The French Revolution
Three Cups of Hogwash
In the immediate aftermath of the "60 Minutes" story, the question came: Why? Why did a man who'd done such great good so exaggerate his story and his efforts? Wasn't the truth enough for him?
But that's actually a less interesting question than its reverse. After all, he simply joins a long line of public figures who have exaggerated their accomplishments. Greed and pride are the oldest of sins. The real question is, Why did we believe him? Why was his exaggerated story so eagerly embraced by the public and even by military leaders? Why did people actually believe so quickly and uncritically that he'd made so much progress in a war-torn region characterized more by medieval barbarism than by any kind of recognizable love of learning?
I think the answer is theological. We've lost any real understanding of evil and depravity. Cultural relativism teaches us that conflict is a result not of significant moral differences but of misunderstandings. Postmodern anti-colonialism teaches us that the West is the root of all that ails the world; that virtuous indigenous cultures would flourish without our oppression and militarism. Well-meaning, idealistic (but biblically ignorant) Christians believe that just a little kindness and love will transform hearts and minds on a vast scale. "If only they can see how nice we are, how much we care, then their hearts will melt."
But biblical Christianity teaches us that evil is not only real; it is the default human condition. Since the Fall, we are hard-wired for evil, not for good. Biblical Christianity teaches us that grace is extraordinary, not ordinary, and that even Christians are shot through with sin. Why do we believe that cultures that have not had a significant Christian presence for more than one thousand years (if ever), that have lived and died by the sword for every generation in living memory, and that are locked in the hate-fueled grip of jihadist Islam, will be transformed by schools, tea, and books, all delivered with a smile by well-meaning Americans?
The Taliban and al Qaeda are grotesquely evil. In regions they control, they will immediately kill anyone they perceive as a threat to their military or cultural domination. That is a fact. We can build 10,000 schools, but if the schools are not safe, if the curriculum is not countercultural (and often counter to their own faith), and if the education does not continue well into adulthood, then we are simply chasing after the wind. Nicholas Kristof points out that a school is cheaper than a Tomahawk missile, and this is true. But could anyone build a girls' school in Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan before the Tomahawks?
Why did we believe Greg Mortensen? Because we wanted to believe him. Because we still can't understand the enormity of the evil we face. Because we actually believe that a few cups of tea can bridge a yawning cultural and spiritual gap that has existed for more than a millennium.
The story he wanted to tell is the story we wanted to hear.
David French is a lawyer, writer, soldier, and veteran of the Iraq war. He is Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. Follow him on Facebook.