Thursday, March 10, 2011

Onward Christian Warriors

In “Religiously Battling for Pacifism” in The American Spectator, Front Page contributor Mark Tooley writes about “a rising tide of absolutist pacifism at least among U.S. Protestant and Evangelical elites,” which is pressing Christians to refuse to serve in the military and even in law enforcement. Tooley quotes evangelical Bible scholar Ben Witherington: “In short, for the Christian, there are plenty of things worth dying for and giving your life for, but nothing worth killing for, for life is of sacred worth, and we are called to save it, even from itself.”

So much for “Onward Christian Soldiers,” a martial hymn that I hear anecdotally has all but vanished from church services. When it comes to confronting aggressors, rather than “marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before,” the Christian community seems to be embracing the same turn-the-other-cheek martyrdom that once led to them being shredded by lions in the Roman arena.

Actually, it’s still resulting in Christians being decimated. In a different article, “Thriving Christianity,” Mark Tooley cites alarming figures in a recent report by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research: “270 new Christian martyrs every day in the world over the last 10 years, reaching 1 million during 2000-2010, and compared to 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900. Presumably, radical Islam can be faulted for most current-day Christian victims.” Presumably, not to mention the non-Christian and even Muslim victims.

I am reminded of a report from Egypt a few years back, about Muslims there stickering their cars with shark symbols in aggressive answer to the Christian "fish" sticker pasted on cars by some members of the Coptic minority. When asked about it, a young Muslim laughed unapologetically: “The Christians had the fish so we responded with the shark. If they want to portray themselves as weak fishes, OK. We are the strongest.” There could not be a more starkly stated crystallization of how Muslim fundamentalists perceive our Clash of Civilizations.

By disturbing contrast, the Judeo-Christian stance is too often a combination of politically correct denial and appeasement through interfaith outreach. In “We’re Losing the Battle Against Islamism,” Rachel Lipsky describes attending interfaith events and being disappointed and distressed by the denial and spinelessness of the ingratiating Jewish and Christian religious leaders, who ignore the rising tide of anti-Semitism and the worldwide persecution of Christians in Muslim majority communities: “These clergymen and those who support them betray their communities by ignoring the looming issues and declaring platitudes, all under the name of progressiveness and multicultural understanding.”

Far be it from me to dismiss sincere attempts to resolve religious differences; in fact, I root for their success. But in terms of building bridges between Islam and the West, it’s worth noting that for Islamic supremacists, the interfaith highway runs in only one direction. Sayyid Qutb, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, argued that interfaith dialogue with the West should be undertaken only to draw infidels over to Islam, bringing concessions with them.

Christians with a backbone who attempt to draw a line in the sand incur attacks from the naive or complicit Left. A few weeks ago, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was chastised by, among others, Mediaite columnist Frances Martel for speaking out against a Tennessee Protestant church opening its doors to local Muslims in need of a prayer space. Martel (no relation to eighth-century savior of Europe Charles, apparently) found this not only uncharitable but theologically ignorant. Hel-lo, Martel lectured, “the Judeo-Christian god is an equivalent to Allah and Muslims actually believe in Jesus Christ.” [Emphasis in original]

In fact, it is Martel who is the theological ignoramus. It’s unclear what she means by God being “equivalent to Allah,” but anyone familiar with both religions knows that the two deities are not simply the same god with different names; they have radically different theological characteristics. My friend Mark Durie, Anglican scholar and author of the must-read The Third Choice, weighed in on this himself, noting that Muslims do venerate Jesus, or Isa, but as a Muslim prophet: “The Islamic Jesus is not the Christian Son of God, the divine suffering Savior who died on the cross for the sins of the world.” Muslims reject the essential Christian concept of the Trinity – indeed, they scorn it as polytheism.

Not only that, but in Muhammad’s version of the end times, Isa will return to earth to abolish Christianity. (Think about that the next time mega-pastor Rick Warren calls upon “Isa” at a public invocation.) Thus Durie concludes that Huckabee was justified in taking a stand:

Churches should not welcome into their buildings the veneration of Isa the Islamic Jesus, who, as a true Muslim, is intended to bring about the final, violent destruction of Christianity. By all means, let Christians show kindness to their Muslim neighbors, but the sentiments embedded in Islamic daily prayers, which curse Jews as the target of Allah’s wrath and Christians for going astray, can have no place in a Christian church - even if recited in the cadences of classical Arabic.

The interfaith gullibility and ignorance exhibited by people like Francis Martel can lead to ludicrous excesses. A nascent movement is gaining ground now with the silly label “Chrislam” – a theologically confused amalgam of Christianity and Islam. “Chrislam” is seemingly if not explicitly endorsed by pop culture religious celebrities like Warren.
Where, then, have all the Christian soldiers gone? In his provocative book The Suicide of Reason, Lee Harris notes:

If you have succeeded in creating a culture where no one is willing to risk his life for anything, then… you have completely eliminated precisely the class of individuals upon whom you must count if your community is to endure in the universal struggle for survival, namely death-defying warriors.

Abraham Miller (himself not a Christian), in “Christianity: First Line of Defense for the West?”, asserts more hopefully that those warriors who have the conviction to stand against the tide of civilization’s enemy will consist of Christians of deep faith:

The one solid, inescapable organizing principle that stands as the bulwark against radical Islam is Christianity. I don’t mean the ultra-left pablum Christianity of the mainstream, empty-church Protestant denominations that reinvented Jesus as metaphor. No, I mean a fundamentalist God-fearing Christianity that understands who and what the enemy is, and possesses the moral clarity to understand the difference between good and evil.

Christian pacifists may insist that there is nothing worth taking a human life for, but the West, or what ragged pockets of it remain, is locked in an epic historical struggle for survival against an existential opponent that believes there is plenty worth killing for. The Christian Left's retreat from this hard truth will be their contribution to our cultural, and ultimately literal, suicide.

(This article originally appeared at Front Page here, 3/10/11)