The great liberal trope about religion is that while we are free to practice our religion, there has to be limits because anyone who believes anything so fundamentally must end up in armed conflict of some sort. In other words they think religion is a good thing when it is personal belief, but it is another thing altogether when it hits public policy – then it can only be divisive. There is another great liberal trope, “All you need is love.” The problem with the first trope is that they think religions are all pretty much the same, which they most assuredly are not. The problem with the second trope is that they fail to define love in any serious way – it is just a warm, fuzzy feeling. Because of this over-generalization and poor definition these two tropes are now in deep conflict with each other and the western world stands on the brink of disaster.
The sexual assault situation in Germany is Exhibit A. Bret Stephens has a great piece on that issue this morning. Letting the refugees in was an act of “love” as the left ill-defines it. Indeed love demands that the refugees be helped, but it does not demand that you do so at the cost of social order. Surely there is a way to offer them aid without allowing women to suffer what happened in Cologne and elsewhere. But then, if you think all religion is more or less the same you have no expectation of something like that happening.
Trying to make all religions fit into the same box results in the contorted language we see after any Islam-motivated violent act. Consider Dorothy Rabinowitz on Philadelphia this morning as Exhibit B. Surely we can recognize that there is a religious/ideological component to this violence, even if the specific ideological issue is not universal to the religion. But to do that would make one religion better than another and that would violate the ground on which the personal boundaries for religion trope is built
These tropes formed in the American culture over matters of politics and personal, primarily sexual, morality without people realizing that in the broader world they could get our women assaulted and our men just dead.
I mean let’s face it, these tropes work really well on the American political stage. (See this “The Fix” piece on Ben Carson’s apparent demise as a candidate.) In America and western Europe Christianity has no serous competition. But these tropes are clearly not working on the geo-political scale where Christianity has a lot of competition. Like it or not, the success of the West rests strongly on the predominance of Christianity in its culture. This points out that the advances of the areligious left are largely built on the prevalence of Christian ideology. When confronted with the brutalities of religions aside from Christianity, the left’s ideology collapses under its own weight.
That said, we as Christians must avoid the temptation to do the “Superiority Dance,” or to otherwise allow ourselves to lose our moorings in the great battles that lay ahead. Christianity has been able to demonstrate its cultural prowess because despite the many times it has been warped and contorted, misunderstood and misused, it has remained rooted in the humility of a sacrificial Savior so powerful that even death did not hold sway. Christianity has expressed its power not in victory, but in sacrifice.
That does not mean we lay down our arms in the geo-political battles that confront us. But it does mean that we examine our motives closely and act for the good and not simply to win. It means that as urgently as we want to protect ourselves from the kinds of things seen in Germany over the holidays, we have the same urgency to help those that so desperately need it. It means that while we decry the errant and dangerous ideologies that threaten the world we genuinely love those that hold those ideologies.
The Christian way is far from easy, but it is good.