Tuesday, April 8, 2008

April 8, 2008

Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (Free Press, 2008) is an extended essay in the form of a blog like screed by a former intelligence officer of the CIA who oversaw the ‘Bin laden Unit’. His name is Michael Scheur. He liked Reagan and Thatcher and scorns both Bushes and Clinton to boot. He is quite clear that the only basis for American foreign policy is the protection (and maybe extension) of American interests. One of those interests is in enforcing immigration laws with a particular eye to ensuring that America does not go the way of Europe in relation to Islam. He expects that birth and death rates along with other population studies will mean that Europe will be dominated by Islam in a few generations. More than that he sees some of the anti-Islamic sentiment of which America is still officially free exacerbating any possibility of a peaceful future. He has many other concerns, most of which involve our not using our strength when we could have (to kill Al Qaeda leaders without worrying about allies and coalitions for example) some of which I find myself supporting.

As we talk about the end of Christendom as short hand for describing a major shift in the official role of Christianity in relation to many governments, I do not want to see a religious vacuum that can then be filled by the nation of Islam. There is a great deal about the culture of much of Islam that I resist with every fiber of my being. I am not clear that Islam would be Islam for example without very clear gender roles for men and women which I view as a serious diminution of human freedom and potential. I’m all for freedom of religion and even some attempt at separating ‘church and state’, but resist regressive cultural shifts. In this I find myself conservative, but don’t want to be the kind that fights the culture wars by insisting on the Ten Commandments being displayed in court houses and the like.

The way forward must be positive rather than negative. I believe that means that we must be much more serious about articulating what about being Christian is really salvific, where we see the power of God at work in our lives, telling the stories of our faith and demonstrating in our lives that the Christian story and the community of Jesus is the way, truth and life for us. I believe we must be much more clearly evangelical and not get caught up in the party labels within Christianity. Those who call themselves ‘evangelicals’ fail to persuade me that their version of the faith is terribly good news in many instances. What I want for us is the sense of passion and urgency of our proclamation that they sometimes show in theirs. We do not need the prosecution of governmental and quasi official institutional structures to get on with proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ. We need clarity in our own hearts and lives.

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