Two days ago, a Muslim terrorist took a truck and plowed through a huge crowd of civilians celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing 84 people and wounding 50. Naturally, the political left will try to ignore or downplay the attack, since it doesn’t involve their favorite pet cause gun control, and the right will splinter into various factions that treat the symptoms more than the problem: immigration, military campaigns against ISIS, the failures of PC secularist propaganda, and other such popular talking points. And the whole matter, like all its precedents, will bubble and fizz without a resolution until the next horror happens.
Catholics will follow a similar cycle of reactions and responses. They will express dismay, offer some prayers, and make vague calls for forgiveness and world peace. Church leaders and commentators will still insist that Islam is a peaceful religion simply in need of a little dialogue and peace while those who recall Islam’s bloody history and its very real threat to Western civilization will find themselves on the margins, keeping company with neo-fascists and conspiracy kooks.
Whatever the case, no matter how many are murdered, no matter how preventable the attack, no matter how clear the motivation, the political response and the Church’s response have one thing one thing in common: turn the problem into an abstraction and then outsource it to some distant entity. Instead of calling it an “attack” or a “massacre,” they will call is a “tragedy” and describe it as though it had no agent to carry it out, but simply happened like a tornado or earthquake. Instead of asking members of the community to confront the matter for themselves, political leaders will quickly politicize the issue and change the subject; similarly, Church leaders will spiritualize the issue and do the same.
It’s clear this pattern will only stop when people take on this problem for themselves instead letting the “experts” quibble and do nothing about it. As it stands, average people from both the Muslim and Western worlds are mired in profound misunderstandings about one another and themselves that prevent any kind of meaningful improvement.
In the case of Islam, Hillaire Belloc and others rightly identified Islam as a heresy rather than an independent religion. It includes many of the same elements as Christianity and Judaism and simplifies them, but in the process introduces many falsehoods. Because of these similarities, many Christians try to assert some kind of kinship with Islam, but the accompanying differences make this impossible.
Following the path of other heresies, the falsehoods of Islam has caused it to degenerate spiritually, morally, and intellectually. In its current state, varying by degree among moderates and extremists, it manifests those same evil aspects that Belloc predicted (correctly) about the modernist heresy: slavery, cruelty, and insanity. In the Muslim world, slavery is alive and well. Horror stories of human trafficking, sex slaves, and other instances of bondage and exploitation abound in Muslim communities. Cruelty naturally follows this, making torture, terrorist attacks, and domestic abuse common phenomena. Unable to rationalize these clear evils, Muslim culture has largely dismissed rationality itself, preferring to resort to force instead of arguments. When Pope Benedict XVI or any public figure challenges the deficiencies of Islam on the basis of reason, the response from Muslims is predictable: bombings, riots, and threats.
Despite all this, non-Muslims should not take these problems as reasons to hate Muslims indiscriminately; rather, they are reasons to pity them. Nearly all Muslims are trapped: apostasy is punishable by death; their education is limited and highly skewed; ostracism and persecution for nonconformists are guaranteed; and there is little to no help on the outside. People need to recognize these realities and offer remedies, not excuses. The state needs to protect those who leave Islam through a rigorous enforcement of justice, and the Church needs to provide a community in which they can remake their lives.
Right now, there is no such protection from the state, and there is no such community in the Church. It is evident that Western leaders have given up on this issue. Terrorist attacks, swelling Muslim ghettos, and a universal double standard for Muslim migrants are quickly becoming the norm. People in Europe look on helplessly as their countries assume the qualities of the third-world with increases in crime, poverty, and ignorance. They need to be able to reach out to these people without fearing for their lives.
The Church has also faltered by presenting itself more as a global abstraction than a concrete local reality. For too many Catholics, faith is more a label than a community, and more a matter of personal taste than a matter of personal discipline. Even with the hate and backwardness of their faith, most Muslims at least have a community with real people in it; Catholics and other Christians have particular “views on things” and not much else. They should not expect Muslims to take their faith seriously if they cannot do this themselves. Evangelism to the Muslim needs to happen, but it must be grounded in authentic fellowship and zeal.
Politics, both of the state and the Church, will not solve the problem of Islam; only the people’s return to the true faith will. Secularism is empty, and modern Christianity is currently running on fumes. People in West need to come to terms with themselves in order to treat a volatile population stuck in a bankrupt theology and culture. Otherwise, the terrorist attacks will continue, civilizational decay will set in, and the experts in charge will smother it with yet another shrug.