Our Damocles’ Sword

Godless materialism menaces the fate of the West.

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

The past week Muslim mobs besieged Christians in Egypt, defacing six churches and threatening publicly the Coptic Church’s highest cleric. The mainstream media in the United States have not considered this attack worthy of substantial coverage. But why should we be surprised?

For years Arab Muslims have been murdering and enslaving black Christians in Sudan, and only recently has this atrocity been deemed worthy of the media’s attention. In fact, with the exception of the religious press, the persecution and murder of Christians across the world over the years has been met with a shrug by most American media.

This silence reflects the prejudices and superstitions of the liberal elite, who endorse a debased Enlightenment belief that religious faith is a quaint remnant of our primitive past, one that modern thought has discredited as a neurosis. Thus religion is considered a mere life-style choice, and Christianity is an option no better or worse than wicca, Scientology, or nudism. Unless, of course, the religion is non-Western. In that case, the allure of the exotic “other” creates a fascination and respect that put criticism of these faiths out of bounds, for such disparagement would be “intolerant” of the “multicultural diversity” we are all supposed to worship.

That’s why if Christian mobs were besieging and threatening Muslims, the media would be screaming about this despicable display of Christian intolerance and bigotry. That’s why a bit of graffiti on a mosque will be reported on and decried, while the desecration and destruction of churches is ignored. Muslim touchiness about the sanctity of their holy places is respected, even as all over the world Muslim disrespect for Christian churches and Jewish holy places is shrugged away. When Palestinian Arab murderers took over and befouled the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Western media and pundits were silent about the desecration, just as they rarely concern themselves with the scores of Jewish holy sites the Arabs have destroyed over the years.

The mind-set behind this double standard is curiously muddled. Religious faith is deemed a quaint superstition at best, a dangerous force of bigotry and oppression at worst — if you’re talking about Christianity or Judaism. But non-Western religion is prized as an expression of “diversity” superior to the West. The result is the incoherence we see today: the most intolerant and bigoted of religions, Islam, is given a pass for its depredations, while the true religion of peace –– the religion of martyrs, not warriors, the religion of self- sacrifice, not conquest — is played up as a threat to the republic at home and a danger to peace abroad. Western historical behavior that was a violation of Christianity’s core values is presented as typical, while jihadist violence, an aggression against the infidel entirely consistent with Islam’s historical record and theology, is explained away as an aberration.

These distortions have consequences for the struggle against jihadist violence. A “tolerance” that extends to every culture except your own is fatally dangerous, particularly when those cultural traditions form the basis for your most cherished values. Our notions of human rights and the sanctity of the individual derive in part from our Christian tradition. How long can those notions survive when we have severed them from their roots? What will nourish the belief in and love of those ideals, and the willingness to die and kill for them, when everything is reduced to the material? Will people die for more cable channels and shopping malls and electronic gadgets and viagra? We can already see the consequences of this spiritual decline in Europe, where the threat of Islam is met with appeasement and accommodation, where the opportunity for profit is more important than the existential threat represented by a jihadist regime like Iran’s.

Worse still, tolerance extended to the intolerant is not virtue but suicide. Despite all the propaganda coming from CAIR and the White House alike, Islam is not a religion of tolerance and respect for diversity. In fact, the evidence of Islamic history and theology both suggest that such tolerance is viewed as the sign of spiritual weakness and inferiority. If you know the truth, why should you tolerate error?

Like our vulgar and philosophical materialism, this tolerance we prize so highly merely encourages our adversary to believe that ultimately what makes us comfortable will trump what we know is right.

Most important, however, is a simple fact evident on every page of history: in a struggle of competing spiritual goods and visions of ultimate value, the side that truly and fervently believes in its own always has a distinct advantage. It was that knowledge and confidence that united Europe for centuries against the Islamic threat, a unity based on its common Christian heritage. It was that knowledge and confidence that met the threat of fascism in World War II, a faith in the superiority of freedom and self-determination that drove the Allies to victory and made them willing to pay at times a horrible price, for they knew that if they balked at paying that price, a higher and more horrible one would have to be paid. They knew that the self- doubt and self-questioning that can always attend any action were dangerous at that moment of crisis, and they ignored the tinhorn Hamlets, whose endless reservations would have been fatal.

But that confidence came from faith and spiritual belief, both weakened in the last 60 years. Now the smug Hamlets reign supreme among the intellectual elite, second-guessing, questioning, throwing up endless cavils and quibbles that they think represent sophisticated thought but that in fact are signs of moral flabbiness. Thus we are fighting against Islamic jihad with one arm tied behind our backs. For rest assured, the enemy has no such reservations or doubts. Why should they? Despite our bluster, we have validated terror for decades now. We have treated terrorist supporters like Syria and Iran as respectable world citizens. We have pretended that the jihadists of Palestine are really just after their own state instead of committed to the destruction of Israel, as they continually tell us. We have rewarded terrorism over and over, and then wonder why we are attacked by terrorists.

The answer is simple. The jihadists have watched us use a material calculus to determine our actions, have watched us institutionalize self-loathing and elevate corrosive self-doubt into the highest intellectual and moral virtue.  And so they have assumed that since we are spiritually bankrupt, our greater economic and military power will in the end falter before the confidence of the jihadist’s faith. After all, time is irrelevant in a spiritual struggle. For the jihadist, then, it doesn’t matter if the final victory is a year or a decade or a century away. The attention span of the materialist, however, is very short, the length of his own life. Make that precious little time uncomfortable enough, and he will do anything to restore his short-term peace of mind, even if it means a long-term disaster.

Fortunately for us, there is still among our citizens a reservoir of faith and belief, particularly among the military. But how long can the “spiritual parasites,” to use Unamuno’s phrase, the secularists and materialists continue to live off the spiritual certainty of their fellow citizens and the spiritual capital amassed over the centuries and expressed in our political institutions? How long until the material calculus kicks in and a critical mass decide that it’s just not worth the psychological discomfort and the fiscal expense to fight for what we claim we believe and cherish? How long before we accept that a few thousand dead a year at the hands of jihadists is a reasonable price to pay for living in an interconnected, globalized world? If history is any guide, the answer is: Not long.

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