You cannot cure a diseased spirituality with another diseased spirituality

You cannot cure a diseased spirituality with another diseased spirituality January 12, 2015

You can only cure it with a healthy spirituality. Jesus is healthy spirituality.

Both radical Islam and radical God-hating secularism are diseased spiritualities. They represent a chemically pure and primal form of schism and heresy in the Christian tradition, since both ultimately trace their roots back to that. Whereas the Christian tradition unites two commandments that are often hard to reconcile (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”) and incarnates them in the God-Man Jesus, Radical Islam and radical God-hating secularism demand we choose one and hate the other. It is the quintessence of heresy to do this.

Some moderns find it startling to think of radical Islam as a species of Christian heresy, but the reality is the Christians contemporary with the rise of Islam regarded Muhammed, not as a pagan, but as a heretic. He took bits of the Christian tradition, whacked off the stuff he didn’t like or understand, and fashioned a simplified monotheism that exalted the worship of God at the expense of the love of neighbor. That’s why Dante confines him to the real estate in hell set aside for heresiarchs. He founded a religion with a mania for the absolute majesty of God. Not for Islam is a God who suffers and dies for sinners. It is sinners who must, if they get in the way, suffer and die that Allah’s rule be absolute and uncontested.

Likewise, the moralistic, atheistic God-hatred of a Bill Maher (or the staff of Charlie Hebdo) is, in its own way, Christian atheism and, in large measure, Christian presuppositions about morality. Its values of the dignity of the human person, of individual rights, of the equality of all human persons, are all part of a heritage that comes from the Christian tradition. It is a religion devoted to the second greatest commandment: Love of neighbor (or more precisely, of man in the abstract). In the name of that devotion, it commands contempt and blasphemy toward God, the things of God, and the people of God.

Now the danger of heresy is that it tends to come in Tweedledum/Tweedledee form. Those who lack judgment and the balance of the Catholic tradition are constantly tempted to pick one heresy in their constitutional hatred of the other. So here in the West, we see some organs for the Right Wing Noise Machine like the Media Research Center suddenly developing a Strange New Respect for Bill Maher because he hates on Muslims to their glee, and for a bonus, attacks liberals for being afraid to criticize Muslims.

What goes unmentioned by the Media Research Center is that Maher also declares there “are no great religions”, labels all worship of God stupid and evil and proceeds to offer this basic piece of blackmail to the whole West, not just Islam:

Condemning attack is not enough: unless you strongly endorse the right of anyone to make fun of any religion/prophet, You are not a moderate Muslim.

Got that? It’s not enough to condemn violence done in the name of your religion. You *must* sign on to approving blasphemy of God too. Just as the Bronze Age savages demand a choice between loving God and hating man, Maher demands a choice between hating God and loving man. And that *has* to mean not mere that Those Muslims Over There–all one billion of them–must pass the litmus test of being willing to blaspheme Allah, but ever Christian and every Jew who condemns violence but also condemns blasphemy is likewise an “extremist”.

It’s a grotesque false dilemma, whether it is thrust upon us by Maher or by terrorists, to imagine for one second that we have to choose between blasphemy or murder; between spitting on the greatest commandment or the second greatest commandment. It is simple truth, that we must uphold both commandments: remembering that to love God is to love neighbor and that whatever we do to our neighbor, we do to God. For God the Son is the Son of Man. And we do this, not by choosing between killing God or killing man, but by dying to ourselves–by joining God, not on his Throne of Swords, but on his cross.

More than that, it is massively stupid and is calculated, not to make allies of the overwhelming numbers of Muslims who despise the savagery of these morons (since Muslims are the primary targets of Radical Islamic violence), but to force them to choose blasphemy as some kind of litmus test of commitment.  Does any Christian believe that he or she cannot attack the sins and foibles of their communion without being willing to depict the Blessed Trinity as a homosexual threesome?  Does any Jew think that you cannot be committed to freedom of expression without applauding mockery of the Holocaust and spitting on Torah?  That is the idiocy Maher demands.  Any sane person will refuse to play that game.  The goal is for people of good will, secular, Christian, Muslim and Jew to use our freedom to speak the truth, not to use it to force good people to violate their conscience in order to prove to Bill Maher’s satisfaction that they hate God intensely enough.

This schism between the love of God and the love of man is a war that is now drawing blood. The work of bringing peace in this civilizational conflict is, therefore, like all works of peacemaking, going to require blood. But in the Christian tradition, that means not so much shedding somebody else’s blood, but our own in union with Christ.

For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.(Col 1:19–20).

Does this mean we must be pacifists? I don’t think so. There is room in the Tradition for Just War Theory. But Just War Theory, never forget, is a concession to human weakness, not some kind of ideal. It is a stopgap, a crude tourniquet for trying to stanch the flow of blood from the severed limb of the Fall. It is battlefield triage and treatment with a wad of rags, a gulp of whiskey and a bullet to bite on.

The goal is not Just War, but Just Peace, the peace of Christ. To win that, Christ did not, as Patton famously said, make the other poor dumb bastard die. He threw himself on the grenade. And he did it for the Nazi, the terrorist, the sadist, and above all, for me who would have been the first in line to shout “Give us Barabbas!”

The cross is the full meaning of the hardest and most liberating command God ever gave: “Love your enemy.”

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