiculturalism in recent shows, featuring guests like Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party in Great Britian, and Alveda King, niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom share deep concerns about the impact of multicultural philosophy and policy on our cultural cohesion.
Yesterday, Neil Cavuto asked whether or not our embrace of multiculturalism and our seeming abandonment of our Judeo-Christian cultural roots is contributing to problems such as the increasing number of American and British citizens who join extremist groups like ISIS. You can see his response in the video player below.
A second reporter has been killed by ISIS, Steven Sotloff. Women are being sold off as “brides.” Teen girls are raped repeatedly. Thousands are murdered. There are plenty of news reports, but in some quarters, the silence is deafening.
Kathryn Jean Lopez asks what can we do, what must we do, in the face of evil, at National Review Online.
I don’t want to have on my conscience that I was complicit in something as horrendous as this simply by being quiet,” is how Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., reflected on the persecution being conducted against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria — which are far enough away from the U.S. that we mostly go on with our lives, perhaps without even a thought or a prayer.
The President plays golf, Beyoncé is applauded for her “women’s power” performance that is laden with sexual imagery, we worry about our favorite celebrities as their nude photos get leaked. And people die. En masse. For their faith, for where they live, for their willingness to say “I believe” when someone with a sword demands they recant. (more…)
This isn’t easy to read. It’s stomach-churning. But we must know our enemy, and ISIS is determined to destroy liberty, freedom, culture and families.
According to The Daily Beast, ISIS is holding girls and women for one of two purposes: to sell them or to destroy morale by raping and torturing them. These are mostly Yazidi women, being held in Iraq. Reports of what is happening in the prison in Mosul come from the women themselves. Some smuggled in cell phones; others have been forced to call their families by their ISIS captors so that the families can listen as the girl or woman is raped repeatedly.
Pakhshan Zangana, head of the High Council of Women’s Affairs for The Kurdish Regional Government Zangana, is literally pleading with the world for help, but every day the situation gets more and more desperate, and help seems further and further away. (more…)
Just as armed citizens have been protecting themselves and their property in Ferguson, Mo., small groups of Christians are forming in militia-style units in areas of Syria and Iraq. While most Christians believe they are allowed to protect themselves and others using force if necessary, it is a religion of peace. Christ himself urges us to “turn the other cheek.” Yet the outrageous and barbaric violence against Christians is moving some to call for a more aggressive stance against ISIS.
Edward Pentin reports that these Christian militia groups have some strong backing:
One senior official [in Rome], speaking to me on condition of anonymity, believes that if the Islamic State begins making serious inroads into Lebanon — a country that’s no stranger to sectarian armed groups — Christian militias will become an everyday reality.
Small numbers of armed Christians are already established in Iraq and Syria. A group which calls itself “The Lions of the Canyon” reportedly has been protecting several Syrian villages while other Christian militias took up arms in Aleppo for the first time in 2012.
Evangelical pastor Michel Youssef, an advocate of armed Christian civilians in Iraq, recently told the website Act for America that the idea to form militias in Iraq was the “only way to protect our families and friends from attacks because we are tired of awaiting an action from the government which is preoccupied with politics and never looks after us.”
In 2006, then-Pope Benedict made a speech at Regensburg. As papal speeches go, it wasn’t a “biggie;” it was an address to a meeting of scientists. What was to be a reflection on faith, reason and science quickly became a firestorm. Benedict was accused of being anti-Islamic, offensive, insensitive and out-of-touch.
The primary problem was that what he really said was taken entirely out of context. In his 30 minute speech, the pope quotes an ancient emperor on the theme of “holy war.” It is important to note here that Benedict was quoting someone else; this is one of the things his critics got wrong. From Benedict’s remarks:
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… 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…”.
Christians from a broad range of traditions — from Chaldean Catholics to Southern Baptists — are uniting in a call for military action against a common enemy: ISIS. As Mark Tooley notes, the persecution of religious believers by the Islamic extremists has “reanimated talk about Christian Just War teaching.”
Citing the call by Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch for military intervention, a group of prominent Christian thinkers, with others, has declared that “nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.” Urging U.S. and international help for local forces against ISIS, they assert that “no options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.” They want expanded U.S. air strikes against ISIS and U.S. arms for the Kurds, among others. The most prominent church official on this list is the Southern Baptist Convention’s chief public policy spokesman.
Pope Francis has seemingly agreed, at least obliquely, about the morality of force against ISIS. He said on Monday in flight home from South Korea:“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.” Plus, “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” Pope John Paul II is recalled speaking similarly during the 1990s Bosnian genocide. But typically pontiffs speak unequivocally against war.
It’s a sad fact that ISIS has become part of our vocabulary, but many of us still don’t know a lot about this terrorist movement. At Aleteia, news editor John Burger spent time with some people knowledgeable abaout this group, and created a top 10 list. Burger spoke to Father Elias D. Mallon, external Affairs Officer of the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, and William Kilpatrick, author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for The Soul of The West.
Here is what you need to know:
1. What or who is ISIS? How did it come to be? ISIS consists of Sunni extremists who broke off from Al-Qaeda and are now claiming to be an independent state that includes part of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
2. Why do they exist? Father Mallon gives both ideological and practical reasons for their existence. The ideological is based on what Mallon calls a “romantic” but brutal vision of Islamic history, the practical speaks to the feeling of disenfranchisement with leadership in Baghdad. (more…)